A mum returning to university – how does she manage?

Six months ago Louise started a full-time university course, she is also a mum of 2 children. The course is certainly full-on, it involves lectures, assignments, reading, self-study placements and a dissertation. I was keen to learn how she is getting on.

What made you, as a mum, decide to return to university?

I have been mostly a Stay-At-Home mum since my children were born and we moved abroad and that was over eight years ago. But, really, this is what I had always wanted, it is my passion, but in New Zealand we don’t have a specialism in play-therapy. Now that we are here in the UK for a number of years for my husband’s job, I felt I had to take this opportunity to realise my dream. First I learned that one of the best courses is right here in my area. Then I happened to speak to a mum in school who is doing the course and that really decided it. It’s not easy as I am one of the only students with caring responsibilities. I am certainly not doing it because you’re going to earn more, but I did consider there would be more part-time options in this field.

What does your week look like?

Monday and Tuesday I spend all day at school. Tuesday evenings is reserved for personal therapy, which is also part of the course. For those two days I have an after-school nanny till 9pm, who also takes on jobs around the house, including some cleaning.

From Wednesday to Friday I study during the day, and then do the children. This means I don’t really look at studying much after 3pm. In the weekend it varies, if there is a large assignment due, I work over the weekend and my husband takes the children somewhere, to a museum or another outing.

What has been hardest in managing study and children?

I have really had to lower my expectations, both at home and at school. I used to get really good grades, now I have to be satisfied with good enough; just because I don’t have more time to put in.

The same with the home, I just ignore the mess, there are no gourmet meals for the children and when I see something on the floor, I just have to walk on and ignore it. I haven’t done any weeding over the past 6 months and have not read any books for pleasure. I have really just had to let go. And, you know what, I have learned now that my husband hasn’t even noticed it is messier. The children don’ t notice either.

Also my friends have to be really understanding, as I have to be really choosy with every single social event. At the same time I expect them to step in when one of the children is unwell, I have a big week in school, or my nanny is ill.

What are the key factors that make returning to university as a mum work for you?

I have a fabulous support network, which is really vital, I wouldn’t be able to do it without that. The nanny is really flexible and I really trust her, my husband takes the children out in weekends, and other mums have been great at stepping in too.

Also I am really enjoying it, I love working in this area, it is really pulling me in. If anything, I would want to spend more time on it, and find it hard to put my books away sometimes.

I am really motivated, as I haven’t worked for so many years. Now I know exactly why I am doing it and where I want to go next. You have to really want it, but if you do, it is certainly worth it.

author: Inge Woudstra, Founding Director of Mum & Career. The name of the interviewee has been changed for privacy reasons. 

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