When I was about two weeks into my pregnancy with Bobby, I was made redundant from a job that I had been in for nearly three years. Believing (perhaps wrongly) that I wouldn't be able to get another job in my current condition, I didn't look for anything else, deciding instead to look for work again when my 'maternity leave' period was over. This was probably for the best, as I was horribly nauseated through the entire pregnancy and going to work wouldn't have been a picnic. So at this point, all routes were open to me. Four and a half months into being a new mother and feeling horribly isolated and cut off from the world, I decided to go back to university for a year and do a top up, which would turn my HND in Media Production into a BSc Professional Broadcast Techniques. That year of university is nearly over now. With my final exam in less than a month, I wanted to reflect on what life is like at university when you have a baby.
The short answer is not easy! It wasn't too bad for the majority of it when my little boy was happily in childcare. But when he became unhappy a couple of weeks ago and we pulled him out, I was in left in a bit of a pickle. My 10,000 word dissertation would be due in less than a month, about the same time that my exam would be taking place. This brings me to the position I am in now - although Bobby is looked after one to two days a week by family, I have been in university for one of these days, leaving me with only one day a week to work. It has been tight, but I have just about managed. My dissertation is now pretty much done, so over the next couple of weeks, I will have one or two full days in which to revise. You're probably wondering about weekends, but they seem to be a flurry of activity, trying to get done what I couldn't get done around the house during the week. I am going to try and sneak in an hour of revision a day whilst Bobby is at home with me, but this is hard as he is a very active 10 month old.
I was only in for three days a week during the first semester and only one day this term, so it hasn't been too heavy, but a true full time course of five days a week would have been much harder. I would say that if you find yourself at university with a baby in tow, try to find whatever support you can. This does not have to be from a childminder or nursery, but could come from family members and friends who are willing to babysit while you work. Personal support is also important. Most universities have excellent student support services and although this isn't something that I have needed to use, it is a good idea to speak to them if you are struggling. This is especially important when it comes to exams and deadlines, as you may have mitigating circumstances if you are really struggling.
It is important, if you are considering going to university with a baby or small child in your life of what will be involved - especially if your baby is under a year old. If your course only involves you being in for one or two days a week, then sleep deprivation may not be too much of a problem. But more days may be problematic. You may not be affected by this too much - how you will cope is very much down to your personality. Can you manage a workload with your child? Can you get outside support from family while you work or revise? Would you like to go when your child starts school or nursery, or is it important you start soon for the sake of your sanity? These are all important questions to ask yourself. If you choose to take a plunge, as I mentioned before don't be afraid to ask or help from the university's student support services. And don't forget to tell your tutors of your circumstances, mine have been very understanding - like if I have had to miss a lecture due to my child being ill. I am sure yours will be too. Also let your fellow students know, as if you are doing group work and can't attend they will understand your situation. Ensure above all that you think very carefully and review all of the options before diving in.
If you are already attending university, or are considering it and you have a child - please feel free to comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts. Good luck in whatever you choose to do.