Parents receive a ridiculous amount of unasked for, and often conflicting, advice.
It begins before the child is born, with well-wishers providing suggestions on everything from how to figure out if the baby is a boy or a girl to what foods to avoid and indulge in. As children grow up, they require less of our attention, but the misplaced advice doesn't stop.
In the spirit of unasked for and contradictory, but well-meaning, advice, here is our list of the top eight conflicting tips on balancing parenting with studying, or working, from home.
Everyone should be employed vs. Kids need moms at home
How many conflicting messages do we hear on this? As a parent, you just can't win. Either you're lazy and a bad role model by staying at home to care for your children or you're a neglectful parent for choosing to study instead! Why not make the naysayers eat their words by combining the two?
As our children grow, they make fewer demands on our time. Sure they still need us around, but they don't need to be watched and entertained at every moment of the day. Even though the children have this newfound independence, as a parent you are still housebound. However, that doesn't mean your career has to remain on hold. Online study is a great solution to growing independence in your children and expanding boredom in yourself.
Dress for success vs. Pajamas no dramas
The one tip that seems to appear on every 'how to be productive at home' list is "get dressed for success". Apparently, if you want to be successful at online study, all you need to do is dress up (and if you're a mom they say put makeup on every single morning).
Sure, if you need to do this to feel prepared and motivated for the day, go ahead, dress up to the nines for all I care. But no one is going to make me feel guilty in my PJs. I study best when I'm comfortable, and what can be more comfortable than well-worn flannel pajama pants?
If you need to participate in an online video lesson or you're heading onto campus, I'd highly recommend putting on real clothes. However, when you are by yourself, if you work best when in gym gear, then go for it! At least the yoga pants distract visitors from the baby vomit and ketchup on my shirt.
Strict Schedule vs. Flexibility
Oh-so-many bloggers want to tell you how to manage your time when you're studying online. Keep a strict schedule and only start to study when the children are occupied or asleep and you won't be distracted, one camp cries. Yeah sure, because children always stick to a schedule and there's never any problems to be solved.
Use technology to avoid the technology trap
Children aren't the only potential distractions from online study. It's even worse when the distractions are coming from where you need to be studying: the internet. I like to fight fire with fire, so here are the top technology tips that I use everyday to keep my online studies on track.
- My Samsung tablet and bluetooth keyboard: I don't know where I'd be without my tablet to ensure I always have my course notes with me. It's much easier to chuck into my bag than a laptop and uses the same charger as my phone. Even if I'm stuck watching the kids play sport, I can be studying online at the same time.
- Evernote: This is my go-to app for any form of note-taking, task lists or reminders. Save pdfs, create text notes, take photos: collect all your coursework in one handy place. Microsoft OneNote is another adequate note-taking app, however I've found Evernote better due to its powerful search function.
- QualityTime: If you use a phone or tablet to study, this app can block all the distractions those devices hold (I'm looking at you Facebook). You choose the apps you want to have access to, a timeframe and how long until your device will unlock if you press the emergency stop button. You can also get similar products for you internet browser.
- Memrise: This web and app system makes learning so much fun. Create a profile on the website and you can use your class notes to create question and answer games to help you learn. There's also hundreds of premade topics for you to explore. Seriously addictive and the phone app means you can study wherever, whenever.
The other side is nearly as bad, though. Be flexible and responsive to your children, make sure you are always available to them, this group says. Just choose your tasks based on the level of distraction around you, you can always study late into the night if you don't get everything complete. Losing sleep and constantly responding to distractions is disruptive to your concentration. Surely a balance between the two can be reached?
Creating schedules can allow you to plan tasks and family activities to ensure you get everything done. CCI recommends completing all course work by Sunday evening each week. As long as you are flexible with your schedule and allow for unforeseen problems, you can stop the guilt. The tips on getting kids involved in your education (below) can also help you to feel like you are spending quality time with them, while still being productive with your professional endeavors.
Keep study and family separate vs. Get everyone involved
I actually agree with both these final, seemingly contradictory, tips. If you are going to do well at online study, you need to have space of your own. It helps if it is a room with a door you can shut on the household craziness, giving the illusion (note I said illusion) of peace and calm. A corner of the room can work just as well though, especially if your kids are old enough to understand that when you sit at the desk it means you are at school and should not be disturbed.
However, what's the fun of online learning if you can't do it where ever you want? If you or the kids are sick of being at home, head to the park or the library and get a change of scenery. You can read your textbook, review your notes or research assessments while soaking up the sun and letting the children play or explore.
Alternatively, if you can't make it out of the house, make a game of 'college' to involve your kids in your education. My son often sits with me while I study, painting, writing, or highlighting scrap paper. You could also put aside special toys or activities that are only for study time, creating excited anticipation for when you 'go to school' rather than disappointment.
These tips can also help if you are thinking about working from home. All week we will be posting content in Career Spotlight with CCI Training on working as a virtual assistant and bookkeeper from home: the perfect compliment to CCI Training Center's new online business and accounting program.
If you're not currently studying, CCI Training Center has created a guide so you can figure out if online study is for you.