Giving birth to first baby two months into one-year Masters Degree

(19 Posts)
Jessicat7 Thu 26-Jun-14 18:50:52

Is is realistic to attempt to complete a Masters degree in Creative Writing at the same time as having a first baby?

I am twenty-five, able-bodied, and I live within walking distance of the University and the University nursery. I am living with my fiancé who is supporting me financially, emotionally, and practically; however, he will be working a 9-5 job and so the baby will be solely my responsibility.

My baby is due on the 19th November which is the penultimate week of the first term. By the start of the second term my baby will by roughly 8 weeks old and so eligible for childcare at the University nursery.

However, everyone – including my fiancé – is advising me to wait and start the degree the following year.

My argument for doing it this years is as follows:

* I plan to go on to do a PHD the year following, and we are planning to have more babies, so I don't know when there would ever be an ideal time to do my masters.

* I know that some women are back working regular office hours full-time sometimes six weeks postpartum. I would only have three 2-hour classes a week – the rest of the studying I could do from home whenever I have the time – which is a lot less demanding than it is for a lot of women.

* I am relocating to Edinburgh in August for my fiancé's work and I don't have any friends or family in Scotland. I am a writer and so will have an occupation which I would do from home, but I am extremely nervous about having no structure to my days and work at all, and I'm incredibly nervous about staying at home, becoming lonely, unproductive, and possibly depressed in a city where I know no one.

* I have a First Class BA and a Masters in Philosophy, so I feel a like I have a bit of experience and confidence in studying.

* I want to be a devoted mother, but I also believe that women shouldn't put their lives on hold. I don't think that there is a healthy men to women ratio in academia and I'm concerned that if I put off my studies I'll end up delaying them forever as we plan on having three babies if we can. Completing my studies will mean so much to me, and it will also mean that I can become a University Professor and guide other people through degrees, and furthermore, it will mean that I will have a job for the rest of my life to support my children doing something which I truly believe in.

Any advice would be appreciated. I'm 25 and I'm worried that I am being unrealistic. I don't know what's coming and I'm scared of taking on too much, wasting time and money, but I'm also scared of not fulfilling my potential and of becoming unfocused, lonely, and depressed in a new city.

Thank you!

Spottybra Thu 26-Jun-14 18:54:40

You sound as though you're convinced you can do it so go for it. I did my last year of uni with dnephew in my arms as a newborn having been somewhat disowned at birth by my dsis.

Indith Thu 26-Jun-14 19:28:45

3 classes of 2 hours sounds doable to me. I was back in class on a similar timetable when ds1 was 10 days old. I had hoped not to miss any but did end up missing a week as instead of arriving during the holidays as he was supposed to the lazy sod was 2 weeks late grin .

I exclusively breast fed etc, we played swap the baby outside lecture theatres. I got used to writing essays with baby on knees or in sling. exercise balls make great desk chairs, you can bounce and sway while typing.

I think the nature of the degree and the timetable makes it possible.

tobiasfunke Thu 26-Jun-14 19:53:24

It would depend on what type of baby you have. Some might be ok by 8 weeks and some will be full on for 12 months or more. That's the problem- you don't know what you will get. If you are planning to bf it will be more of an issue. The classes may be doable but the work at home might be a bit trickier.
There is no way I could've done my Masters with my DS. I would worry that you will waste your money.
It would probably have been easier having a baby whilst doing my pHd because there is a lot more leeway (aka pissing about) in an arts pHd.

Borttagen Thu 26-Jun-14 19:56:09

I wouldn't have been able to do it, can you defer part way through if you have the baby and then feel it's too much?

Just to reassure you about your worries about being lonely.
I had my first baby in Edinburgh and made a fantastic group of friends through my antenatal classes. Will you be living in Marchmont/Bruntsfield area near the uni? There are loads of mother and baby groups and also classes like tumble tots, monkey music etc so you can quite easily fill your days and the parents I met were all very friendly.
If I were you (and you're planning to stay there longer term for PhD etc) I would take the year out and think of this year as not being wasted but giving you the chance to settle in your new home with new baby and work on finding your circle of friends.

Cakecrumbsinmybra Thu 26-Jun-14 20:09:02

Personally I would defer, but then I don't know anyone who has gone back to work 6 weeks postpartum or given birth partway through a course and continued. Most of my friends went back to work between 6-12months later, or took a few years out to be SAHP. I would do the course next year and then leave time between babies.

I base this on:
- I had a really difficult first birth ending up in a EMCS, which knocked me for 6.
- I had massive problems breastfeeding too, and was expressing for 2 months, which left little time for much else. This was really important to me though. But I stopped this at 3 months anyway. Second time around it was easier but still took about 6 weeks to establish, then we continued for over a year.
- I have no family locally and it really is tough to not have a break
- I would have been too knackered. Having something else going on other than your just your baby is really stressful.

However, I am sure it would be completely do-able if you are that determined and it sounds like you are. Plus I didn't have the same incentive - I had already worked for a number of years following a degree and was looking forward to a break from it, if I'm honest. But just because you don't do the course in the year you are actually giving birth does not mean you are going to mess up all your career plans - it is one year! And it is one year that you will never get back with your first born. Which sounds cheesy, but several years on from my own PFB, I can say that. I also agree with the pp about settling in a making friends with a new baby, with people who are in the same boat as you.

I would defer too. I had a very easy PFB and I still had no idea what had hit me.

Katie2489 Thu 26-Jun-14 20:33:27

I was in same situation last year. Completely agree with everything you have said. I had DD in October and I chose to not study this year. It has worked out very well for us, I could no way have done any writing or research this year. The newborn stage may be doable but if I am completely honest I can't see how working at home would work from about 4 or 5 months - honestly they have CONSTANT needs. If you could get childcare that may work. I think it completely depends on how you want to look after your baby (yourself/childcare) but i'm not sure working FT and looking after baby at the same time at this age is possible. (but then again it also depends on how demanding the course is - but I imagine any masters is going to be very difficult) - very tough decision indeed. Good luck either way.

Katie2489 Thu 26-Jun-14 20:37:35

Just realised that my comment is not useful at all as it is totally on the fence. I would defer if i were you. You can always try studying at the same time with other babies you may have. Then you would know the answer for sure if it was doable!

NellWilsonsWhiteHair Sun 06-Jul-14 20:52:49

What tobiasfunke said.

I had DS partway through my BSc. I was incredibly fortunate with the timing, because he was born after the end of term two and so was 5 months before I had to go back for term one of the following (final) year. I went back initially on one two-hour lecture a week, later two two-hour lectures a week.

I knew I planned to continue on to MSc and PhD so it seemed as sensible as anything to have him at that point - also my job wasn't very secure, and also I just really felt ready for a baby at that point. I don't regret it. I still got my First. But it was difficult: DS just didn't sleep, unless in direct contact with me, and even then he woke at least every hour til he was a year old. For me it was also different in that I was a lone parent - not sure the extent to which this makes a big difference.

He was 17mo when I started my (1 yr) MSc. Despite the workload more than doubling, it has felt infinitely easier in many ways - he now sleeps for two whole hours (!) at a time, so I'm less mentally wrecked, I'm less shell-shocked by the life change of becoming a mother, I feel more comfortable leaving him in the care of others - and (financially and practically) I'm able to leave him in childcare for ~40 hours a week, whereas when he was a smaller baby during my BSc I literally only had childcare whilst attending lectures. All of these things may be different for you - you may have a baby who sleeps better than mine, you may find it less of an upheaval (I totally expected to take to motherhood like 'a natural' - ha), you may find it much easier to be apart from your baby than I did.

I'd be wary of pinning too much on this as a career path into academia, but I'm not the best person to comment on this, and I don't imagine it's something you've not thought through already. As someone who did have minor PND (or just mind-boggling exhaustion - hard to be sure really) I completely see what you mean about not wanting to set yourself up for unstructured lonely days - but I'd also caution about the MH implications of trying to achieve too much with a newborn, too.

I have barely had any time with my son where my overall attention hasn't been divided between him and studying - although he was 5mo before I returned to classes, I sat deferred exams when he was 4mo so from about 2mo I was trying to revise. I thought I might regret this babyhood passing me by but actually I haven't felt that I have done so - I think he's always had near enough what he needs, and I haven't missed any of it really IMO. I know others who've had different experiences on that matter though. For me it really has been more difficult to juggle the practicalities.

On which note - I imagine you'll have significant amounts of coursework to complete over the Xmas break? If so, how do you envisage getting this done? Also, if your baby doesn't come quite when you expect - even ruling out properly prem, you could very easily give birth at the end of Oct (halfway through first term?) or the beginning of Dec, in which case you're imagining returning with a 6wo rather than an 8wo... How would that change things for you?

NellWilsonsWhiteHair Sun 06-Jul-14 20:53:06

Very long. blush Sorry!

mygreeneyedboy Fri 01-Aug-14 18:40:21

I would say yes do it! I know I don't know what a masters I like but I went back to my undergrad 4 weeks after my c-section. Personally, I absolutely hate it when people doubt me (head of undergrad studies, various random people) but I was lucky everyone close to me supported my decision. If you think you can make it work, then you can.
Nothing is ideal. I am still 'paying' for this: I missed my January exams because of it so I had to do them in essay format this summer - which means rather than having quality relaxing time with my 7 month old I am sitting in a room writing essays.

By the way, im 21 and uni is 6 hours away from my closest family (apart from DP who was also a student, but graduate now)

The uni should be accommodating in the sense of essays and work, I didn't hand essays in on time, sometimes a month late.

Sorry if this is a bit muddled, I'm breastfeeding

SeatOfMyPants Mon 04-Aug-14 21:04:33

Defer. Write if you can during ML but anything's a bonus. You might end up with a book out of it, it could be a page.

I get that you're ambitious. But you're also 25. Plenty of time to do what you want to do. And if you have a funded phd, you'll probably get paid ml so easy to have another then. In my experience and opinion you'll be better set on your Ma, and get more from it, if you are starting with a 1 year old.

At the moment you have no idea what's about to hit you. Nor do I, nor does anyone. But give yourself space and acknowledge there is about to be a major change. Then once baby is here, you can assess what they're like, what you like doing with them, and decide what else you might also like to do in their first year. All without the pressure of classes or submission deadlines.

KatherinaMinola Mon 04-Aug-14 21:13:37

I would defer. You just don't know how you'll feel - I hated being away from my baby for the first few months. Even if the nursery's onsite, even if you have a babysitter at home while you study - you might just resent the time away from your child.

As PP have said, you don't know what type of baby you'll get - and you're 25, which is very young. Even 28 or 29 is still young to start a PhD in the UK.

I do know somebody who did what you're proposing - but I really wouldn't.

And you'll have a focus in the new city - your new baby.

becknnico Mon 01-Sep-14 05:15:32

Seems like you only need confirmation on what you've already decided. You ROCK!

MinesAPintOfTea Mon 01-Sep-14 05:26:59

I took a year out, and ds was born at nearly 43 Weeks (slow induction). I did the first semester, then got permission for a special absence.

We could only afford childcare worst I was in lectures and when I went back with an 8mo there were always a group of us sat in a room at the nursery giving a lunchtime bf.

What do you hope to get out of the masters? If you want a distinction I strongly recommend taking a year out.

The only disadvantage was I returned to join a group if strangers as everyone I'd started with had graduated.

You should be able to arrange shorter spells off during your phd.

eurochick Mon 01-Sep-14 05:38:43

I'm worried by your comment about the baby being your sole responsibility because your partner works 9-5. He should still be expecting to share the load. My husband is and his hours are longer than that.

MinesAPintOfTea Mon 01-Sep-14 09:25:00

I'd missed that eurochick That would be a real problem: DH used to take DS all evening and on Saturdays so I could get some work done, doing a masters degree (well) should take up as much time as a full time job.

DH definitely helped, up to and including taking time off work when my lecture times were changed with next to no notice leaving me without childcare. I only managed it because of him.

MsVanRein Mon 01-Sep-14 09:43:56

You sound confident in your own ability and your attitude definitely plays a huge part in something like this.

In my experience I went back to final year of my degree when my DS was 5 weeks old. My DP was working away 3-5 weeks at a time and I had classes about 20 hours a week for my first semester followed by a FT placement in the second semester plus assignments. It was hell at times, stress levels through the roof and I had little support from lecturers who thought I should have taken time off; but given my time again I would do the same. It would not have served me well to take a year off, I know myself and I wouldn't have gone back. Plus as well working round DS have me motivation to be organised!

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