Navigating Parenthood, Studies, and Work

What I Do as a Full-Time Student
Being a single parent and full-time student is like trying to juggle a million things at once—especially when you're balancing books, work, and trying to be a superhero parent.
Illustration of a man sitting at a desk. Icons float around his head: a tropical island, a graduation cap, music notes, drinks, money, and a clock.

Illustrations By: Beni Rene

12.15.2023 | Comic

I am in my fourth year of the Graphic Design program, and it feels like the right time to share a bit about the journey so far. Being a single parent and full-time student is like trying to juggle a million things at once—especially when you’re balancing books, work, and trying to be a superhero parent. But let me share some tricks that might help you keep your studies on track.

First, let’s talk about priorities. Understandably, you want to be the best parent, have a social life, excel in your studies, and maybe even work a bit. But here’s the reality check—if the bills aren’t paid, none of that other stuff falls into place. So, let’s break it down: work, parent-mode, studies, and then social life. 

[Illustration] Black man writing on a calendar.

Life doesn’t always stick to a plan, though. When the kids need me? I drop everything. Exam week? I let the chores pile up. Balancing a full-time job with two kids and four to six courses is close to impossible, so the best option for me right now is to work in a casual position. This allows for more flexibility with hours and schedules. 

However, inconsistent hours can result in inconsistent income; if your earnings can’t cover everything you need for your survival, check if your local authority or government has any support available for you.

A Black man scratches his head. Text reads: "I can probably pick up a shift tonight. But my assignment is due tomorrow. And the kids' daycare is closed."

Sometimes when I’m feeling like everything’s about to fall apart, I call in reinforcements. If you’re lucky enough to have someone who can babysit, take the opportunity to catch up on other stuff. 

A man walks off, stroking his chin. Text reads: "But if I ask for help again, they're gonna think that I'm such a needy guy."

Remember: it’s okay to admit you’re struggling. I often communicate this to my instructors and request an extension if my assignments aren’t done on time.

A man speaking. He points a finger at the ground. His eyebrow is raised. Text reads: "What do you mean you don't wanna fall asleep yet? It's 9:45 pm—I need to work on my assignments."

When you hit a wall, don’t go it alone. Consider seeking therapy. It’s not easy pouring out your deepest feelings to a stranger; but trust me, it’s harder to keep those feelings bottled up. 

Crying man lying on a yellow couch. A figure out of frame sits in a chair and takes notes. The man's speech bubble reads: "I mean, sometimes I feel like I should just drop out. That way, I’ll be happy. My kids will be happy to play with me all day all night. I can make some money and go on vacation. But then I think that my problems will never leave me alone. I can’t even sleep at night. I don’t know if it’s the coffee or the stress. Sometimes, my thoughts throw a party and forget to invite the reasonable ones. It’s like a circus in there, with past regrets doing acrobatics and future anxieties attempting a high wire act. I’m caught in a tug-of-war between my brain cells, and it feels like my common sense is on a coffee break. I’ve got this collection of emotional masks. It’s like a game of emotional dress-up.… therapy is my attempt at throwing a …"

Similarly, it helps to have a small circle of two to three friends you can call in times of crisis or emergency. Make sure that you talk to your friends between crises, too, though—it’s important to stay connected with friends either way, even if it’s just online. 

Of course, time management is key. Those ads reminding you to take a break from your devices may be annoying, but they’re not wrong. Although no one wants to hear it, it’s solid advice: cut back on TV shows and other distractions—including social media. 

A teary-eyed man watches over an Apple device in a glass case. Social media icons float above his head.

To help put an end to my endless scrolling, I started to set up Screen Time for my social media usage. It’s been a game changer. As a creative person, I tend to justify my overuse of social media by saying, “I gotta keep up with what’s trendy!” However, I have plenty of other hobbies that don’t require screen time, and they’re less time-consuming in general. 

I try to tackle my physical self-care when I can. Sometimes I only get the essentials done—eating, showering, brushing my teeth. Generally, I aim to at least kick it up a notch from ‘essentials’ to ‘basics’ by going for a walk or cooking for myself. However, I also think it’s important to practice spiritual self-care. Spiritual self-care doesn’t mean you have to be religious; prayer is one way to take care of your spirit, but you can do so by practicing anything that brings you inner peace—like meditation, gratitude, or just being kind to yourself.

A clock icon in the top left corner indicates the time is 10 pm. A man carrying a laptop runs away from a group of sleeping Z's.

Surviving single parenthood? Take it one day at a time, and focus on what needs attention now. Whether you’re in parent mode, work mode, or study mode, keep it going. Cheers!

Beni Rene
Contributor

Beni is an illustrator and fourth-year student in VIU's Graphic Design Program. He has been drawing cartoons/comics for over 15 years and is a family man who calls the Island of Madagascar home. Vancouver Island is Beni’s second beloved home where he enjoys making art & design, parenting, checking out new restaurants, and sharing great time with his friends and family.

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