The Juggle: Balancing full-time study with motherhood

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When starting her enrolled nursing diploma, Kirsty Wilkin had to tell her young children that mummy might not be around as much.

It was the start of the constant struggle and guilt she would face juggling full-time study and motherhood.

But it’s worth the sacrifice, the 39-year-old mum-of-two said.

“I don’t want to just be a mum. If I don’t go ahead and do this, I know I’ll regret it.

The enrolled nursing course at Western Institute of Technology (WITT) in New Plymouth appealed to Wilkin due to its short 18-month-long duration compared to the three-year Bachelor of Nursing degree.

“I just wasn’t willing to give up three years without my tamariki to do the bachelor's.

“They mean so much to me, but I also want to do something for myself and set my children up for later on.”

WITT brought back the course this year in response to placement providers looking at employing enrolled nurses.

There are currently 21 students doing the diploma at WITT.

Enrolled nurses take a team nursing approach and work under a registered nurse on the floor.

“They take the majority of the responsibility, but we take responsibility for our own actions,” Wilkin said.

“The enrolled nursing allows me to get a foot in the door, but I want to keep studying throughout.”

Wilkin was one of a number of students juggling their studies with parenthood.

Before starting the course, 34-year-old mum-of-two Skyla Walls said her whole personality centred around being a mum.

When she left high school she wanted to go to university to become a nurse, but life got in the way.

Now her children were older, she had decided to take the plunge and further her education.

“I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve never been away from my kids.

“The kids love seeing me do it, and they help me study.”

Walls said a friend who was doing the diploma convinced her to apply.

If the friend hadn't been doing it, Walls doesn’t think she would have gone for it.

“It was nerve-racking because I’m an introvert and shy.

“But it’s good to get out of the house and talk to adults.”

The students are six months into the course and so far have only done theory.

But come next semester, students will be doing placements which are full-time hours.

Both Walls and Wilkin are slightly anxious about how they’ll juggle it with home life, but said special nanas and daycare will help get them through.

“My kids are used to having me at every school thing, so it was quite hard at the start," Walls said.

“But they are so proud of me, and they’ll ask me after tests, ‘did you get 100% or did you get a A+++?”

During placement, they get to work in a variety of different areas of nursing before comitting to one.

Walls was leaning towards paediatrics, whereas Wilkin had her eye on women's and babies' health.

“My passion is with wāhine and pēpi and working within the community,” Wilkin said.

“I want to be out there trying to make a change.”

Wilkin said there had already been a lot of juggling, and she didn’t have much time to herself.

“It’s a lot of late nights and weekends.

“On Father’s Day, I was like dad, you can take the kids, mama needs to study because we had an exam the day after.”

Reprinted from Stuff:

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