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As much as I love being their mum I also want to be something else for them. To show them that if you put your mind to something then you can do it

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The 'Push-Me / Pull-You' Effect: Sacrifices and Compromises

Many first in family students expressed how important university study was for pursuing their goals in life, and that in making room for this, other things would have to take lesser priority. The ‘conflict’ of prioritising study, combined with a sense of missing out, often creates a ‘push-me / pull-you’ effect. Being aware of this may be helpful for family survival.

Here’s what some of our students and family member participants had to say:

  • Uni is important to me …

    Largely the changes have been my withdrawal from 24 hour availability. I say no more often to all kinds of things. My friendships fit my schedule now, and my friends respect that I am focusing on uni and not socialising. I will not say yes when I don't want to any more. This is true of friends, family and work. What I am doing now at uni comes first above and beyond all else. I have never ever put myself front and center like this before. It was weird at first, but now it is just accepted by everyone. No one died as a result. No one has stopped being my friend. The world did not end, it just kind of shrugged and settled into the new system. (Survey#138, Female student, 40-50 years old, mother of one)

    I know my family are proud of me for pursuing university study; at the same time, I feel like they are sometimes frustrated (but understanding) when university work gets in the way of family life (especially because I am also working full time while studying) … I think it is sometimes difficult for my family to understand why getting a degree qualification is so important to me, particularly when it interferes with family life. (Survey#11, Female student, 30-40 years old)

    Relationships have changed because they are more interested and involved with me and my future paths. they are genuinely interested in what I am doing for myself. In the past I have put everyone else first and this time I am doing this for me. (Survey#39, male student, 30-40 years old)

    I've had to be a bit selfish with my time to ensure I do put the time into studying (Survey#42, male student, 40-50 years old, father of 2)

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  • … but sometimes I feel like I’m ‘missing out’

    … you don't see her as much because she’s always in her office typing and we’re like “Where’s mum gone?” Usually when you walk in from school you see her in the TV room on the computer or talking to someone but you don't see her anymore when you walk in the house. You know what I mean? My sisters don't really see her much and yes, I think my other sisters find mum a bit stressed sometimes and a bit angry because she’s so worried about uni work. (Vicki’s 16 year old son)

    Some days I have to sit my son in front of the TV instead of play, if I have an assignment due. I am more argumentative with friends! They appreciate it though... (Survey#3, Female student, 30-40 years old, mother of 4)

    My children and husband see less of me on the weekends as I have to work on my Assessment and weekly tasks. I also don't get to go out with them to events and things where we would prefer to go as a family, my husband and children have to go without me. (Survey#10, Female student, 30-40 years, mother of 6)

    It has created some stress at home. My son confided in a friend that he worries about me and my study load … I had to tell my friends that I am on hiatus for 16 weeks, that I can't have drop ins or go out to theirs. There are a few who don't like it but most are supportive. (Survey#127, female student, 40-50 years old, single mum of 2)

    Studying while working full time has been rather challenging, and, at times, very stressful. I have been forced to make compromises with my time, particularly in terms of being able to attend family/social functions, which has strained some of my relationships. (Survey#11, female student, 30-40 years old)

    I see a great deal less of my friends. Partner sometimes feels neglected Partner does not always understand why I would want a change of career at this point. Visiting family and taking holidays is now planned around study periods and exams. (Survey#18, female student, 30-40 years old)

    Sometimes, especially on school holidays, I feel like I am not doing as many fun things with the kids because I still need to study (Survey#6, female student, 30-40 years old, mother of 3)

    My children miss out on time with me a lot more which I don't like and nor do they. (Survey#22, female student, 30-40 years old, single mum of 2)

    I have lost contact with some friends due to not being available. My husband and children have been very supportive. I feel very grateful for this and although it has been difficult, I feel that our relationship and immediate family structure has become closer. My parents don't understand and continue to believe that nothing has changed. I sometimes/often feel guilty that I am not able to commit time as I would have before. (Survey#25, female student, 50+ years old)

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