The Advice Column THE VOICE - September 18, 2002

Dear Sandra;

My biggest problem is guilt. I have three small children and I’m trying to go back to university to get a degree. Most of the time I do my schoolwork at night when they are already in bed, but sometimes when it gets close to the end of the month I turn the TV on to keep them occupied while I try and finish my assignments before the deadline. I feel like I’m a bad mother for putting my coursework first…I love learning and I feel inspired going to school, but I can’t shake these feelings of guilt. Is it wrong to neglect my children this way?

Guilty Mother

Dear Guilty Mother,

You are wasting energy feeling guilty when you should be focusing your energy on more important things like spending time with your children and completing your courses. Today’s society has forced some mothers to suffer burnout while they try to be the perfect mother and attempt to pull off a life of their own. Magazine articles are constantly bombarding us with what we should and should not do as mothers. Family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers constantly judge our parenting skills, putting pressure on us to produce happy, healthy, intelligent and emotionally sound children. This intense public scrutiny is worse for women who work or attend school and is rarely focused on a father’s parenting skills.

You are not neglecting your children if you let them watch television occasionally at night while you study, unless you are letting them watch inappropriate or violent television shows all night that they may re-enact on the playground the next day. Television has received a bad reputation, but there is quality television that children can watch; if you can’t find it on cable you can find entertaining educational videos at your local library.

If them watching television makes you feel guilty try giving them board games, craft items, or some other age appropriate activity. I understand that this may not work for very small children; I, myself, have a two-year son and sometimes Steve and the gang from Blue’s Clues help me finish assignments by captivating the little mover and shaker’s attention for half an hour. Another option is getting them involved in your schoolwork – unless it’s something really boring for a child like accounting! My six year old daughter absolutely loved learning about Mesopotamia and Egypt when I took HUMN 201 and was grossed out, yet intrigued, looking at brains and eyeballs in my psychology textbooks.

No matter how much time you spend with your children, it will always seem like it is never enough. The important thing is to make your time with your children quality time. Take time out from studying to read to them or run around with them in the backyard. Believe it or not, our children will grow and prosper without our complete undivided attention 24 hours of the day. Children want independence and they need it to grow and prosper into self-functioning beings.

Children learn what they live, and as they watch you dedicate yourself to learning it will foster a love of learning in them as well.

This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of

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