Life as a parent at university, with Michael Murphy UNE Student

Life as a parent at university, with Michael Murphy

We’ve all come to find ways to adapt to new situations during an era where many of us have found ourselves in and out of lockdowns.

We’re firm believers that university is for everyone – no matter what stage in life you choose to study. It’s always exciting to learn why certain students choose to study.

Sometimes it’s nice to know that there are students who are experiencing a similar situation to you. In our latest blog series, we’re spotlighting students at UNE who are currently balancing their study load whilst raising a family, among various other commitments, and have offered invaluable insight into ways they have been balancing their student/parent life whilst in lockdown.

Michael Murphy is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History with a writing minor whilst caring for his five children along with his wife.

We recently caught up with Michael (virtually) to chat more about his journey as a mature-aged student at UNE, what led him to study later in life, and how he is managing it all as a father in lockdown.

We’re excited to learn a little about you – can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in the NSW town of Gundagai with my wife and five children. We have a busy but enjoyable lifestyle, which involves a lot of sport on the weekends and exploring the wide-open spaces of our local region. It is a beautiful place to live, and the locals are very community-minded. I am also secretary of the Gundagai District Cricket Association, and like many parents, I have coached whatever sport the kids were involved in.

I have had many jobs during my life, varying from truck driving to training thoroughbred racehorses and writing for the local newspaper, and I also completed a trade as a glazier at TAFE in 1993.

I spend as much of my spare time as possible with my family, but I also enjoy reading and I began writing seriously about five or six years ago. I have completed several stories and published a historical fiction novel in 2018 titled Beneath the Willow.

Can you tell us what motivated you to study as a mature-aged student?

I have always been interested in history, but probably didn’t make the right choices as a high school student. It was my wife who encouraged me to apply as a mature-aged student in 2017, and I was very excited to be accepted at UNE, but also nervous prior to commencing.

Although I started late, studying at university has had a huge impact on my life. I feel that now I have started, it was something that I was always meant to do.

I look forward to visiting the Armidale campus for an intensive school and getting a sense of the university once the pandemic is under control.

What do you enjoy the most about the degree you are studying?

I enjoy learning at a higher and more in-depth level. I have always read about historical events, but what I have enjoyed most about my study at UNE has been the way in which I have learned to look at things from a different perspective; to question my understanding of subjects, and explore sources for answers. I also enjoy the challenge of assignments and the process of research.

What do you hope to achieve with your degree, post-graduation?

My ambition when I started my degree was to give my work as a writer a level of credibility by completing the degree to the best of my ability, and as time has gone by, I have entertained the idea of enrolling in post-graduate studies. I also think that the skills developed in my degree will open other employment opportunities in the future, but overall, I think I have added a whole new dimension to my life by studying at UNE.

The past 18+ months have been disruptive to everyone’s routines. What does a regular day look like for you?

Until recently I was writing for a local paper, which provided flexibility, but it was also quite time-consuming. My wife works full-time, and I mix part-time work with writing, home duties, and university study. While there must be an element of routine, especially in the mornings, no two days ever seem the same with a family of seven, and my wife and I sort of take the approach of just “getting things done”. I am very fortunate to have a partner who is so supportive.

Are there challenges balancing your studies from home whilst caring for children?

Yes. Time is a challenge: it is important to me that I put in the necessary work to do well in my studies, but apart from the obvious needs of having to pay the bills, etc, quality time with my family is the most valuable thing in my life.

I think that being adaptable is probably an important attribute in balancing study and family time with work. Things won’t always go to plan, so the study may have to be done at a later hour, but I don’t mind this as I find university work both invigorating and enjoyable.

What has worked for you in staying on top of your commitments during the pandemic?

Communication is an important part of our family life, especially in recent times. The kids have had disruptions in schooling and there has been uncertainty with work, so discussing current events while remaining positive, and active, has definitely helped.

As far as study goes, deadlines for assignments and the general workload can be daunting sometimes, but I find it helpful to just start. For me, this is particularly the case with assignments; if I start writing things begin to fall into place.

Thank you Michael, for sharing your student experience with us! There is no doubt that many students will find comfort knowing there are others also balancing student life with parenthood. You’re doing a great job! 

You are never alone at UNE.

The team at Advocacy and Welfare are your independent Advocates, they’re always available to help you through any study or personal issues.