Midterms are this week, and I’m definitely feeling the pressure. I have a nice-sized paper due next week and quizzes all of this week, the first week of October (hello, Halloween hype!); it doesn’t seem like we should be to this point of the semester! I could write (and have written) a page-long list of to-do’s for the next two weeks, and it doesn’t help that, on top of preparing for finals, I have a toddler who is determined to ask for my attention a minimum of twice per half hour! We still have dinner to eat, books to read, pajamas to put on, toys to play with, diapers to change, random tantrums to throw—there is so much to do for my toddler and myself. How can anyone expect to get anything done before bedtime?
I’m still trying to decide which was easier; midterms with a baby, or midterms with a toddler? A baby demands more time, but they are pretty predictably asleep for at least an hour between each time they need attention. Toddlers, however, can do more, but want more time with their parents. Even when they’re entertaining themselves, you have to keep an eye out to make sure that they aren’t being too destructive, or too quiet (another hint toward being destructive). You can’t be too invested in what you’re doing, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get things done. Here’s a brief list of tricks that I use with my toddler to get through studying and homework, and some tricks that I used to get through midterms when he was a baby. Hopefully you find at least one of these useful in getting stuff done with a little one on the run.
- Wake up early to get the most important parts of your work done. This is better than staying up late because your brain is fresh, and you know that you’ll be up in time for class in the morning. This is the least fun trick, but it tends to be the most useful. I typically wake up at 6 am to get ready and either use that time to work on my blog, so that all of my day at school is used on homework, or, like this week, I use it to get some serious writing and research done for my paper. I need quiet to work on those things, so I use the only known quiet-time that I’m going to get to work. I shower, make coffee, then work until the little one is up, then get ready while he eats his cereal before getting him ready and getting out of the house. Generally that gives us a good flow to get out, and I’m confident that I’m on track, even if I don’t get anything else done on writing that day.
- Go to the park when you have extra reading to do that doesn’t require long bouts of your attention; something like a textbook that won’t be hard to look up from sporadically. This isn’t to say that you can’t get some dense reading done, I just find textbooks easier to get through than literature at the park. This is great, especially post-dinner time, because there are plenty of other kids for your kid to play with. You can get some good reading done while your kiddo is entertained with other little ones, and will interrupt you less than they would at home. I use this trick especially on the weekend when I don’t have daycare-time to work because PD sees it as a real treat: there are more kids (with parents keeping an extra eye out) and we can go right before nap, so that once we head home, we clean up, he goes down for nap, and I can take a quick break and keep working.
- (For babies) Use your baby tools like a baby wrap, towel under the neck in a baby bouncer and your baby rocker to feed and sooth your baby. It’s not something to replace feeding, soothing and bonding with your baby, but in times of need, these tools can make all of the difference in getting things done. When I first had PD, I really enjoyed using my boba wrap to get papers done, because he slept right on my chest, then when he got hungry I was able to breast feed with little adjustment and without having to interrupt my typing. Once he was too big to wear in the boba, but was still mainly drinking milk, I would put him in his bouncy seat next to me with a bottle propped up on a towel to feed him and bounce him to sleep. It was extremely helpful to getting work done! Once he started eating real food, it was harder to find tricks like this (the food pouches were messy, so it was easier just to feed him), and now that he feeds himself, we have family dinners, so it’s impossible to study while engaging with my family. This trick doesn’t work for long, so take advantage of it while you can!
- (For college mamas with babies) Pump, pump, pump, so that others can feed the baby for you. Pumping is something that can be done hands-free, as long as you have a cheap cami and an automatic pump. If you’re adamant about strictly breast feeding, there are some great boba wrap techniques to do that while you’re working hands-free, but if you have some natural-feeling nippled bottles like the Avent natural nipple bottles, then anyone can help you out while you get some extra work done, or you can wrap the little one up next to you in a swing or bouncer , prop up the bottle on a rolled towel, and get back to work.
- Use your kids mimic habit to your benefit! Are you writing by hand? Give your little one a piece of paper and some crayons! Are you reading a story for a lit class? Read it to your kid, or give them their own book to read with you! This isn’t always the most fool-proof way to get the peace you need, but it gets you some of the peace you can use to get something done, and it makes your kid excited about school. I use this one a lot when it’s not midterms time and I’m not completely stressed out. I’ll talk with PD about how I’m doing work for school and how he’ll be doing work like this one day too. He gets really excited about getting to learn like mommy. He’ll “read” out loud, and draw a lot of cool drawings for the fridge. He’s lately been interested in the visual parts of the ABC’s, so I’ll write the alphabet out, saying each letter as I write it, then tell him to do it; he’ll be engaged for at least ten minutes trying to re-create the letters on his own. This is, not only a tip to getting things done, but a great way to get your little one engaged in learning.
- Work smart during daycare hours. This is probably the most useful “trick” to making it through midterms. Like the rest of the year, you’ll only realistically get so much time to work. Use every minute that you get to your advantage. You can squeeze a couple extra hours out of your day, but for the most part, you have to work hard all semester and be ready to work smart when busy times, like midterms, come around. Taking good notes and keeping up with readings will get you through papers that much quicker. Creating study guides and study cards throughout the year make studying when you need them that much quicker. If you’re looking at your notes for five minutes every day, you don’t have to have long study sessions later on. This is something that all students should be doing, but it’s especially critical for college parents because we don’t have any extra time to cram and nap later (although, I do enjoy napping with the little one the Saturday after midterms—a little treat for the extra time put in). If you work smart the first six weeks of school, you’ll find that the few extra hours you manage to get with these tricks during midterms week will be more than enough to get the job done.
Do you feel prepared for midterms? What are your midterm study secrets to getting ready for the quizzes and papers? Do you feel prepared? Let us know in the comments how this semester is going for you, and what tips and/or tricks you can share with us! I hope you all the best of luck on your midterms—I know you’ll slay em!
Have a wonderful week,