How to Study with Children Around: 17 Stories from Moms and Dads

how to study with children around

I’ve gathered stories of aspiring CPAs who are parents of young children, mostly from Jeff’s as well as sharing from my readers. All names are alias to protect their privacy.

Mom and dad candidates, you are AMAZING. My hat’s off to you!

How to Study with Children Around (according to Moms)

1. Susan (Two boys, 4 and 1.5 years old)

Weekly study plan:

  • 2.5-3 hours each weekday (at night)
  • 4-5 hours on Saturdays
  • 18 hours per week

I usually wait to study until the kids are in bed and study from 9pm to 11:30-12 midnight. On Saturday, I get split sessions of around 4-5 hours total throughout the day, with the bulk coming after bed time. Sunday is usually verboten, unless something happened during the week and I need to make up time.

That being said, I usually have an open door policy when I am studying and my kids can bug me if need be. I figure if I can pay attention while they interrupt me, taking a test at Prometric should be a piece of cake.”

2. Julie (Two boys, 13 and 9 years old)

Weekly study plan:

  • Whenever possible on weekdays, more on the weekends
  • Supportive husband

Its hard.. My boys are older and somewhat independent, but I still have to make sure they are fed and finished with homework, get to their school and after school activities on time and various other things. I try to study whenever and where ever I get time. I am not working yet so I plan to maximize this time and get done with all 4 parts before work starts.

It helps if the your husband or significant other takes over for something. My husband has started cooking a lot more now and on the weekends he takes over the kids so I get a lot done on weekends.

Its a challenge but not impossible. We can do it 🙂 and we shall!!”

3. Karen (Two children aged 2.5 years and 3 months)

Weekly study plan:

  • 2-3 hours each on weekdays (early morning + lunch)
  • 15 hours per week
  • Supportive husband

The key for me was waking up around 5 am to get in 2 hours to study in quiet. Then, studying during lunch at work. By the time I got home from work and we got them to bed, I was too exhausted at 8 pm to do anything productive for the rest of the night.

It’s very difficult. Don’t think I could have done it without my supportive spouse.”

4. Bonnie (Two children, 4 and 1.5 years old)

Weekly Study Plan:

  • 2-3 hours on each weekday, bonus hours a couple times each week when parents help watch the children.
  • Supportive parents who live nearby

I wish I had good advice, but I cannot study with my children awake. I can get 2-3 hours in after they go to bed, but I’m so exhausted that I don’t retain as much then as I do if I have the house to myself on a weekend day. Luckily my parents live nearby and will watch the kids a couple times each week so I can study as soon as I get off work.

It’s hard and I kick myself everyday for not doing this before I had them. I feel like they get shafted all the time. I miss them. They miss me. BUT I just keep telling myself that the quicker I get this done the sooner I can spend as much time with them as I want (well when I’m not working). Mine are 1,2, and 4 and they all want attention. My husband tries to watch them when he isn’t at work, but they still want mommy. I can’t have the open door policy because I wouldn’t get any studying done at all.”

5. Sally (Two boys aged 7 and 2)

Weekly study plan:

  • 2 hours each weekday at home (early morning)
  • 4-4.5 hours each weekday (before work, lunch and after work)
  • 26 hours per week
  • Good sitter. Husband not too supportive.

I feel my kids are being shafted as well. I try to read at work, go in very early, put in about 1.5 hours, lunch and stay late for about 2 hours after work. I am lucky to have a good sitter that keep the younger one till when ever I pick him up and my 7 yrs old, my parents help with picking him up. I do get up everyday by 4am to put in another 2 hours before I get them up. Weekends, I try to get them away for a little bit so I can put in some hours.

I am sure it didn’t work for FAR because it was busy season and I am a manager at a public accounting firm. Worked crazy hours including weekends. DH is not of much help since he does not actually understand what I do and have to study. I wish DH was very supportive.

This time, I plan on using the same strategy luckily as my busy season is over for most of my audit clients. Hopefully I can get this done as soon as possible so I can focus on my boys. FAR is my last section!”

6. Florence (Child aged 4)

Weekly study plan:

  • Around 3 hours on each weekday (morning before work)
  • Some hours in the morning on weekends.

I’m up at 430AM on weekdays and 6AM on weekends to study. After work, I workout and spend time with my family. I find that I am too tired to effectively study after a full day of work. I do listen to the Audio review and go through flash cards whenever I can though.”

7. Kathy (Single mom with 1 child)

Weekly study plan:

  • Study on the go, before work and after work on weekdays
  • 4-6 hours in weekends

I’m a single mom and the way I keep my child occupied is by lots of tv and I study on my commute, at lunch, in the AM before work and an hour or so after work. The weekends i attempt to get in 4-6 hours. I know all this TV is not good for my child but i try to mix it up between educational and regular programming. When i can i let relatives and friends watch her so i can get peace.

So just analyze your schedule and see where you can add in study time and things will start to fall into place.

I also schedule breaks with her in mind so I spend time with her, reading a book, watching tv, going out to eat and sometimes even a movie. If i plan right and stick to my schedule then i can fit it all in.”

8. Amy (Two children aged 4 and 2)

Weekly study plan:

  • 20 hours on weekends
  • Supportive spouse
  • Daycare a few days before each exam section

The majority of my studying took place on the weekends. I had a goal of 20 hours each weekend. I don’t think I ever hit that goal, but I tried. At 5 pm, I stopped studying and devoted the hours before bedtime to my kids. I am very lucky to have a spouse who kept the kids entertained while I studied. In the last 7 months, my house has turned into a complete pit, but something had to give and I chose housework. The only parts of my house that were cleaned were the kitchen, bathrooms, and my bedroom where I study. I also took off a few days before each exam to cram while the kids were in daycare.”

 9. Lily (Children aged 5, 4 and 1 coming)

Weekly study plan:

  • Long study hours, 2 nights a week
  • Shorter hours for the rest of the week (at night)
  • Some hours before work and during lunch

I have a 5 year old and a 4 year old and am expecting my third any day now. It’s not easy! I generally follow pretty much the same pattern I had when I was in college – take about 2 nights a week where they won’t see me at all other than for dinner and it’s nothing but studying. On the other nights I just wait until they’re in bed and stay up until somewhere around 11 pm-1 am studying. During the day I’ll usually read book/notes and work through MCQs over lunch and, when I feel like it, before work. Nothing about it is easy, but if it was easy then everyone would have passed!”

10. Penny (Two children aged 4 and 2)

Weekly study plan:

  • 4-5 hours per weekday (early morning, lunch, at night)

I’m 29, married with a 4 year old and 2 year old and studying is hell!! I wake up at 4:00 study till 6:00 get kids ready, myself get to work by 8. I then study on lunch, get home by 6. I have to a be mommy and wife…fix dinner, give baths and then shower myself, and study from 8-10.

Studying for the CPA is tuff, its hard!! However, throw a couple kids in the mix especially the age range of 12 months to 3 years and being a women (yes men, I do believe women “feel” they have more responsibilities with kids and therefore do more to take care of kids) and it feels unbearable. To top it off I am seriously depressed as I have to put a smiling face on while I work 9 hours a day, study 5 and clean and be a mommy for whatever is remaining oh and still fail exams!! This feels undefeatable……….I honestly can’t try any harder……..unless I go down to 4 hours of sleep a night!”

Stephanie’s note: Penny did pass all 4 parts of the exam after 2 retakes 🙂

Now, How did the Dads Pull it Off?

Here are 7 equally amazing dads and their stories on exam preparation, work and kids. All names are alias to protect their privacy.

1. Alex (4 children aged 3 years, 7 months, and newborn twins)

Weekly study plan:

  • 3 hours on each weekday
  • 15 hours per week

First of all, it’s not easy studying with kids, regardless of how many you have. I signed up for my first exam when we had a 3 year old and a 7 month old. Before the exam arrived my wife got pregnant again…with twins!

I passed the exam and then went into total Dad-mode preparing for their arrival. Once they were born and a few months old, I had to get back on the horse and finish out the exams before losing my REG credit. I basically did all of my studying after the kids went to bed (8pm). Typically, my studying was done between 9pm and midnight. I tried not to study on the weekends if possible. Honestly, it would’ve been impossible anyways with 4 kids in the house running around.

Silver lining: now that I’m done, the time I normally used to study for the CPA feels like new found free time.”

2. Bob (Two children aged 4 and 2)

Weekly study plan:

  • 3-3.5 hours on each weekday (early morning, lunch and night time)
  • One evening off on Friday or Saturday for family time

It’s definitely not easy to study with kids. I have a 4 yr old and a 2 yr old, so there is a fine line to walk regarding time with kids, quality time with the spouse, and time to study. Pretty much your free time is study time.
So, after kids go to bed at 8pm, I spend an hour with my wife to just have 60 minutes to hang out without kids hanging off of you. From 9pm – 10/10:30pm, that’s study time.

Wake up early (5am), and study for another hour. Lunch time at work…another hour of study. Wash/rinse/repeat with an evening off on Friday/Saturday for family, and that is your way to slide in study time.

It’s rough, but so will be your determination of you want to pass.”

3. Matt (Children aged 4 and 2)

Weekly study plan:

  • 3 hours each weekday (after work)
  • No studying (Daddy/kid day) on Saturday
  • 8-9 hours on Sunday

Had a two and four year old when I started the journey. They are now 4 and 6. I also have a wonderful understanding wife, who also works. This is all about sacrifice for the betterment of you and your family. Always remember that. I would leave the office at 5. Hit the library until 8, home by 8:15 to get the kids down and read to them. Wife works all day Saturday, so that was my daddy/kid day. Then Sunday was mommy/kid day while I was in the library from 11 am till 7-8 pm. Friday nights after work was family night. It worked, but you have to maximize your study time and not get distracted. I’m now finished and the first Sunday I had without studying was just flat out incredible and freeing. I have my family back. I’d do it all again, too.”

4. Jack (Two children aged 8 and 22 months)

Weekly study plan:

  • Not specify
  • Supportive wife

It was extremely hard in the beginning. I can easily watch lecture videos while they are awake. I just use earphones and keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not burning down the house ? Is it distractive? A little but you get used to it. My wife is a HUGE help. Despite her working from home she has been able to handle most of the household stuff. I prefer the audio and flashcards. Audio will be great during your commute or to/from running errands and the flashcards are wonderful when you are waiting to check out at the grocery store or waiting for the doctor. It can be done!!! Good luck to you!!”

5. Pete (two Children aged 5 and 3)

Weekly study plan:

  • 2-2.5 hours each weekday (at night)
  • 6-12 hours on weekends

I am learning to get it in where I can. I have a 3yr old son and 5yr old daughter and my wife works part time from home and she is taking classes. So I come straight home from work, help with baths, do some educational stuff, eat dinner, and get them in bed. I try and chat with my wife till about 9pm and the study till 11 or 1130pm. Listen to audio review in the car. I have not been able to consistently study at lunch and I average anywhere from 6-12hrs between sat and sun. Its been a grind as we have no family or close friends to help with the little ones. But that just makes me more determined to pass and move on with my life.”

6. Ben (Three children under 6)

Weekly study plan:

  • 3-3.5 hours, twice a week before work and during lunch
  • A few hours, twice a week after work
  • 8 hours on Saturdays
  • Additional hours two weeks before exam

I just completed the CPA exam and I have three kids under the age of 6 and a very demanding job that requires on average 60 hours/week! It was a very long journey of 2 years and one of the top reasons I was able to complete this journey was because of my very supportive wife who ran our home and managed the day-to-day activities as I studied.

Like most of you I studied when the kids were asleep or on the weekends. Unfortunately, I am not as talented as some of you who keep an open door policy for your kids or study with your kids in the same room-I must have absolute silence. Therefore, the wife and I came up with a plan to accommodate my study requirements. Twice a week I would arrive at work at 6am and study until 8:30am and always studied during lunch. Tuesdays and Thursday’s I would stay after work until 10pm (late nights) and Saturday morning I would go to the library between 7am and 4pm. Sunday was the off day, but occasionally I would put in a couple of hours.

This worked out well for us because I would be off the whole day on Sunday, and off during the evenings on Monday, Friday and Saturday. However, once we were two weeks out from the exam I would take 6 days of PTO: Wed, Thurs, and Fri each week before the exam. This would allow a solid 10 days of study before each exam to cram and review.

Our plan worked well and thank you Lord I never failed a single exam!”

7. Robert (Two children aged 3 and 1)

Weekly study plan:

  • 1.5-2 hours each weekday
  • More hours during weekends

My daughter is 3 and a half and my son just turned 1 last week. It is not easy to study when you have a full time job and kids. I have to say that what has suffered most of the past year is my job performance. I’ve been so burned out from studying that I can hardly concentrate at work.

That having been said, the only way I have found to be successful is to study after the kids go to bed. That means I try to get them down by 8, hopefully they fall asleep before 9, and from there I study until I’m too tired (usually 10:30 or 11). Also I have tried to study on the weekends during naps.

This has not been a fun road, and I definitely couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife. I guess my best advice would be to not take the tests until you are pretty confident you are ready for them (I have only taken one per window). As much as studying is a drain on your life, you don’t want to prolong it any more than necessary.

Good luck!! It can be done!”

My Thoughts

Studying with children around, especially little ones and babies who need lots of love and attention, is extremely hard. It is incredible how these moms and dads squeeze studying time out of nowhere, getting up at 4am in the morning, studying till midnight after a full day of office work, cooking, cleaning and tugging the kids to bed.

It is more amazing that all of them pass at least one part of the exam.

Share your experience in the comments below. My best wishes to all of you!

For Your Further Reading

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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