Peace Be Upon You
I was recently asked how I balanced work, university and pregnancy/ motherhood (Hi Shani! 👋🏽).
Initially this wasn’t in my life plan to have a child without an established career. I’m a very career driven person, determined and motivated to work hard and want the best – but it looks like the good Lord had other plans laid out for me and honestly it couldn’t have worked out any better – Alhamdulilah.
Thankfully I had Isa after my exams and then graduated a month later with the rest of my class. Funnily enough somehow the timing was perfect because I got the chance to enjoy motherhood whilst a) I’m still young and b) before any commitments, such as starting my big career – whatever that may be. This was the perfect opportunity for me to have a child, enjoy him and have the energy to be in the moment with him. It was also a moment for me to pause from working and take a moment to really think about what kind of career I’m hoping to get out of life.
Back to the real question, how did I balance work, uni and pregnancy? On this occasion there are no direct steps – it’s all down to determination – the want and need for succession and a better life. When you want for a better life you feel a sense of urgency and you get this overwhelming surge of energy run through your body to push you through difficult times and moments – that’s what keeps you going. When you find that goal, you will work soooo hard towards it. It took me to find out I’m pregnant to realise my potential and worth. It took me that short space of time to switch my thoughts around and get focused.
From a very early age I knew I couldn’t rely on anyone but myself. If I wanted a car I knew I had to work extra and overtime for that car. If I wanted nice clothes and makeup, I would give up eating out unnecessarily and vice versa. If I needed peace at home and didn’t get it, I moved out and rented to find it. Of course, you need to know how to live within your means. This creates realistic expectations and goals – ones that are achievable.
From this frame of mind I created realistic ways to help push myself and applied this throughout my duration at uni. For me it’s about understanding why you’re going to university firstly and then for whom (it should be you!) – I’ve already discussed this in depth and posted my top tips on how to pass uni with a first, [h e r e] – so do check that out.
Apart from the usual staying organised, planning ahead and preparing in advance – It was important for me to understand and act upon these following steps, which I personally believe helped me find that balance to succession. I do hope the following helps and yes most, if not all, intertwines with each other.
1) Get a D I A R Y
// Get a physical I-can-touch-and-feel-this diary, planner, organiser or bullet journal – whatever takes your fancy as this’ll be your best friend throughout. A physical form is better than notes or an app on your phone as you can jot around, colour, highlight, customise and tick off accordingly. Sometimes old school methods trump technology.
You’ll need 3/4 different coloured pens. One for work, one for uni, one for deadlines and finally one for socialising because it’s important to keep it balanced. Having everything written down in one space, where the colours help you visualise your plan and checklist for the week helps you stay organised.
&& Checklists work! The psychology behind it all is that with every small accomplishment our brain secretes small amounts of dopamine – which is a chemical connected to feelings of pleasure and success. Hence an effective way to stay motivated during long term processes – for example, uni! Got a bit geeky there ay, haha.
2) Keeping it B A L A N C E D
// Throughout majority of my uni life – I have been a member of the management team and balanced a team and uni, worked 40+hours plus overtime or at times I even had two jobs and uni to tend too simultaneously.
But ultimately, it’s about getting the balance right between work, uni and social life. Come final year, whatever the case is, UNI must come first, then work, then social life – everything else will fit round it. The last two can be vice versa, but I moved out and rented – so bills needed paying thus work was important to me. However, in final year of uni, I cut back on socialising and slashed as many hours at work as I could without falling behind on my bills all so I could concentrate on uni and ensured I had enough sleep factored into my day. Once you’ve come to this realisation and figured out the right balance for you, you’ll make other factors fit accordingly.
Now S L E E P – It’s important to stay energised if you’re pregnant – listen to your body. If you need sleep go for it, you’ll find the energy later to accomplish your checklist for the day. Having small and manageable checklists ensured I never felt overwhelmed. Being pregnant I didn’t allow myself to have any energy drinks and limited my caffeine intake – I tried my best to avoid this as much as possible but gave in where necessary. Thus, sleep was very important to me.
Do NOT feel guilty about NOT making time for your parents, your friends or your respective partner in final year – if they really want the best for you, they will let you be you and let you get on with accomplishing your degree. They won’t moan or distract you and if they do – you need to find the strength to momentarily ignore them and be direct with them and explain your needs accordingly.
3) The S U P P O R T S Y S T E M
// This leads me onto say, you need a support system – whether it’s family, friends at uni or work. Unfortunately, you cannot mentally achieve uni alone and survive. You need to find people who understand you and meet your needs and who don’t distract you from your goal. These people are your motivators, your day one supporters and cheerleaders. A minimum of one person will do.
For example, my partner did not stress at me once if dinner wasn’t made, if I left all my clothes all over the floor and if housework piled on top of each other. Instead, he just got on with it and cooked food and tidied up where needs be etcetera. He’s not the type of man to express and verbalise emotions – he shows it through his actions and throughout this period it really showed and I’m forever grateful for him. My other main form of support came from my uni peers – we were all like minded individuals who wanted the best grades achievable and encouraged and supported each other through this journey. We had similar habits and worked late, which was super convenient and helpful. When you find similar people who are like you at uni, stick with them – they will help you survive.
If your pregnant or in parenthood – talk to your academic professionals about it. Explain to them what the situation is and they’ll be very accommodating of you. If they can see you are actively trying to educate yourself they will be 10x more likely to help you. As mentioned prior, I was advised to not fight my pregnancy sleeps and cravings and to just listen to what my body wants and needs. There were many times I would sleep in the back of lecture rooms and seminars or I would casually eat nuts and fruits during discussions and even at work – as long as you communicate your needs to your professional academics, peers and coworkers – it will go swimmingly.
4) What B I R D are you?
// Understand yourself and know if your a night owl or a morning bird. Work with it and don’t fight it. I’m a night owl so I avoided making group meetings or working in the mornings because I knew myself to know that it just won’t happen and I wouldn’t be able to productive in that time. It’s only fair to myself and to my peers (work or uni related). Of course when working in a group you do need to be considerate of their time and working methods, so occasionally I would make that extra effort and get myself in.
I like to crawl out of the bed in the morning slowly, take a shower, get myself ready and organised for the day – oh and have breakfast! I don’t typically have breakfast, but I knew throughout the duration of my pregnancy I needed to ensure I was getting the right energy. Plus, baby brain made me forget a lot of things so if I rushed my mornings I tended to forget even more and I just felt super disorganised without the things I needed (ehem – notes, lunch, hot drink or chargers)! My uni day’s usually started in the late afternoon and would finish anywhere from midnight to 3am.
My partner is a morning person and I remember he used to wake up at 4/5 am revising over his exam notes or getting coursework done. Overall, work to what suits you best, you’ll find you’re more proactive and productive. Do whatever it takes to get the job done (within reason).
5) Finally, have F A I T H
// Whether it’s in you, God or another higher power – have faith that you can do this and accomplish this. You control your own destiny and what you put in, you will receive. You need to be active and direct with your life, studies and work and put the work and positive energy in accordingly. If you landed on this blogpost it means you’ve already started that journey, so YAY you! Remember to have gratitude and sincerity in your work and just be forever thankful for your blessings – your baby is the biggest blessing you can receive. There were many occasions where I was just having a tough time and feeling extremely alone throughout my pregnancy but having the right frame of mind and faith kept me going.
It may seem like I haven’t touched upon the pregnancy aspect a lot and to be honest that’s because I didn’t let it hinder me. I didn’t see it as an obstacle too much, I just got on with it. I genuinely pray that throughout your journey you do not give up in achieving your short/ long term goals – your hard work will pay off I promise you, because in hindsight this momentary drag will be an insignificant blip in the grand scheme of things. I do hope this gave you a decent insight into how I balanced a career, uni and a social life all whilst being pregnant.
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(Images from tumblr)