career

'I'm a single mum of two who juggled an online Law degree, part-time work and raising my girls. Here's what my calendar looked like.'

Charles Darwin University
Thanks to our brand partner, Charles Darwin University

It seems career pivots are certainly the new norm. 

The average Australian has between five to seven career changes in their lifetime and people are increasingly switching careers at any age, heading back to university to switch paths and upskill.  

But chasing that dream career you keep putting off doesn’t usually happen overnight. 

Throw full-time work and parenting into the mix, and the decision to retrain or gain more advanced qualifications in your field can become a lot trickier. 

It may seem impossible to imagine how on earth you could add lectures, tutorials and assignments onto your already flat-out schedule as a parent who also works. 

I'm overwhelmed at the thought.

But in actual fact (though it certainly takes hard work), countless parents are making it work every day. 

Liz Sandow is the stellar example. 

Liz is a single mum living in Albury, regional NSW with her two daughters (who are 9 and 11 years old). She works full-time and is nearing the completion of an online Bachelor of Laws at Charles Darwin University

Mamamia spoke with Liz (or super mum!) about what motivated her to study law, and how she manages to balance her studies, parenting and work. 

Liz had always toyed with the idea of studying law. The seed was planted when she completed a clerkship at a law firm in her early career. 

As for most, the responsibilities of starting a family and busy work life, Liz didn’t think completing a bachelor degree, let alone a degree in law, was ever really an option. 

However, her interest in Australian law never really left the back of her mind. So in 2018, she did a bit of research and discovered that Charles Darwin University offered a Diploma of Laws online. 

Less daunting than committing to a bachelor degree, she thought. So she bit the bullet and applied. 

Fast-track a couple of years, and Liz completed that Diploma; now studying the Bachelor of Laws program – also completely online at Charles Darwin University. 

And she’s never looked back. 

Now it's time to talk logistics. We need to answer the question you’ve all been waiting for (well at least I certainly was): being a single mother of two and working full-time, how on Earth does one fit in studying law too? 

Her short answer to Mamamia was: “There is always a way if you really really want to."

Here are some of Liz’s tips and advice.  

Use your time wisely.

Image: Charles Darwin University.

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As a mum, time is certainly a precious commodity. 

Admitting that she’s “not nearly as house proud as I used to be”, Liz joked that her life probably looks “really chaotic from the outside.”

Liz suggests if you can get a little bit creative, you can use your time spent on mundane tasks to your advantage. 

Like any Charles Darwin University online course, Liz’s lectures and tutorials are all recorded – meaning she can go back and access them any time that suits her throughout the week. 

Often for Liz that’s when she's hanging out the washing, walking the dog, cooking dinner or commuting. 

She'll often be seen with her headphones in, learning the ins and outs of mediation whilst cheering on her daughters' netball game. Even running across to the library in her work lunch break just to fit that extra half an hour to get a little bit more done.

Seems like she's winning on all fronts, right? 

She’s developed a method where she can learn at her own pace while simultaneously ticking things off her to-do list and be a mum to her girls. 

Liz’s refusal to sacrifice being a mum for her study simply means she has learnt to juggle her time better than before, and really squeeze the most out of every day. 

“I’m getting through. My grades aren’t terrible and we keep going." 

Choose a program that will work for you.

Liz also said it helps that studying at Charles Darwin University is so flexible. This allows her to truly shape her study around school drop offs, the kids' sport, her work and everything life admin in between. 

Being that Charles Darwin University has 30 years of experience in providing online education – they really know how to support their students on having a flexible study journey to fit with their lifestyle. 

Liz usually enrolls herself in two subjects per semester. But sometimes life gets in the way. 

For Liz, it's been such a relief for her that throughout the course of her degree, she has had the option to adjust the number of units she studies each semester, and even complete intensive courses to fast-track her degree during school holidays. 

It's the flexibility for working parents like herself that Liz has loved during her studies with Charles Darwin University.

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Lean on your support networks.

There's no denying that studying online can sometimes be a tough slog to manage. 

However, Liz told Mamamia that she felt extremely well supported at Charles Darwin University. 

She spoke very fondly of the wonderful online community the university fosters and how important it is for her to have this outlet to air her questions, concerns and struggles. 

“When you’re an online student, you do worry that you'll feel very isolated. But I have found that we have this wonderful online community through Facebook groups and I’ve got to know a lot of my peers.

“We can bounce experiences off each other, anything from ‘I’ve been sick, my kid has this’ or ‘how on earth am I ever going to get through this?’ 

"It's just reassuring to know everyone else is going through the same or similar things in this juggle to reach their goal."

Liz also said she has developed great relationships with the academic staff at Charles Darwin University, and has loved their offering of 24/7 tech and academic support.

“Whenever I’ve sent a message to a lecturer or tutor, they’ve always followed up with a phone call back or an email and it just makes you supported." 

Embrace the chaos and back yourself.

Liz encourages people in a similar situation to her, who might still be on the fence about studying.

"That was me: I put it off for 20 years." 

But her feeling of pure excitement when she got accepted into the Bachelor of Laws program certainly reassured her that she made the right decision. Even though she’s not sure when she will pursue working in law, Liz feels confident in the skills and knowledge she has gained. 

Her final message for those taking the plunge to juggle with family, or a lifestyle full of other commitments: it's to start small and back yourself. 

“Do one subject, that's maybe 8 or 10 hours a week (you probably spend that watching TV or scrolling anyway!). 

"If you really want to do this, you absolutely can. Don’t think that you’re not smart enough. Don’t put it off and don’t doubt yourself because there is a good chance that you can do this."

If Liz’s story is anything to go by, it's that it is possible to balance work, kids and study and come out the other side having reached your education goal. And more to the point, it can be an extremely rewarding experience. 

Whether you may think law is your true calling, or if your gut feeling is leaning more towards pursuing nursing, engineering, education, social work or environmental science, maybe this is your sign. 

Visit cdu.edu.au to see what else you can learn - from anywhere in Australia - to graduate job ready. Charles Darwin University is 100% online, 100% flexible and a top 2 Australian university for graduate jobs and pay.

Applications now open.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Charles Darwin University
Charles Darwin University's degrees are 100% online and 100% flexible to handle whatever your life throws at them. We're a top 2 Australian university for graduate jobs and pay, and we've been doing online degrees for more than 30 years, so we know how to support you. Join us to build your new world. Apply now to study nursing, teaching, health, law, midwifery, exercise and sport science, social work, psychology, environmental science and more. Visit cdu.edu.au