I haven’t posted in a while…
It’s felt like I’ve continuously had a thousand things to do but I think as a Mum I will always have a never ending to do list so it’s a pretty poor excuse. A never ending supply of caffeine is needed and I don’t know how people who don’t like coffee survive.
I saw a post this morning on a Facebook page about a student who had to take his baby to class with him because of childcare problems and his professor helped him by wearing the baby in a chest carrier whilst he taught. I’m reasonably certain it was an American news story but the point remains – it was a lovely and very human gesture. It made me think about my own experience as a mother and a student.
I’m currently in third year at uni and I work part time whilst juggling running a household and raising my beautiful toddler – she’s nearly two where has the time gone? – and trying to remember my partner and I are adults (easier said that done when you know the theme songs to every CBeebies cartoon off by heart).
My first year personal tutor was really kind and compassionate, if a little clueless. I was pregnant from the start of first year and he apologised straight away for not knowing what to do because as a young male he had never himself experienced pregnancy or raised a baby and as a tutor had never before had a pregnant student.
But he tried his best. He arranged for me to have an unlimited number of 7 day extensions without requiring evidence and made sure I wouldn’t be chased about my attendance if I couldn’t manage to get to lectures. He filled in all the right risk assessments and offered to find a female member of staff with children when it came to questions like breast feeding and midwife appointments if it made me more comfortable. It didn’t bother me at all talking to him, but it was kind of him to offer (I think in all honesty he felt slightly out of his depth and was thinking a tutor who had had a baby would be more helpful). Amelia’s due date was around the time of my final assessments but she arrived well before that so I even managed to get all the work completed for the final dead lines. Much to my surprise I passed first year.
I went into second year with a baby the size of a newborn – she was 3 months old and around 8lbs when my new class schedule came through – and as I was breast feeding her it wasn’t easy leaving her for long periods of time. (Think loads of pumping to leave a supply of milk and continued pumping while away from her.) I was also recovering from a csection which anyone whose had one will know can take a long time. There is a reason the people who work in the costa near my house know my coffee order without asking.
Second year was not easy. They also changed my personal tutor in second year and I didn’t see this tutor once. In fact until I started third year I wasn’t even certain of my tutors name.
Add to the work/uni/baby balance that I have a rare medical condition and my whole third year experience is really not like most secondary school students would envision.
My dissertation is due in the next few months along with a list of other assignments and group presentations and honestly it’s more luck than design that I’ve managed to hand things in on time and turn up to the right lecture hall.
It’s all worth the effort though when you have this little face waiting for you when you come home.
The Reality of Work and a Degree with an 11 Month Old
It sounds like a real juggling act doesn’t it? Working, studying and ensuring this little human is fed and clothed at the same time? Well it sounds like it because it is.
If you look at my Instagram or my uni hand ins which are all neat and on time and the fact that I’m never late for work and always in clean uniform you’d think I’ve got it all well and truly organised. But the reality is more often than not I’m typing essays on my phone and eating a cereal bar for breakfast in the car.
If I’m having a particularly good day then by half past eight when rob gets home Amelia and I will both be dressed, have had breakfast and both our lunches will be made and in the fridge – mine to take to uni or work and hers to have while I’m gone so that her daddy knows exactly what to give her. If Amelia’s in a happy mood – which thankfully is 99% of the time – I might even have done the washing up and the laundry.
However if I’ve manage to do all that in the few short hours I’ve been awake then the chances are I haven’t turned my laptop on or even considered looking at a text book. The required reading list is all well and good until you have to work all weekend and can’t put your teething tot down to have a wee because she’s clingy and in pain.
And when my lecturer casually mentioned last week that we should all know what our dissertation question is going to be by now so that we can get started over the summer I nearly laughed out loud. The laughter gave way to concern when at least half of the other students raised their hands and began chatting out various ideas and research proposals. The concern was promptly forgotten as I walked back down the high street and remembered that Amelia had run out of her favourite snack – goodies date and banana bars – and there wasn’t enough soya left to make a cup of tea.
Don’t get me wrong I work hard on my essays and have every intention of passing uni. But for me it’s not a life style the way it is for so many students. I don’t live in a house with other students, I don’t go out clubbing – haven’t stepped foot in a club in nearly two years – and I have not spent one whole day in the library in the two years I’ve been doing my degree. The last time I read one of my text books was in my car outside our flat because Amelia had fallen asleep on the way home. Id love to sit in costa with my head phones in and type out my essays in peace but it just isn’t going to happen.
And I don’t see a problem with that. At the end of my course I’ll still have a degree, regardless of whether I completed my course work in a coffee shop or with Amelia sitting on my lap trying to grab the my phone whilst I try and type my essay up one handed on notes.
I’m getting everything done and I’d like to think that’s what really counts.
I don’t like the term young Mum. It has a few connotations that are insulting and I’ve heard it used in derogatory ways. ‘Oh another young mum’ ‘young mums always take up all the room on the bus’ ‘young mums shouldn’t be having babies in the first place’ ‘young mums are always on benefits’.
The latter implies that only ‘young’ mums claim benefits and that they are neither deserving nor entitled to them.
I personally am not on benefits and have not been previously. I’ve managed to balance working and being a mum with relative ease. Benefits are there for those who need them and I haven’t needed them.
But I have encountered a lot of people who have assumed that I don’t work and claim benefits. Sure start vouchers are vouchers available for those on benefits to buy fresh fruit and milk and formula for their little ones (if you are reading this in the UK and think you qualify for them and don’t get them then definitely have a look at applying for them.) Today I went to my local supermarket and was informed at the checkout that they could accept my milk vouchers. This was surprising to me as I hadn’t asked and I hadn’t handed over any vouchers. When I told the lady that I didn’t get them she looked equally surprised.
Now I know she meant well and was very polite but if I was older would she have made the same assumption?
I’ve encountered similar assumptions elsewhere. When I’ve taken Amelia to the Doctors quite often my age is brought up. Being a parent is a learning curve the first time round whether you are 16 or 32. Yes the 32 year old may have more life experience but that doesn’t mean they will be a better parent or find it easier. The 16 year old may have been looking after young siblings, the 32 year old may never have held a new born.
If you’ve had any experiences you’d like to share then please comment below or send me a message on my ‘contact us’ page.
Here is a picture of Amelia eyeing up the other little ones when we did the food shop this morning.
The Easy But Challenging Life as a Mum
Maybe it’s because I had a rather awful and unhealthy pregnancy and Amelia’s first few weeks were hospital ones but everything since then hasn’t been particularly hard. A few people – ones that didn’t have children I might point out – were quick to tell me that I had no idea how hard I was going to find it. And I can happily say they were wrong.
I didn’t have any baby weight to lose, my tummy was almost flat the day after Amelia was born and within a week I was back in my size 8 jeans and nobody would believe I’d just had a baby. (I am well aware that I was very lucky with this and fully appreciate that other mums may struggle with this. Please bare in mind my diet has always been healthy with fruit as snacks and three balanced meals a day. If I lived on take aways I doubt I would have skimmed down so quickly.) I waited for the dreaded csection pouch but it never arrived – unless you see the scar and the two, 1cm long stretch marks under my belly button my tummy has been completely unchanged by the experience.
I was and still am extremely grateful for my body springing back so quickly – with my HG sickness, SPD and obstetric choleostasis my pregnancy was spent in a lot of hospitals. A struggle with my weight was not one I was looking forward to.
Amelia is one of the happiest babies. Everyone we encounter comments on how she never seems to cry. She doesn’t sleep through the night but there’s something so cute about her cuddling into me in the middle of the night. The lack of sleep can be easily forgiven. I am not a fan of cry it out or sleep training so am more than happy to cuddle her all night if that’s what she needs.
For us the biggest challenge – health problems aside – was the breast feeding. For us it just wasn’t working well enough to continue so at just past four months we swapped to formula and we are both happier for it. Expressing was incredibly time consuming for me returning to uni so we made the switch to formula and haven’t looked back.
Balancing uni, a clean flat, work and Amelia should be extremely difficult. But somehow it isn’t. I have days where it seems like I’ve given myself way too much to do but they pass and I get everything done.
If you’re reading this and worrying about your to do list, stop and take a few minutes to have a cup of tea and appreciate the things you have already done. If all you’ve achieved so far that day is a clean and fed baby then you are doing brilliantly already. If you’ve been trying to loose a few pounds and you manage half a pound last week when you wanted to be minus three then that’s still really good too! Every little bit adds up towards your overall goals.
Often we are our own worst enemy, piling on the pressure. There will always be someone who you can’t please but that’s okay. Your life is yours. If you need help ask. If you need a break take it. Judgemental people aren’t worthy of your time.
To some this might not seem like much of an achievement. Loads of people go to uni. I can name more than a hundred people I went to school with that are currently at uni and can name nearly as many that have already completed their courses.
I received my results earlier today, after anxiously checking my emails from 11am onwards – they were being sent out by email between 11 and 6pm – and found out that I have passed the first year of my degree. Why am I so pleased? Because I think studying at uni full time, holding down a part time job, having and raising a baby all whilst moving out is quite an impressive achievement.
I have a lovely boyfriend, a gorgeous baby, a wonderful flat and am a third of the way through my degree. And I’m proud of that!
My beautiful friend Mollie looked after Amelia for a couple of hours so that Rob and I could go out for a meal. I even had a cocktail to celebrate my results.