When my marriage fell apart, after the initial shock, my first thoughts were “I get a second chance to be happy” and “Crap, I better go back and get that degree I quit if I’m to raise my kids for the next 15 years”.
At the time, my boys were 19 months and 3 years old and I was in a well paid part-time temp job in Brisbane. But as my ex had just announced he was relocating to Perth and we had no family in Brisbane, I had no choice but to move back in with Mum and Dad, who were located in North Queensland. I was fortunate enough to be offered a fulltime job in the Townsville branch of the company I had been working part-time for in Brisbane. However, as I was already bored in that job, the thought of doing it full time and having to put the kids into fulltime daycare did not excite me, so I decided to go back to University to finish that degree I had started 20 years previously. Leading me to my next challenge, how does one subsist on government benefits alone while trying to raise two kids, re-educate myself, pay for lawyers and have a life. I learned very quickly it all came down to asking the right person the right questions.
This is what I learned:
Studying with kids as a single parent is hard. Even harder if you have them fulltime like I did. You need to treat your studies like a full time job. If you’re trying to juggle kids, working and study, it’s likely that one of them is going to drop at some stage.
If you have to work due to financial pressures, look into all avenues for financial assistance or re-work your budget. I found menu-planning and most recently online grocery shopping can save you hundreds of dollars each year by helping you stick to your budget.
Financial assistance is available for single parents to re-educate themselves in the form of Centrelink Pensioner Education Supplements and subsidised childcare through the Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee assistance (JET) program.
Universities have various Grants to assist in paying for books, living expenses and tuition. Check their websites for more details. You can also defer your tuition fees through HECS-HELP or VET FEE-HELP. See StudyAssist.gov.au for more information.
Smith Family/ANZ Saver Plus Program – this is a 10 month financial education and matched savings program that assists families to gain financial skills, establish a savings goal and develop long term saving habits. The matched funding can be used for educational costs such as computers and tablets, text books and uniforms. I funded my 2nd year books through this program.
When it comes to property settlement matters with the ex – try to negotiate more support whilst you are studying to allow you to do it fulltime. Lawyers get you caught up on percentages and eagerly tell mothers (in particular) they are entitled to a higher percentage if not working. But instead of percentages of the property pool, think strategically like exchanging 5% of the property pool if the ex will pay 75% of school fees, books, uniforms and sports while you are at university and the first year you are back at work instead of 50/50.
Re-educating yourself post separation can make the world of difference to your self-esteem and career prospects.
So what are you waiting for? Check out your options today!