Never Too Old to Learn

If you’ve been on the fence about going back to study, changing careers, or retraining in a new field, maybe this year you’ll invest in yourself – and your education, says Yvonne Walus.

What are you doing this year? The kids are at school after a long summer break, and the house feels… Not exactly empty, more like full of potential. So, what’s the plan? Yes, chores. Yes, me-time. And maybe… Yes, education?

Some parents can simply return to their jobs. Some need to do a refresher, or retrain to catch up with the ever-changing workplace. Others choose to ditch what they know to follow their passion, or to learn a job that will free them up for school pickups and long summer holidays. (While many workplaces increasingly support shorter workdays and working from home, teaching and early childhood education remain popular second-career choices for parents.)

It may sound scary, but starting a new journey will boost your energy, increase your self-confidence, and make you grow. Following your dreams will connect you with your authentic self and make your life more meaningful.

Of course, there will be challenges, such as paying for your education, but there are funding options and fees-free courses available, and education providers can help you find out about financial aid. You can also check out free “taster” courses at local education providers, and take a look at YouTube and LinkedIn Learning to get a feel for skills you’d like to learn. In some jobs (like beauty therapy and ECE), you can even earn as you learn. Whatever you invest in your education now will ultimately benefit your family.

Managing kids and your studies is another complication. Fortunately, many course providers offer flexible schedules and online classes. Ask your family and friends to be your village: Could someone take the children after school or bring a casserole? Organise your calendar around deadlines and exams. Break down your workload into smaller, more manageable goals to track your daily progress. Family life is so unpredictable, so don’t leave assignments to the last minute. Do whatever works for you: A dedicated study space, a cold shower, an exercise routine, study groups, a reward system. Above all, stay motivated. You’ve got this!

Does your brain change after having a child?

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Yes, mummy brain is more than just an excuse – it’s a real condition caused by neurobiological changes in the brain during and post-pregnancy. This brain remodelling persists for at least two years after giving birth. Interestingly, scientists discovered that the brains of fathers are also affected post-birth, albeit to a lesser extent. And now the awesome news: Studies of new mothers’ brains have shown growth in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area responsible for delayed gratification, planning, and learning! In addition, being a mature student means you have a clear goal and a feel for what interests you, so you stay focussed more easily.

What parents say:

“The ECE sector is crying out for teachers, and I was able to get hired as an unqualified kaiako and be supported by my ECE centre while I was studying, so I could earn while I learned. One of the best perks was being able to enrol my toddler in the centre for very low fees, and when I needed to go to block courses for my degree, or if I had to be off sick, my son was already in childcare so it was win-win.”

“When my youngest started school, I enrolled in business school, mainly to show my children that getting a university degree is possible. Being away from home is hard, especially if you’re not earning, but the stimulation makes me a happier and calmer parent.”

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