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. 

Comments (4)

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  1. Caroline Akerejola says:

    What an interesting story! A mum returning to uni after having 2 kids? WOW…She must have been a determined person like myself. Well i went back to uni at 38 after having four kids.All under the age of 9. And what a big challenge,in my final year i had another bundle of joy(baby boy).I could remember how i used to hold my baby with one hand and doing course work including writing my final dissertation.At my graduation i had all my lovely 5 children and husband celebrating my achievement!!! I did it with 5 kids.

  2. That is amazing. Thank you for sharing. Apart from sheer determination, what kind of support did you have in place? Did you give up sports and your social life entirely? What did you take at uni and did it help you find a job? Would love to hear more. Well done!!

  3. Naomi Bonet says:

    I visited a university today. I am a 33 year old mother of five a Singleton and two sets of twins. I already have a degree in media but I would like to do social work. It was strange to walk around the university campus with all the young college leavers and their parents. My partner is not that keen on it. But I feel I need to get a degree with proper job prospects to earn a decent living for my kids. I know I won’t get much support from my partner he has already told me not to expect him to stay home and look after the kids. But yet he can’t be bothered to go out and look for a job and says he wants to be an actor. I cant afford to wait around for that to happen. They have all just gone into full time education.So I feel it’s now or never.

    • Naomi, how exciting! Well, it can be done. I did speak to a mum of 4 who did it. It’s not easy though and requires you to be super organised and persistent (check out the interview with Iman Hill to get a sense of what this means). However, you do have a great motivation: income for the family. Of course do make sure there are good job prospects, and check where current graduates go, a degree is no longer a guarantee for an income. We recently published articles on shortages in more technology oriented areas such as STEM courses, white van jobs (electricien, plumber) and the IT industry. It depends on your interests and talents of course. But these sort of areas tend to be well-paid too. Do let me know how you get on!

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