It is March. The first week of the new semester. Or the period when most of the students are at the University -– apart from the exam week, however. The reasons why the first week is especially important are that it not only provides information on the modes of assessment but also guarantees a place in the course. I have missed the first week. My three-year-old son suffered from otitis media. When he was able to fall asleep, I used these short periods to write e-mails to the university teachers and to ask them for letting me still participate in their courses.
Studying with a child is not difficult, it is just different
I am a student, and a mum. Actually, I need to explain this in a little more detail: I am a young student, aged 24 years. When I started my university degree, I was already pregnant. With this in mind, my son has always been part of my studies and I have been a young, curious student who likes to go out at night occasionally.
In an article for the UNIMAG magazine I wrote about the topic of attendance requirements that I have touched upon previously.
In this article I also state that studying with a child does not necessarily have to be difficult. It is just completely different.
One of the biggest challenges is the management. I cannot simply wait until the end of the semester to start learning. I have to take my courses during the opening hours of the kindergarten. It is not always easy, but possible. Additionally, I also like to party once in a while. This might create the impression that I would have thoroughly planned my everyday life. But to be honest, I am occasionally even more spontaneous than my childless colleagues.
Being true to yourself and being a mum too
Maybe it is simply a matter of attitude. I love to spend time with my son because he explains the world from his childish point of view. At the same time I do not want to give up my own desires and ambitions. In the future I do not want regret that I could not do anything because I have a child. It is the balance between all of this.
I usually spend the morning at the University. Either attending classes or learning in the library. In the afternoon I play with my son. Thus I can let off some steam and charge my batteries again to be able to sit down to study in the evening or to discuss topical issues with my roommates. If fellow students spend their entire time at the library at the end of the semester, I am not really surprised that I possess a better balanced mind. After all I spend a lot of time in the fresh air outside and have the best excuse ever for singing and skipping along the streets.
Nevertheless, I also sometimes come to the point where I prefer having a coffee break with my friends to studying. And yes, I enjoy being lazy once in a while.
Once I failed an exam because of that. I was upset about it. But it was entirely my fault and not related to the fact that I am a mum. Because I was able to complete the bachelor’s programme within the standard duration of the programme (also thanks to my son’s father). To be precise, I finished my studies in the seventh semester. And I just needed this extra semester to obtain more than 180 ECTS credits because I wanted to complete an additional extension curriculum.
It would not be possible without help
After the first week of the semester I had to push myself to write e-mails to a number of professors, because I was just as tired as the sick child that I was taking care of. In most cases professors show understanding for such situations.
And also fellow students provide summaries to help me or adopt the role of the babysitter for a while so that I am able to attend the course in the afternoon at least a few times a semester. Because a three-year-old child becomes easily restless during lectures, no matter how interesting this constant talking may be for us adults.
Studying with a child is a little adventure, entails juggling with time, self discipline, team-work and many more. But all this does not mean that it is difficult. It is just different.