Caring for your sibling(s), an ill or aging family member can be a challenging task while juggling academic life and self-care. In this blog post, I will be sharing helpful tips on how to better juggle multiple responsibilities. It can be a challenging task, but I hope that my experiences provide you with some insight on how to create a balance.
I am currently looking after my grandma who experienced a stroke, which left her immobile. She also endures intense pain caused by arthritis. I provide her with emotional support and help her carry out tasks. I am also the eldest of 5 young siblings. My younger siblings constantly require attention, want someone to play with and need help with their homework. I experience feelings of guilt when I work on my assignments instead of spending time with them. When I do spend time with them, I get anxious for not working on my school-related tasks. Finding a balance between family, academic life and self-care was difficult to do but I achieved it with the support of my school, time management strategies and my network. Here are a few tips I followed, which could help you too!
- Let Your Professors Know about Your Situation: When course work became overwhelming, I told my professors about my family situation. They understood and provided me with extensions. Don’t shy away from asking your professors for extensions. Remember that professors are humans too and are aware of the hardships that rise while trying to juggle family and academic life.
- Seek Accommodation: In the past, I sought help from accessibility services because I felt overwhelmed. Accessibility services allowed me to study for my exams and write my assignments at times that were convenient for me. The extra amount of time I had was devoted to my grandma, siblings and self-care strategies.
- Keep a Schedule: Keeping a schedule allowed me to track school related deadlines and manage time spent with my grandma and siblings. For each day, I wrote down the total amount of hours I needed to work on my assignments and exams. I also wrote down the number of hours that I could use towards helping my siblings with their homework. Additionally, I took 15 minutes each hour to check on my grandma and attend to her needs.
- Reach Out to Your Network: When it was hard for me to attend classes, my classmates updated me on lectures, upcoming deadlines and kept me in the loop for study group sessions. Although I did not utilize services from the Family Care Office, my work-study position as Peer Mentorship Coordinator has exposed me to various resources that students with family responsibilities can utilize. Students who feel overwhelmed can meet with a Family Care Advisor for referrals, resources, and guidance to learn how to better manage their situation. I also found the elder care workshops useful as they helped me learn how take care of myself while taking care of my grandma.
While reading these tips, remember that it is possible to overcome the challenges you are facing while trying to balance your family and academic life. Take it one day at a time, reach out to resources around you and keep in mind that your needs matter just as much as the needs of those you are caring for.