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A college student’s guide to managing family life

| Thursday, September 19, 2019

Monday was my 19th birthday. It was also probably one of the toughest days I’ve had since returning to Notre Dame this fall. If this makes no sense to you, allow me to explain.

Growing up in an Italian American household, one of the core values that was stressed by my parents was that family comes before anything else in life. This is something that I still pride myself on today, as my family has been my unwavering support system during my time as a college student. 

It’s always a pleasure to speak with my relatives when they call, but gosh, can Italians talk. Saying goodbye is actually an indication to us that we should start an entirely new conversation. On Monday, all four of my grandparents called individually to wish me a happy birthday, but then continued to talk for 45 minutes each about topics ranging from Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to my plans for spring break in seven months. In addition, I spoke with both of my parents on the phone and took a FaceTime call with my entire immediate family (including my dog Maggie). In total, I spent roughly five hours talking to my relatives Monday. While it’s incredible to experience such love and care from the people closest to me, it’s not exactly conducive to finishing Tuesday’s business law homework in a timely manner. Monday night eventually bled into Tuesday morning, and as I type this piece, I slowly begin to doze off.

I have learned over the last year that one of the most difficult things to do as a college student is to balance my family life with my life here at Notre Dame. Adjusting to the fact that I have to carve time out of my day to speak with my loved ones instead of just heading down to the kitchen was certainly difficult for me. However, I have learned that there is an art form to keeping close contact with family while still managing all of the other obligations that college students have. Here’s my advice for how to do so.

First, figure out one specific day and time that you will talk to your entire family. For me, this is usually Sunday around 9 p.m., but this, of course, is dependent on your schedule and what works best for you and your family. My family members used to call me at difficult times to speak during the day, but I always felt bad telling them no. Setting a specific date and time will allow you to manage your school work better and keep you focused when you need to be. If you know exactly when you will be speaking to your family, you will make sure you finish what you need to do.

Secondly, make sure you text someone from your family every day to let them know that you’re alive. My mom always appreciates when I let her know how I’m doing or if I have a question about something important going on in my life. Text conversations certainly don’t have to last as long as weekly phone conversations. A few messages back and forth each day will help you and your family members feel more connected and don’t have to completely interfere with your daily routine.

Lastly, as difficult as it may be, don’t be afraid to cut conversations short if necessary. Your family loves speaking with you but is also aware that you have a life outside of them as well. Don’t let conversations carry on if you really need to take care of something, and always be transparent with your family about how much time you have to speak. They really just want what’s best for you and won’t be offended if you have to cut them short from time to time.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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