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Studying at uni while on maternity leave
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#1 elco

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:05 PM

Perhaps it would be better suited for the studying area, however I thought I would get more traffic here.

My first baby is due in mid April and I am contemplating starting University study in July. Due to previous study I would have two years worth of full-time study to complete a degree. DH is fully supportive of my study plans. I don't know if I will have a chance to not work and study at the same time later on in the future so I see my planned unpaid maternity leave as a good opportunity to study and care for our child. Kill two birds with one stone if you will as completing a Uni degree has always been a goal of mine.

I am interested to hear others thoughts and experiences on being a stay at mum and studying at the same time. I haven't studied at Uni before so I am not sure if my plans are realistic. As this will be my first child, I also have no experience in knowing how demanding a newborn/toddler is either. I have been working full-time 40-50 hrs per week plus studying part-time at Tafe two nights a week and I have managed that fine, but obviously Uni is different to Tafe.

My preference is to study full-time on-campus as I would finish the degree quicker and the University I am looking at is a literally a 2 min drive from my house. I did consider external study as Open Universities Australia offer the same degree (Bachelor of Business) however I am worried about studying externally - I think I will be more focussed and committed if I study on campus, attending classes etc. The university website advises that the degree I am looking at is 9-12 hours of scheduled classes per week throughout the semester.

Thanks for reading.

#2 statua angelam

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:11 PM

My DD is 13mo and I studied last year.

I've done a mix of things; online units, evening classes and one unit run on Saturdays, as well as a business-hours on campus unit.  This is partly because finding appropriate childcare to cover classes is not easy or cheap!  

I loved getting out of the house and having something to do away from DD, but from the POV of actually managing the workload, online was definitely the easiest, because it was the most flexible.  Perhaps look at whether the degree you're interested in offers subjects in different modes, which might let you mix it up a bit?

I managed two units a semester and would have struggled to do more; I don't know that I recommend full time study in that first year.  Perhaps you could start part time, and if you feel you could do more, ramp up the following semester?



#3 Chief Pancake Make

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:14 PM

I am planning to study by distance ed part time.  they recommend 10hrs a week per subject, I already completed 1 subject while I was working last year.  My baby was born at the end of Nov and will be 2+ months old when the semester begins.  Right now feeding/settling /changing is pretty all consuming.  I think I will have to hand her over to DH after he gets home from work to do a couple of hours study at night.

#4 elco

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:24 PM

QUOTE (Ange Vert @ 08/01/2013, 12:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Perhaps you could start part time, and if you feel you could do more, ramp up the following semester?


That's a good idea actually, I hadn't thought of that.

External study does appeal to me because of the flexibility/doing the study in my own time - I am just worried that I will procrastinate and not be as committed as I would if I know I have to attend set classes.

#5 SnazzySass

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:33 PM

What sort of child care do you have? Will you be able to have someone else look after bubs for 40 or so hours a week? Will that person be able to look after bubs if bub is sick?

Have a look at the timetables if you can for the courses you would like to do because while the face to face hours are few the classes maybe spread over the whole week. I am unable to do full time next year because most of the tutes are on days I can't get day-care and even part time I will have to miss one lecture because it is on a day I don't have day-care. I have spoken to the lecturer and he is happy to record it for me so that is one way you can get around it but there is no getting out of tutes.

Try not to put yourself under pressure there is no harm in giving it a go but I would probably start out with one subject and make sure I believed it was ok to pull out at census date if I wasn’t keeping up. I now pull out if i am even a little bit behind in my reading because I find it difficult to catch up and DS always gets sick just when I really have to work. I also don’t like taking away from our family time too much because when we don’t spend time together it puts strain on all our relationships. That said if I didn’t have uni I would go mad.


#6 noi'mnot

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:36 PM

I started a postgraduate diploma before becoming pregnant, started my last two subjects just before my baby was born and finished them over the next few months. I found this very easy. It was all online.

I know you're worried about procrastinating and getting distracted, but for me having this "brain time" or "me time" or just "non-baby time" was so refreshing. I really enjoyed having something outside of "baby" to do, which I could mainly pick up and put down as required. I knew that if my baby was having a bad day, then I would listen to the online lecture tomorrow instead of stressing about her being with somebody else. It was perfect for our situation. It may have been a bit different for me, though, because I was already in the groove of studying (did my last semester with baby), and I've got several degrees under my belt so knew what and how much was expected of me, and how to achieve that, though experience.

Good luck! original.gif

#7 Ally'smum

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:37 PM

During my year of maternity I also had a break from studying and looking back there is no way I would have been able to study in the first 6 months, but perhaps in the second 6 months I could have.

You may have an easy baby, you may not be as tired and it might be doable, but keep in mind that it may also be the opposite!

At the most I would enrol for one subject and see how you go, then as the baby gets older you may be able to do two, to be honest I don't know how anyone with a young baby could do any more than that.

Babies are really time consuming and you may find that you can't find the ten hours a week you will need for reading so be flexible and don't be hard on yourself if you just have to withdraw.

I think I am giving you a worst case scenario but I couldn't do it so thought I would let you know. original.gif

#8 ChickenRose

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:40 PM

Do you have access to childcare for when you will be in class? If not, studying externally may be a better option as it might not be appropriate to take the baby with you.

I started a Masters in 2012. My first baby was due in May and I thought it would be a good chance to get some study out of the way. I took 4 subjects in the first semester and as the baby was due in the mid-semester break I thought I could get a fair bit done beforehand. In the end I went into labour early. I was actually finishing an assignment when my waters broke, so I had to madly finish it while sitting on a towel! I managed to finish the semester and got a distinction average but it was really hard work. My son didn't sleep unless held for the first 4 months so I got very good at typing one handed. There's a permanent dent in the couch that I blame on the 30000 words I had to hand in when he was 10 weeks old!

In the second semester I took 3 subjects and managed fine, but I am very organised and dedicated. Over the summer I have been doing 2 subjects and this has been the most difficult time.  My son is a very active baby who wants a lot of interaction. Trying to balance his needs, Uni and the rest of my life is pretty tough!

In short, studying with a baby is definitely doable, but you need to be realistic with your expectations and be prepared to work hard.

#9 PatG

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:48 PM

Does doing formal study while on maternity leave invalidate any of your rights?  Your work is required to grant you 12 months of leave for the purposes of caring for your child, not to study....  And if you are getting paid parental leave you cannot work during that time, except keeping in touch days, so can you undertake formal study?  Does it make a difference if you were doing it internally or externally?

#10 TillyTake2

Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:48 PM

Do you mean 9-12 CONTACT hours? Because for every contact hour there will be around 3-4 non contact hrs (readings, assignments, online tasks etc). Unless bub will be going into full time child care (& from your post he/she would be around 8-10 weeks!!) then I don't see studying full time as being suitable. I'd perhaps try one subject & see how you go.

#11 elco

Posted 08 January 2013 - 01:01 PM

QUOTE (PatG @ 08/01/2013, 12:48 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Does doing formal study while on maternity leave invalidate any of your rights?  Your work is required to grant you 12 months of leave for the purposes of caring for your child, not to study....  And if you are getting paid parental leave you cannot work during that time, except keeping in touch days, so can you undertake formal study?  Does it make a difference if you were doing it internally or externally?


Very good question - can you undertake formal study while getting paid parental leave - I am not sure, I will have to find out.

#12 statua angelam

Posted 08 January 2013 - 01:02 PM

QUOTE (PatG @ 08/01/2013, 01:48 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Does doing formal study while on maternity leave invalidate any of your rights?  Your work is required to grant you 12 months of leave for the purposes of caring for your child, not to study....  And if you are getting paid parental leave you cannot work during that time, except keeping in touch days, so can you undertake formal study?  Does it make a difference if you were doing it internally or externally?


I believe you are allowed to do as you like with your maternity leave, provided you do not take up any employment which is seen as a conflict with the employment from which you are on leave.  (I studied on maternity leave, at a time when my boss was also one of my lecturers - never raised an eyebrow).

Edited by Ange Vert, 08 January 2013 - 01:02 PM.


#13 FancyAnOmelette?

Posted 08 January 2013 - 01:52 PM

OP, if you enrol externally, you may be able to optionally attend classes. At my uni, we can do this, (though it's an informal agreement with the tutor who says, "plenty of space, come along if you want", so you can't rely on it).

I would plan for 1 or a maximum of 2 units. It depends on how stressful or intensive the subject is too. My first degree was relatively easy. My current post-grad course is very difficult though, and I can't get away with cutting corners on the reading or study.

Oh, and make sure you know when the final pullout date is, to withdraw from the course without financial or academic penalty. You can usually complete 4-6 weeks of the unit prior to this date, so that gives you a chance to assess how well you are coping before you are fully committed.

#14 mum201

Posted 08 January 2013 - 05:17 PM

Honestly, I think it depends what sort of baby you have. Eg with me I couldn't have studied in the first 2 months as I had no focus from sleep deprivation. Months 3 and 4 I had all the time in the world because he he slept tons in a hug a bub and was doing well overnight. Months 5-8 I could have studied part time during his naps and in the evening. Months 9-10 he went through the most awful sleep regression waking hourly - I was buggered. Now he seems to have settled into moderately sh*tty night sleep and a nice big day nap (he is 13months), so I am commencing study again. But all babies are so different. You might get one of those magical babies that you wrap, put in their cot and they fall asleep, in which case you could full time study no problems.

I think it also depends if you DH is useful or not. Anyhoo as a pp noted, maybe commence externally part time, and then see if you can ramp up later if ok, if not then withdraw. I honestly don't think you will procrastinate on e baby is born. There is no time!!!! I used to procrastinate before I became a mum, but now......nup, my time is way to valuable.

#15 wrena

Posted 08 January 2013 - 05:33 PM

There is no way I could have studied full time with a baby without seriously compromising the quality of care she received.  They are only little for such a short time and the first year is the most important year of their whole lives. It is also pretty full-on for most people to make the transition to being a parent so I'd suggest being kind to yourself and not trying to take on too much. Having said that, one or two subjects might be more doable and a nice opportunity to exercise your brain

#16 s'peachykeen

Posted 08 January 2013 - 05:44 PM

DD will be 5 months when Semester 1 begins this year. She's a pretty chill little girl (so far) and I'm not aiming to do a great deal more than pass so I can get this degree finished (it's a law degree and I know for sure that I don't want to work in a commercial firm, so nobody is ever going to care what marks I get). I'm also very familiar with the likely workload and have a supportive lawyer DH.

With all of that, I'm still only enrolling in two units. My advice would be to enrol full-time and then withdraw prior to the HECS cut-off date from however many will take you back to a manageable workload - probably only one or two units.

#17 axiomae

Posted 08 January 2013 - 07:07 PM

QUOTE
There is no way I could have studied full time with a baby without seriously compromising the quality of care she received. They are only little for such a short time and the first year is the most important year of their whole lives. It is also pretty full-on for most people to make the transition to being a parent so I'd suggest being kind to yourself and not trying to take on too much. Having said that, one or two subjects might be more doable and a nice opportunity to exercise your brain


This. They're so young for such a short period of time - enjoy it! I have multiple degrees and would not have the energy to study full time with a newborn. Not feasible. Try one subject, see how you go.

#18 Lokum

Posted 08 January 2013 - 08:34 PM

I have a 7 week old, and I can hardly concentrate enough to read a recipe. I was given a novel for Christmas.  I said I wanted a really light hearted, fluffy thing as I knew I didn't have the concentration for a Big Novel.

As it is, I've read 11 pages since Christmas, and I can't tell you too much about what's happened so far. I'm actually getting 6+ hours sleep a night, but a bit broken, and my baby is very needy during the day.

I guess if I didn't have the toddler, and was REALLY motivated I could pull myself together to fling together an essay or two, but it might not be the most rewarding study experience.

I would prefer to do the study when I could get the most out of it, and not just survive it and pass, IYKWIM? I think the idea of enrolling in one unit, and being prepared to withdraw it a good one. Especially since you haven't studied at Uni before, you can use that one unit as practice to learn some research/library/essay writing skills which might not be totally up to scratch yet.



#19 Bel Rowley

Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:40 AM

I've done my entire degree (currently completing my very last unit which finishes in February) externally while home with my children. I started when my daughter was almost 1, and have not stopped for a single study period even when I had my son. My grades have stayed high and my children have (mostly wink.gif) been well taken care of. Completing a degree was something I just had to do, and I'm not sure that it would've been any easier if I waited until the kids were a bit older and I was back at work! When I was home anyway seemed like the perfect time to do it. It's very managable if you are determined enough and have family/friends to support you when needed.

#20 Holidayromp

Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:44 AM

I would not recommend it because of the fact you have no idea how demanding a young baby is and how tiring and just extremely hard work all of it is.  You do not need the added pressure of study.  The last thing I wanted to do was study when I had kids and as a result I got way behind and it is a constant state of catchup.

Leave the study until later - you want to enjoy your first baby and then revisit it.  Only until your baby is here will you know how much or little time you have to study but arrange it all pre-baby is just asking for failure.

#21 Diana_Barry

Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:59 AM

I don't want to discourage you, because I know people who have managed fine, but here is my experience:

I started a Masters by coursework while working full time. Tiring, but fine. Tried to continue when home with a newborn - disaster. I was truly shocked by how all consuming being at home with a newborn is.

Having said that - I did not really have the support I needed to make it work. DP was working and I didn't have any close family nearby to help me out. Got a friend and an Auntie to babysit a couple of times, but it wasn't enough. If you have someone who can COMPLETELY take over care of bubs for a few hours a couple of times per week (like your partner or mum), you might be ok. I really enjoyed the classes I went to before I had to withdraw - I felt like myself again.

I went back to full time study (+ some paid work) when DS was 12 months old. It was still tough, but SO much easier once you're getting a full night's sleep (most nights!) and not breast feeding every 3 hours.

Good luck!

#22 Diana_Barry

Posted 09 January 2013 - 10:03 AM

Also - just wanted to add:

Check out the flexibility options where you want to study. You could always give it a go (like I did) and withdraw before census if you decide it's not working out.




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