University with a Baby: Helen’s Story

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Helen from ‘The Gracia Girls’

When I welcomed my first daughter Cara into the world I had a years’ experience of university under my belt, sadly it was the wrong degree for me and I chose not to pursue it further. I always wanted a degree but Cara’s arrival added a sense of urgency and I soon put a plan into action. My partner and I were settled into our flat in Cardiff Bay so I knew I would have to attend Cardiff University if I were to have a fair chance of being successful. I stepped out of my comfort zone and emailed the head of admissions for Psychology explaining that I had an A-level in Psychology and would love a place on their course, thankfully I was accepted. When I started my course in the September Cara was about 6 weeks old and I knew that I couldn’t possibly leave her in nursery with strangers but thankfully my partner was able to arrange his work around my lectures and family offered to help, if he couldn’t manage to arrange work around me, and if plans fell through I’d miss the lecture and try to catch up later.

I felt out of place returning to university with a child and it was even suggested to me that I was unsuitable for the course because I was a mum who was writing essays at home rather than in the library. However, I wanted to set a good example for my daughter so I wasn’t going to be put off easily, and I also happened to love my course second time around. When Cara was a year old I longed for another baby and wanted to give her a sibling reasonably close in age. I decided that I could have the family that I wanted as well as the degree that I wanted so I completed my second year whilst pregnant with my second daughter Millie who was born in the summer break. The end of my degree was in sight and I was more determined than ever to finish it so I returned for my final year in the September. By this point Cara was settled into nursery part time and family helped look after Millie around my lectures. It was tough going because there were exams to prepare for and a dissertation to complete and I often felt guilty for focussing my attention on these things rather than my girls. I’d also tell them off when they inquisitively tapped the keys on my laptop whilst my work was open which would make me feel terrible because I was doing it all for them but they didn’t know that, they just thought I was being mean.

It was all worth it in the end as I was extremely proud of myself when I graduated as was everyone around me but I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their amazing support. When I first started out on my journey as a studying mum I felt like I was the only one but as I have discovered there are so many other amazing mums juggling parenting with education, achieving great results too, so if you ever find yourself in this position just have a little faith in yourself!

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