Let's Talk: Life As A Mature / Parent Student

Let's Talk: Life As A Mature / Parent Student

Deciding to go back into education is one of the biggest decisions I have ever made. Taking that plunge back into something you left behind is pretty terrifying, the urge to just give up, not try and accept the easy is definitely the easiest thing to do, but would you be happy? 

For me, I knew I wasn't. I always felt like I wanted a "real" job, one away from retail, one with a purpose greater than the one I had currently. I wasn't hugely unhappy with my retail job, but I always knew I belonged in a hospital. I always knew I needed something more, hence me going back to College, back to Uni, and accepting my fate back in the Education System... but what is it like? Being back at 27, with a job, child, blog, house, responsibilities? 

Let's Talk: Life As A Mature / Parent Student

You Will Feel Old
I'm gonna get this one out the way because it seems to be the most asked question. Yes,. Most of my class are 16-18, most of them are fresh out of school, live with their parents, go out every night, and have, on one occasion, asked me to buy them cigarettes (I felt myself age 100 years). BUT you are definitely not alone, there has always been at least 6-10 of us in a class of 40 who are above 25, so you will definitely not be left singled out. I should also add that in an education setting "Above 25" is 25-99, we all band together... which leads me onto... 

You Will Understand The Term "Life Experience" 
Whenever I used to see "Life Experience" I just used to shrug it off... but after being back in education with people fresh out of school, you learn very quickly how much of a difference it can make. Knowing how to live life out-with your parent's house, out-with school, managing a job, all of it counts towards building a groundwork for who you are going to be as an adult. You will be able to pick out those who are living on their own, who has a job, who has kids, and it helps to build friendships. It's not that you won't be able to get along with those fresh out of school, you just understand the value of it. 

Learning To Prioritise 
At 16-18 you can place your main priority on Education. But at 27 my main priority will always be my son, followed by my job to keep my son clothed, fed and a roof over our heads. A teacher or lecturer will struggle to see this until you make it clear. I have had to be firm on occasion. Where I have been off because my son has been ill, and I have had to explain that despite my dreams of uni, I WILL place his care above my future. Most are completely understanding, it's just a gentle but firm reminder, you are an adult with outside responsibilities. On the flip side to that, the work and Education does have a priority. I am at 99% of my classes, I put aside time at home when AJ is in bed to get the class work done on time...

It's Exhausting
I love what I am doing, but at 11pm when I am up writing an essay for the following day - its tough. Being a college five days a week, with school drop-offs, pickups, work, the blog. I feel like I never sleep. Coffee is without a doubt my best friend, and meals which can be cooked without stirring or watching the whole process is a definite winner in my eyes. 

Let's Talk: Life As A Mature / Parent Student

Kids Will Understand
Out of everyone, children seem to understand it more than most. My son goes to school every day, and so do I. He does homework. I do homework. He understands he has to go to breakfast club in the morning because our bell rings at the same time, and I need time to get there. (I don't have a bell, but still, he is 6) He also understands that Mummy wants this, and if we want to have nice things and be happy - it needs to be done.

With Friends, You'll Feel Lost
My friends are lovely, amazing people who have been so supportive... but they just don't get it. They are dealing with dirty nappies, weddings, big jobs, buying houses, and I've rolled back 10 years to high school. I am in college and they are napping while their babies are sleeping, or working 9-5, marking their own student's essays... it's just harder to relate when you are going against the norm. 

Your Brain Will Still Work
One of the comments I get the most is "Oh I would be worried if my brain would still work after all these years" - trust me, it is one hell of a culture shock, but yes, it definitely does. In fact, you will find your life experience and background actually helps in the understanding of most of your courses.  Also, due to the commitment and change you have had to make to go back into learning, chances are you will be more willing and eager to learn and do the best you can. The mature students make up some of the best in my class. 

Bills still need to be paid, children still need to be fed and cared for. The luxury of living in halls is non-existent, and My mum won't have me back, so keeping a job is a necessity rather than an optional extra. What I would say is here in Scotland we are very fortunate to get free education, but please do try speaking to the finance office. As a single parent, you could be entitled to help or a bursary to help you through. Some even pay childcare. It is worth asking the question, especially if you think it isn't an option for you because of it. 

The Guilt 
One of the biggest things I deal with is the guilt. Either from not being here as much as I could for my son or not doing the work when I should. Imagine trying to sit and watch TV, while a niggling feeling at the back of your head tells you a list of all the essays you need to write and revising you need to do. It's an endless annoyance of "YOU NEED TO DO MORE" p*ss off brain. I miss the days of only worrying about work and AJ, being able to READ. Oh my goodness, it sounds like heaven. 

Managing a Job,  Blog, Home, Studies and Parenting
This without a doubt is the hardest. It's like throwing 10 balls in the air and trying to catch them all, something always has to give. Just to clarify here - I work 3 days a week and have college 5 days a week. I don't get days off. So realising not everything can always be perfect, accepting it and prioritising is key. First to go is always housework. Sometimes it is things like hoovering, or cleaning the bathroom.. or doing the washing. Sometimes I have cereal for tea because I don't have the time or energy to do the dishes, or I skip dusting and deal with my gran making comments about the state of my house - its never outright horrible... but it isn't exactly tidy. 
I typically do blog things 11pm-12pm, I consider this "time to relax" and I sleep 12.30-7 - on a good night. Every other hour is madness. It is also the reason why some days I leave the house without makeup, without my hair done. Because sometimes it comes down to having a new blog post up vs doing my face. And 9/10 I will pick the blog post. My week is crazy busy... 

Accept the Madness 
You need to be in a routine, or it would never work. But you also need to be accepting of with a week as busy as this, its gonna be crazy, and feel like madness. Routined madness. Knowing you have a to-do list as long as your arm, and accepting not all of it will get done. Knowing you are never going to be able to do it all, accepting the faults and making decisions you are going to be happy with. Handing in a kick-ass essay and knowing your house is looking like a bomb for example... or missing out on a full nights sleep because you were up til 2pm writing a blog post... or always eating kids breakfast bars because you just don't have time in the morning to eat from ceramics. Accept the shitty life. Because you are working towards something bigger and better. 

Let's Talk: Life As A Mature / Parent Student

It'll all be Worth it in the end...
My life has been non-stop now for two years, and honestly - I don't enjoy it. I mean who enjoys essays about poetry when I want to be a Midwife??? But I do enjoy the outcome. Knowing I am moving forward and attempting to achieve the goals I have been working towards all this time - it feels pretty amazing. I also have the bonus of knowing I am making the right decision for my son too. He will be proud of his Mum, even with the time and commitment it has taken.   

*Half way through writing this I was offered a place at University to study Midwifery this year. Overjoyed beyond belief, and incredibly proud of myself. If you have been considering going back into Education, use this as your inspo. If I can, anyone can. 

Let's Talk: Life As A Mature / Parent Student Have you considered going back into Education as a mature student? Would you? Have you? I would love to know what field you work in and what you studied! Let me know in the comments below. 


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