I dropped out of university when I was 20 and moved back home to have my son. I knew it was the best option because my student life at the time consisted of getting up for a 9am lecture, pouring myself a mug of wine, and going back to bed until it was time to hit the clubs of Lancaster again (there are clubs in Lancaster, honest). Needless to say, becoming a parent changed my schedule a fair bit. For a while I was content with having swapped booze for a balanced diet and night life for, well – still night life – but of a different sort. Then I started to wonder if I’d ever be able to go back to university. I wanted to, but I had a lot of doubts. Sometimes making it through the day without putting the telephone in the dishwasher or the kettle in the fridge seems like the greatest thing you’ll ever achieve as a parent. It’s a myth though that children completely turn your mind to mush and, sure, I have a lot to say about the dodgy gender dynamics of The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but soon enough I started wanting more.
I ended up putting in an application that was quite last minute, figuring that my son would be starting full-time school and I’d want something of my own to focus on when he was out of the house. There were plenty of moments of doubt and panic, like when I called my old school for a reference and realised all my teachers had retired (I’M TOO OLD!), or when I sat down to write my personal statement and typed the words ‘mature student’ (I’M NOT OLD ENOUGH!). In the end I managed to submit it without major crisis and was made up to receive my place.
So far managing my childcare responsibilities alongside my studies has been alright really. Not in a, ‘look at her! I don’t know how she does it all!’ sort of way, but with a bit of organisation it usually works out. I know that I won’t always have time to get my work done at the last minute – children are not very good at scheduling their needs to fit in with yours – so I make sure I plan ahead. I have a term calendar on my wall with essay deadlines, exams, and the start of teaching for each text, so I can make sure I stay on top of things. There have been times I’ve had to miss lectures and seminars because my son was off school ill and I worried initially that I’d fall behind, but my tutors were always understanding and willing to meet up and run through what I’d missed if necessary. I love being a student again, it’s hard work and takes a lot of organisation but the years spent trying (and failing) to engage my baby in critical discussion of Disney Channel programmes set me up for the adventure that doing a degree really is.
-Katie and T.E.A