A working father’s perspective on being a communications professional whilst balancing a Master’s degree and parenthood. Advice on how to survive.
I’m 37 years old, a father of two and a husband to my wonderful yet long suffering wife. In-between supporting my family emotionally and financially, helping out changing nappies, reading bed time stories, homework and making dinners, I also work full time as a communications professional for a high profile, national government infrastructure body.
I’ve always wanted to gain a Masters and after I learnt that my company supported Post-Graduate education and that Student Finance England offer Post-Graduate Loans I enquired at Leeds Beckett University about appropriate Post-Graduate courses.
Leeds Beckett offer a wide range of Masters and Professional courses that suits all academic and professional backgrounds and low and behold they offer a part-time MA Public Relations and Strategic Communications MA run out of its Rose Bowl City Campus, a 10 minute walk from Leeds Train Station and a 20 minute walk from my work place.
A BIG Decision: some words of wisdom
As a part-time MA student, husband, father and full-time professional, I offer the following advice for anyone with similar circumstances considering going back to University.
Plan your time
When I returned to University I was advised to seriously reconsider starting the course, there were doubts of my commitment and ability to balance family, work and post-graduate studies. Don’t let anyone doubt you, believe in yourself and chase your dreams but never forget that careful time management is your saving grace, without it you will fail. My working week needs to be managed very carefully with some meticulous planning.
My working life can take me anywhere at any given time but by planning my time and diary in advance it means I’m well aware of expectations of family, professional and academic life. Careful diary management means that I can take time away from the office during the week to attend University. What’s great as a part-time post graduate student it means you can pick and choose modules that suit your own needs and learn at your own pace. You have two years to complete the course so if it means one semester you have less time to commit to your studies you can reduce the amount of modules you take.
Don’t forget your priorities
In University, you’re taught to pick your priorities and be OK with other things when they don’t meet your expectations. This is even more true for a parent and professional in University. Reading to my kids every night and sitting down to eat dinner as a family are priorities. Academically, I’ve set reasonable goals for my grades and professionally I’ve ensured my diary and delivery commitments are prioritised according to my objectives.
Embrace being a student
Don’t forget to enjoy your time as a postgraduate student. Of course you need to take your studies seriously but just because you’re at University as a more mature person it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it and have fun. Some of my friends at University are also parents or professionals. Sometimes no one else will be able to understand your struggle. Who else understands potty training like someone like you or know what it’s like to be up multiple times during the night and still perform the next day?
You’re unique – use it to your advantage
What I’ve learnt from my time being back at University so far is that whilst some students search endlessly for subject topics to write or present about – I have a unique circumstance that I use to my advantage that some others simply can’t: my experience, family and workplace. Where possible I try to use these to my advantage and incorporate them into my written assignments and presentations. I have an abundance of experiences personally and professionally that I can bring to life and use as relatable topics that I put into perspective as part of my course and you can too.
Enjoy every moment
Going back to University whilst raising a family and working full time has been a huge challenge, but it will be worth it in the long run. I’m enjoying learning new things, being reminded of things I forgot. I’m surrounded by similar minds with differing views that is giving me a greater understanding and enjoyment of my lifelong ambition to be a communications professional whilst giving me an insight into what challenges I can handle.
Some weeks are harder than others, and my wife, who also works, will take on more than her fair share of work. But in my time off, I make sure to do laundry, dishes, and cook. I also change nappies, watch the kids and contribute to our little family. Friday’s are my non-working day, my favourite day of the week, and I take care of our children whilst my Wife is at work. These are the days that I cherish the most, time that money can’t buy but with hard work, effort and determination we share every moment together.
Life only throws at you what it thinks you can handle and when life throws you a curve ball, remind yourself of what Colin Powell once said: “A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”