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My day as a student parent

"You look tired. Long night?" Be kind to strangers. You never know how many times they got up to a baby last night. ...
Sandy with her children

Unlike other accounts of this type, I won’t start with waking. That would not depict the bone aching exhaustion I ‘start’ my day with. Instead, I’ll begin my story at 8 pm the previous night.

8 pm in my home is the moment I count down to all day: bedtime for the kids. My 5-year-old son skips off to bed, still full of today’s adventures and tomorrow’s plans. He is the easy child. My daughter on the other hand, has spent her 19 months perfecting the art of making evil look cute. And so the rituals are ticked off. Bottle of milk. Not too hot, not too cold. Sleeping bag. Blankie. Dolly. White noise machine. Fan on low for circulation. Nightlight is half under the cot so she can see the light it casts, but can’t quite see where it is coming from. All is quiet: success. Time for dinner with hubby and a glass of well-earned wine…

I have 3 hours of lectures to watch before I can call it a night. Midnight ticks by and I can hear my husband snoring in bed behind me. I crawl in next to him and spend the next who-knows-how-long rolling over in my mind the endless list of to-dos. Which child am I dropping off tomorrow morning? How much milk is left in the fridge? How long can I put off grocery shopping before I run out of bread? Can’t forget to buy toilet paper. Did I transfer money for the power bill? When is that doctor’s appointment again? Need to get a present for that birthday party next week. Is tomorrow library day? Where is the library bag? Did I put the laundry in the dryer????? I check. And the moment I get back into bed. MAAAAAAAAAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

It’s 1:15 am and it takes me 30 minutes to shush and rock and pray her back to sleep. I’m asleep within minutes of her. When next I hear my name, it is 2:30 am. A jab in hubby’s ribs indicates it is his turn. But he is. SO. LOUD. You don’t know how loud a light switch is until 2:30 am in the morning when you just want to sleep. I should have got up to the baby. I’m awake anyway. When she stops fussing I drift back into an exhausted stupor. It’s 3:05 am and I have awakened once again. What is wrong with her? Why did she inherit my love of cheese instead of my love of sleep? She’s in our bed now, and I spend the rest of the night with a wriggling ball of limbs and hair wedged between me and my husband. I dare not roll over in case I wake her. 5:30 am is marked by the warbling of magpies and my daughter shouting “UP”.  This child will change the world one day. She will either rule it or burn it down.

We are 400 words in already and my day is just officially starting. Time for breakfast, a load of laundry, the dishwasher is unpacked, library bag and hat are tracked down and school bags are packed. We are all out the door by 7:45 am off to our respective destinations for the day. Work, work, kindergarten, childcare.

7.5 hours of work rolls slowly by, punctuated by coffee. Caffeine, how would I do this without you? 4:30 pm is home time. Except it isn’t. I need to pick up 2 children before I can think of home. The 5-year-old doesn’t want to leave after school care yet. It’s his turn to use the rollerskates. I decide to avoid a tantrum and wait 10 minutes for him to awkwardly skate around the school yard. Imagine a newborn giraffe learning to walk, except on wheels. He is so proud of himself. “Did you see me, Mum?!” “Yes honey, you were spectacular! What did you learn today?” The trip between school and childcare is short, but you wouldn’t know it by how many questions I answer in that short drive.

Picking up my daughter is a different affair. She is as tired as I am but isn’t propped up by caffeine. She is emotional and hangry and her shoes are full of sand. It takes longer to get her into the car seat than to drive home. She is clinging onto me like one of those $2 clip-on koalas you see in touristy shops in Circular Quay. I am her safe place and she needs me. I cook dinner with her on my hip. The 5-year-old won’t eat meat. The toddler won’t eat vegetables. I give up and they both get air-fried chips for dinner for the 2nd time this week.

Hubby gets home at 6:15 pm and entertains the kids while I sneak off to do some reading while I’m alert enough to focus on it. I can hear the squeals of delight through 3 closed doors between the living room and where my desk is tucked away in our bedroom. By the pitch, I can establish Daddy is either giving them horsey rides or pretending to be a dog. I wish I was with them. Was returning to studies the right choice? Am I selfish to chain myself to this computer while they are so young? Am I trading now for a better later they didn’t ask for? And I re-read the same sentence 4 more times…

7:30 pm is bath time and it’s all hands on deck to get both kids clean, brushed and dressed. And since it is impossible to bathe them without getting drenched, we all end up showering together half the time. While wrestling a wondersuit onto my daughter I reflect on how hot showers have become a luxury. But my daughter is showing me she has a belly button, and that is worth the trade-off of independence. She learns something new every day and it is an absolute delight. And my son is calling for me to read The Velveteen Rabbit before bed again because he knows it’s my favourite. The kids and I arrange ourselves in the single bed to read his book. It’s like tetris with more feet, but it’s my favourite moment of the day.

The bedroom doors close at 8:00 pm. I’ve made it through another day, except there’s an assignment due in 2 days that I haven’t started yet. And so the midnight oil beckons to be burned…

Student Parent Union

If you can relate to this story, then you can find support in the Student Parent Union. The Student Parent Union provides a network and a voice for students who are parents at Western. We facilitate connection and support while navigating the unique experience that is studying while parenting.

Join us on WESTERNLife  https://life.westernsydney.edu.au/SPU/club_signup