Guest Post- Lucie Patch

Before having my son Sam I had just done cash in hand jobs like bar work and waitressing.   I always intended to go to university so never bothered to look for a ‘proper’ job thinking I would get one after uni.  As for my education, I studied for my GCSE’s and then went on to study my A-Levels of which I did three in Law, English and Sociology.  I intended at the time to go on to study law at uni but did not get on with my A-Level Law teacher which really put me off.  I was going to go straight into uni from school but decided at the last minute to take a year out and it was in this year that I became pregnant.

My only child is my son, Samuel who is now 8 years old.

For me it wasn’t so much a decision about going back into education but having to decide whether or not to carry on into university.  I was due to start university in Sept 2003 and Sam was due at the end of October.  This was not a question that I pondered for long.  I had always wanted to go to university and after speaking to a lecturer from the university and the head of their counselling department, and my Mum, I decided that it was possible for me to carry on with my original plans.  I was very lucky however, in that my Mum was able to reduce her working hours to three days a week and I managed to squeeze all my lectures and seminars into the two days that Mum was at home to look after Sam.

It is now 8 and a half years after I had Sam and I have completed my undergraduate degree, a Masters degree, and am now (after a change of heart which led to me pulling out of my PhD), studying to be a counsellor with a mind to carry on and become a psychotherapist.

Becoming a parent half way through my first term of university certainly had its challanges, mostly staying awake in 9 o’clock lectures when I had been up with a baby throughout the night.  It also meant that I did not have the university social life and never really fit in to university life but Sam also provided me, and continues to provide men with a great amount of motivation and inspiration.  I did not get the kind of grades at university that I wanted or expected but continue to be proud of my achievements because it wasn’t easy but I wanted it and therefore managed it.

My son is currently at school and I am not sure he really understands what going to university and having him meant for me.  I think for him, because I have been studying throughout his life, me being at university is the norm for him, so he doesn’t really think anything of it.

Initially I received some financial support as I got full student loans, however in my second and third year, Samuel had to go into the university nursery for me to continue my studies and there was no financial support available for me. Again, I was lucky and my Dad offered to pay the nursery fees so that I could continue but had it not been for this I would have had to leave uni.
Emotionally, the university provided no support although they did give me priority in choosing my seminar times so that I could fit it all in to two days but all emotional support I had, I had to find myself and came from outside of uni.

I think to be a parent and be in education requires alot of determination and juggling.  It is not the normal university experience.  For me, being a parent isolated me from most of the other students.  It also means you have to manage your time very well.  For me, study time was 8 at night until whenever I couldn’t stay awake at night, and at times it was frustrating because I could not put the time in that I would have liked to but I would still recommend it.  I believe Sam will be very proud of me when he is older and I hope that he learns that you can always find a way.  I hope it will be a vital life lesson for him – it certainly has been for me.

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