Do you work ?
Hmmm… that old chestnut.
The interesting thing about having a baby (who basically lives in the ergo and is carried with me everywhere) is that people don’t ask me this question very often these days. It is assumed that as a mother of five kids who is out and about in the day that I mustn’t have a ‘job’ – you know, a proper job, like one that pays money.
But as a postgraduate student I was always quite stumped on how to actually answer this question. I always considered my PhD research to be work. The way I talked about it was the way I would talk about any other normal job.
” I’m sorry I can’t help fold 1500 origami peace cranes after school drop off, I have work to do.”
“I’m working on my discussion chapter at the moment.”
“The kids are in daycare today so I can get some work done.”
(Sometimes though that work included The Real Housewives of OC, tea and 30 pieces of peanut butter toast and biscuits. Shhh, don’t tell.)
One of the many delightful findings of my research was that student mothers consider their studies to be their ‘job’. I think this is brilliant because it gives real credibility and power to the experience of being a mother who studies. It’s not just a (very expensive) hobby but is a real, serious, worthwhile endeavor. I have heard of mums who say that when others find out they are students they assume she sits around all day with copious amounts of free-time and holidays.
This highlights the stubborn view our society has of the typical university student – the carefree, school leaver with no-responsibilities other than to attend a few lectures a day and drink beer in the tavern. Nowadays, there are probably fewer students (school leavers or not) who are living that life with the increasing need to undertake paid employment whilst studying.
Nonetheless, these Mums are often asked to do jobs during the week by friends and family who believe they have the time to spare because ‘they are just students.’ I doubt very much that anyone would ask a mother in paid employment to take on errands and the like during her work day.
SO…it was great to be able to highlight in my research that mums who study consider their studies to be ‘their jobs.’ They made being a student their profession. I think we should all start talking about our studies this way.
Of course many mums are ALSO working in paid employment. I guess the point I am making is that undertaking further education should been given the same respect afforded to a REAL job. Looking at your studies this way helps in a few ways.
It’s easier to block off time to do things. Give yourself working hours that you must stick to.
It helps you stay on task. This is especially true if you work (there’s that word again!) from home and are surrounded by lots of tempting housework that needs to be done. Think, if I was AT WORK would I suddenly stop what I was doing to go and clean out the freezer (amazing what tasks can be more attractive than studying can be at times).
It puts you in the right mindset if you think you need to get ready for work. Only this year have I been able to drop my eldest son off at school without getting out of the car. This means I (more often than not) brush my hair, put on sunglasses and a scarf and drive him in my pjs. My family jokes that I am like a newsreader who looks presentable from the waist up but is secretly wearing trackies and ugg boots under the desk! But when I was studying and had to walk him into kindy or preprimary and, you know, actually talk to people I would have to get dressed and ready. This simple act can really help put you in the right mindset for a day of WORK.
Mums who study are training to be tomorrow’s professionals. They are working towards a dream, a goal (that sometimes seems too enormous) so let’s start giving that work we do the proper respect.
So when someone next asks “Do you work?” for the sake of the sisterhood, please don’t say…”No, I’m just a student.”