Surviving Exams AND Parenting


I've made sure to write this post as soon as possible after my last exam to ensure that the joy of freedom hasn't overclouded my ability to write honestly. I donot, for one second, want you to think that exams were easy. It's very easy to brush it all under the (coffee-stained) carpet and declare that exams were an absolute breeze, and all you have to do is try your best and everything will be fine.

NO. Everything will not be fine. Everything will be the opposite of fine. And if one more person tells me all I can do is try my best then I'll probably have to dropkick them. I wanted to make sure that the pain of being in the dark revision/exam hole would be fresh in my mind, the wounds of sleepless nights and pro plus overdoses still evidenced on my face. In saying that, I've left 24 hours in between, because lets face it, on the evening of my last exam I fell asleep naked on my bed with my hair still in a towel, shower water still running, and I don't even remember taking the shower. I woke up at 3 am to Reuben looking at me as if to say 'Mama, get it together'.

I've had quite a few people asking me how I do exams and 'do' Reuben at the same time. Usually I just say 'I don't', whilst I walk away because they're wasting my revision time and I'm trying not to cry in their face. I mean, I'm no stranger to doing exams with Reuben in tow. I'm the gal who repeated A levels for 2 years and stupidly took on a counselling course as well as part time work because I want to provide for Reubs. I'm clearly no quitter... but I'm certainly a little crazy. However, this year has been a whole new ballgame. Imagine the worst ballgame, where everyone gets injured and no one wins - that kind of ballgame. Thankfully first year is worth so little, but it doesn't stop me giving it stacks. They might be wasted stacks but we wont focus on that. I'm still not quite sure what approach to take to uni exams, but I do know my capacity to hold information has dwindled to the point of not remembering my own name, never mind remembering what that scholar said about general and special revelation. Mum brain is a thing, okay? It's a very real thing where all of your brain/memory cells are passed on to your child as it makes it's jolly way out of your cervix.

Not really. But it's definitely a result of sleep deprivation, multitasking, stress, bad diet etc etc. So here's how I somehow manage to make it through exams without dropping out of uni and hiring Reuben out as a child model to pay the bills.

- I remember exams are coming, and they are coming soon. All year I keep reminding myself that just because I suck at them doesn't mean I can avoid them. It motivates me to do well in assignments. Exams will pull my marks down appallingly low and I need whatever fall-back cushion I can get. Of course it is soul destroying when you get a 1st in an assignment and that's brought down to a 2:2 by your exam mark, but that's life. You win some, you lose some. Sometimes you sleep all night, waking up once to fall in love with your angelic child, and then you eat eggs with avocado for breakfast. And sometimes you're up every hour with a hyper toddler smearing milk on the walls and you have calpol for breakfast hoping it will sedate said toddler. No one ever said it would be fair. But they said it would be worth it. (Probably the same people who said you can only try your best in exams).

- I accept that I will live in a bog ground for approx. 2 weeks and probably wear the same underwear multiple days in a row. (I'm not going to say how many days in a row because whilst I want you to know I'm honest, I don't want you to know I'm disgusting). There comes a stage when Reuben has just gone to bed and I can decide to tidy the house or I can decide to revise. Of course, there are multiple times I choose to clean, inhaling enough bleach fumes to forget the reality of looming exams. But usually the week before, I give up on the cleaning/laundry and use that time to study or sleep in preparation for another full day in the library. There also comes a point when I stop apologising to people for the mess and I just look at them with bloodshot eyes and mutter 'No time'. Thankfully Reuben doesn't judge, because he made the bloody mess.

- I'm aware that I'm probably going to be passive aggressive but this too shall pass. Stress and panic make me moody. I'm not going to pretend I'm a delight. I'm horrific. One minute I'll be laughing hysterically and the next I'll be crying because I ran out of ink in yet another pen. I'm not one of those people who sits in the library shushing fellow students (I'm usually the one being shushed), but I do have a lot less patience. Most likely with the people who are eating loudly or have already finished exams. Or the one guy in McClay who forced me to move up a floor because if he didn't stop breathing so loudly I was probably going to headbutt him. I'm quite good at keeping my mood to myself but I'm definitely a lot shorter with those I'm closest to. But that's not okay and I've apologised profusely. Poor Reubs has received many a snappy "WOULD YOU JUST GO TO SLEEP NOW!!!!"

- I bare in mind that Reuben's creche is there for a reason. The creche is usually open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm, but earlier in the semester I quite often leave him in just before a 10 o'clock class or pick him up early when I can. Some days I just avoid all responsibilities and don't leave him in at all and we go spend the day at the beach or watch 101 Dalmatians 101 times. But coming up to exams I leave him in the whole time. And the guilt eats me alive.

There's a constant conflict between knowing that the ultimate goal is to provide a life for him, but simultaneously wanting to spend all of my time with him now. If we were a two-parent family and Reubs was spending time with the other one whilst I was at the library, I don't think I would feel just as guilty. I have to remind myself that this is our normal. I have to remind myself that Reuben LOVES creche and he is advancing more and more every day. The biggest comfort is reminding myself that I'll have nearly 4 months off with him over Summer and I can make up for all the lost time, even if he's sick of me by the end of it and asking to be back at creche - Tough luck Reubs, I want aaaaaallllll the cuddles.

N.B. Friends will be neglected too. When every spare moment is spent revising and keeping Reuben alive, I end up having to say no to offers to meet up or spend time together. I also forget to reply to messages and emails - if they aren't Theology related then they can wait until Summer. So if you're reading this, and you know I've been really terrible at replying, you can probably expect a box of chocolates and an 'I'm sorry' balloon at your door any day now.

- I suck it up and ask for help. I have had to put pride aside and admit that I can't do it all alone. I've had to admit that I generally haven't been coping very well. My mum and dad took Reubs for 24 hours and my friend G (i.e. from Three Men and a Baby, which has gotten more views than any of my posts but lets leave that rant for another time) looked after him the night before each of my exams. So I could just go to the library until a disgusting time and not have to worry about anything other than my dismal memorising skills. I'd have been totally lost without them. Although, next time round I will have to suck it up a little earlier than I did. I'm usually just a tired person in general but during these exams I just couldn't fight the exhaustion. I ended up feeling very sick for a few days after washing down multiple pro plus tablets with multiple coffees. Never again. I can feel my mum's horror from here.

All of the above, along with a lot of prayer and a lot of perspective, is how I get through exams. Considering I booked a holiday to Rome during my exams last year, the odd little tearful breakdown doesn't seem as terrible. I'm just hoping that the next 2 years will get easier, or I'll learn how to cope better, or I'll have a better memory, or Reuben will be less exhausting.

Kidding. There's more chance of Reubs sitting the exams for me.

Hope everyone's exams have went well!

The end product - That's me passed out in the corner. Cute, I know.

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