Studying social work while bringing up a family

Danielle Stanton

Mum-of-two Danielle talks about undertaking her social work training alongside raising a family.

What it’s like 

Truthfully? It’s hard at times. My children are nursery and primary-school-aged and I always feel like I should be doing more with them rather than studying or worrying about deadlines. When I stop to think about it though, I realise that they do have plenty of my time and that I’m just feeling the guilt that a lot of working parents have.

There are times when I am naturally busier with coursework but I have learned to be more organised and set aside specific times to work after the kids are in bed or when they are at their own activity clubs. Organisation skills are vital as a social worker and I would say you learn those pretty quick when you study and juggle a family!

How I manage it

I am very lucky in that I have a supportive family. I manage to grab an extra few hours of studying or housework time by asking friends or relatives to help out with the kids. As I said before, planning and preparation really are the key. I keep a diary and go through it every Sunday to make sure I’m prepare for the week ahead.

It really helps if I need to juggle things around. It also helps that the tutors on the social work course are very supportive and understand that everyone has a life outside of university.

We are only midway through our first term and already I have had to miss a lecture due to my children being ill. As long as you contact the tutor to explain they are very accommodating and it helps that we can access the lecture materials on Blackboard (our online learning system) to catch up.

The most important aspect of managing studying and family is one that I’m still learning myself. It is so important to take time out for yourself and keep doing the things you enjoy as well as having family time and keeping up with your work. It helps to have something different to talk about and is usually a great way to relieve stress!

One thing that is great is the level of support we receive as students. There is always someone you can talk to and so many other contacts you can call on for extra advice.

I’m glad I did finally work up the courage to apply for social work, it has made me see that it is possible to juggle being a parent and change your career, as long as you are willing to make use of all the support that is offered, when you need it.

Why I wanted to become a social worker

Ever since I started my first volunteering role, over eight years ago, I knew I wanted to be a social worker. The role was supporting children and their families to become more socially active in their community and basically offering a helping hand when needed.

When I first started, I couldn’t begin to imagine how the smallest things such as a coffee and a chat with a mum of three young children, or time spent helping to make a phone call to sort out a bill payment could have such a big impact on another person’s wellbeing.

I watched families, who were previously unaware of the support available to them, become involved with community groups and, from there, supported and watched parents take on new challenges to improve their situations. It made me want to help make that change more often.

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