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Studying with a baby (FTM)?

28 replies

lumpydaisy · 29/07/2020 11:09

Hi all, not sure if this is the right place for this question but as I'm currently pregnant I'm trying here!

Thanks to extra annual leave, I'll be finishing work in a couple of weeks and should have a month or more before baby arrives. Then a year of maternity leave.

I've previously struggled a little with my mental health and found I feel better when I'm keeping my mind active and keeping my perception of myself as a scientist.

I'm considering signing up to a 12 month correspondence course (level 5). I'm thinking I could maybe get a head start while I'm sat on the sofa before baby, take a break while baby is brand new and no-one is sleeping, and then return to studying once we're all a bit more used to things. Estimated study time is 8hrs a week. I have a science degree (level 7) so the level of study should be something I can do, but obviously that was prior to baby and I don't really understand what it's going to be like having a new baby!

I've had mixed responses from people whose opinions I've asked so far. Some women who have done exactly the same course with a baby, and said it was a challenge but they did it. Others who did it with two children seem to have found it much harder. Other women who have had babies, but not done this particular course, seem to delight in telling me that I won't be able to do ANYTHING other than baby care for the full year of my maternity leave.

This last response I find hard to cope with - partly because I don't believe it (there are women who start businesses on maternity leave, let alone the women who simply do things for themselves like exercise classes - plus I do have a husband so one would hope he might do some of the caring!), and partly because while I appreciate having a baby is lifechanging I'm not sure how to deal with essentially ceasing to exist as a person, at all, for years - which seems to be the suggestion of some of the women who have given me their opinions.

I appreciate everyone is different, and seems like all babies are different, but I'm just wondering if there are other women out there who have done this (studied while on maternity leave with their first baby), how they found it, and whether I genuinely need to prepare myself for not existing as a person?? (I know most of the time I'll be baby-servicer, but had thought that surely there might be the odd break from this at some point, especially later in the first year?)

Thanks all.

OP posts:
BeingATwatItsABingThing · 29/07/2020 11:14

I went back to uni when DD was 8m. It was incredibly hard. I was doing my teaching degree so contact hours were high and I also had placements to complete.

Will you be at home doing this studying? Some weeks will be easier than others and you’ll be able to get stuff done. If you have a clingy baby (I did) or one who gets colicy or suffers when teething, you may find it harder. Basically, no one can tell you that you can or can’t do it because every baby is different and every mother is different.

littlejalapeno · 29/07/2020 11:15

I guess those superwomen are the exception rather than the rule. If you have an uncomplicated birth and an easy baby that sleeps well, then you might have the extra energy, opportunity and luck to start a business or study for a qualification in your Mat leave.

Most people are just trying to catch up on sleep and caring duties and that is more than fine too. If you are keen on extra study, start it after your baby is 10 weeks and don’t set it up before. If you’ve set it up before hand and are then in a situation where you can’t do it you’ll just feel bad and set your self up for pnd (which is more common for people who expect a lot of themselves and their capabilities). Babies are a kind of suck it and see thing and no one can predict it unfortunately! You know it’s also ok to just relax and enjoy your baby. Good luck

BumbleNova · 29/07/2020 11:20


I'm not sure why you have interpreted people suggesting it might not be possible to complete an academic course when on mat leave as "essentially ceasing to exist as a person, at all, for years - which seems to be the suggestion of some of the women who have given me their opinions."

becoming a mother is really hard. caring for a newborn is really hard. I am personally sure that there is no way I would have managed an academic course at the same time as mat leave. that is my personal experience. It doesnt mean that I ceased to exist as a person?!

I am like you in that I derive a lot of my identity and my self worth from my job. I have a career that I am proud of but looking after my baby was all consuming, certainly for the first 6 months. He didnt sleep. he wouldnt nap anywhere apart from in the sling or in the buggy when moving so I would not have any time to do or course or frankly, I was so exhausted there is no way I would have managed.

for others - it will be perfectly achievable but you have got no way of knowing right now. could you see how you get on? and make a decision once your baby has arrived?

Hardbackwriter · 29/07/2020 11:24

Unless you have serious health issues after birth, you will be able to do 8 hours a week study after having a baby, especially if your partner will support this and so not all of it has to be done while baby is sleeping. Whether you'll want to is another matter. I was an academic when I had DS, and I edited an essay collection and wrote two pieces of my own during my six month mat leave. Looking back, though, I wish I hadn't and that I'd just given myself a break and let myself use that time 'unproductively'. But then I also found mat leave quite stifling and boring, so maybe it did help.

How much will you lose if you start but don't finish the course - is it expensive, can you defer and pick it back up? If stopping isn't that big a deal then I think go for it - a month of mat leave before baby arrives is a lot and is going to be really dull under current circumstances, so why not crack on with it then - but promise yourself that you'll let yourself quit or pause without shame if you just don't want to do it after the baby's here.

Hardbackwriter · 29/07/2020 11:26

I actually wouldn't wait too long before getting back on it if that is what you want to do - I spent hours editing stood up at my laptop with DS in a sling when he was really tiny, and I was starting to find it a lot tougher by five months because he didn't sleep as long and so wouldn't tolerate that.

ChipsAreLife · 29/07/2020 11:33

It's a really tricky one as like PPs have said you don't know what I kind of baby you will get. Some find it a breeze and others not so much. The one thing that's hard to prepare for is sustained sleep deprivation and how that grinds you down over time. My first was terrible and it had a big effect on me.

That said with my second I was one of those that did set up a business when she was 4 months old, it was an opportunity that came to me that I couldn't say no to, rather than me driving it. I probably did about 8 hours a week but I had to do mainly in evenings when DH was home. I hated the fact some nights I wanted to just go to bed and I couldn't, mentally it probably did me more harm than good. I also look back and regret feeling stressed about it when I should have just been enjoying the baby.

Currently pregnant with third and will have to carry on some admin/finance responsibilities but will not make sure I do the minimum and enjoy the time off.

Is there a course you could do that was shorter perhaps? A year is a big commitment.

CMMum88 · 29/07/2020 11:33

I started doing a graduate certificate when one of my babies was about 3 months old, which was one lecture and about 8 hours of study a week. Tbh it was harder with the toddler then the baby to get things done! I would do an hour or so of study a day when baby was asleep and the toddler was at daycare or DP was looking after her.

The only thing that I really found is that you need to make sure your DP is on board so you have the right support on the odd long day doing an assignment.

lumpydaisy · 29/07/2020 11:36

Thanks for the replies.

Yes it's a correspondence course, so working at home at times that suit me. I'm currently trying to check whether or not I can pace it myself, cos I realise that (for example) weekly deadlines would just not be feasible!

Yeah I guess not all of us are superwomen! I definitely wouldn't call myself a superwoman! And neither set of grandparents are anywhere close, so won't have that option of help either. I guess I'm thinking "I'm sure there's mums who go and get their nails done, or go to the gym, or do other things without their babies (obviously not straight away) so why is this so different?".

It's not that they suggested studying wouldn't be possible, it was that they out and out said that my life as a FTM would consist entirely of caring for the baby, without even the odd hour off, for at least the year of my maternity leave (one person even suggested "writing off the first 4 years"!). I'm certainly prepared to be 100% devoted to the baby to start with, but I had hoped that there would be the occasional opportunity to feel more like ME again, even if only briefly during a nap or while my husband looked after the baby (for example).

OP posts:
Bythebeach · 29/07/2020 11:38

The thing is people and babies are all different and no one can tell you how your combination of factors will work. And it will also depend on what sort of parent you want to be when my older two hit 6 & 3, I felt realised I hadn’t been present enough for them in the early days and cut back. If you are after a supportive perspective, I went back to medical school when my second born was 5 weeks old and continued through. But my second born was an exceptionally easy baby. I’m not sure I could have done it with my third who was the opposite. I think with an ‘average’ baby and mother, 8 hours study sounds eminently doable but if you end up fuzzy headed with a non-sleeper who never settles, be kind to yourself. Infancy is such a short time in yours and baby’s life and there will be time after for yourself.

Bythebeach · 29/07/2020 11:40

Sorry that ended up garbled!

lumpydaisy · 29/07/2020 11:42

Thanks all for the other replies too!

It's tough not really having any idea what parenthood will be like, or what your own baby will be like! Appreciate all the advice.

I think finding out whether deferring/delaying is possible if things get too much would be a really good thing.

I guess the other thing on my mind is knowing that my current job isn't something I've been enjoying and I would really like to be able to do something else after mat leave - and the course would be helpful in that.

OP posts:
KittyKat2020 · 29/07/2020 11:44

In September I start my physio therapy university degree, in a mature student and time is against me so I intend to be a super woman I suppose. I have masses of support tho so I’m lucky. But he’ll only be a month old when I start and I’m determined to make it work

BeMorePacific · 29/07/2020 11:46

8hrs a week would have been no problem with me and my 1st baby.
But I had it quite easy, as he slept really well. All babies are different though.
I’d say you can do it x

JanewaysBun · 29/07/2020 11:46

Depends what baby you get
My kids? No way! They still don't sleep Hmm DD only wants to be held all day at TEN months

A lot of my friends'kids? Yes it will be easy!

Oatmilk1 · 29/07/2020 11:49

I think it really depends on your personal priority list whether or not you can/should do it.

Baby or no baby we all need to prioritise stuff. Where would this course sit on your list between things like: time to exercise, time to spend alone with husband, time to read/nap/have coffee with friends etc.

Only you can decide if the course is fulfilling enough to sit higher on your list than other things.

In terms of practicality:
Even though you are on mat leave, after some months you could also consider a few hours of childminding/nursery. This could be good to "test out" your longer term childcare, have the baby get used to it, and give you time to study.

Or you use part of your weekend to it, where your husband has dedicated time with the baby.

Or you do free MOOC courses which can stimulate you intellectually but have a lower commitment level.

BeingATwatItsABingThing · 29/07/2020 11:56

You just have to work out what you want to prioritise. My time off with DD was unusual as I was young (only just 20) and none of my friends had children. I felt judged at parent groups because I was young so I didn’t enjoy them. I went back to uni when I didn’t want to and missed out on lots of things with DD.

I’m now expecting DD2 and plan to enjoy it with her. I don’t want to have other stuff to do. I want to go for coffee with my friends who are also expecting and enjoy the baby groups now I’ll be recognised as an adult. I also want to make sure I have enough time to dedicate to DD1 so she doesn’t feel pushed out by a new baby. My job as a teacher is incredibly full on and I don’t feel I do all I can for her. I want to spend time with her too.

lumpydaisy · 29/07/2020 12:00

Thanks all :)

I've just heard that the accrediting body will allow me to do it over 18 months rather than 12, which I think makes a difference.

Lots to weigh up, really appreciate your comments.

OP posts:
BertieBotts · 29/07/2020 12:07

I think 8 hours a week is absolutely doable, particularly if you have a supportive partner. If you don't have a desktop computer, see if you can set up your laptop/working space into something you can do one handed, get a proper keyboard/mouse to plug in (and possibly a large monitor) and choose a chair which is comfortable for nursing while you type. I use Ikea Skruvsta, but I might have unusual taste!

I did uni part time + working part time when DS1 was 2/3 years old, I am pretty sure it was more than 8h pw for the stuff I had to complete at home, plus I had to factor in tiredness from the actual studying/working I was doing while he was at childcare. I know he wasn't a newborn, but aside from the brain fog newborn times give you, I don't think it would have been that different.

You will have to be organised. I would recommend getting an academic year calendar and using it to block out when assignments are due, if the correspondence course works to deadlines like that. If it doesn't, try giving yourself artificial deadlines for each module, evenly spaced throughout the year. You need a way to keep track that you're not falling behind.

I would also recommend sketching out 12-16 hours per week (individually, each week) which you think you'll be able to use for studying. That way, if you have a naptime that doesn't happen, you decide to meet a friend, you feel exhausted and just decide to nap yourself when the baby is napping, you know you have some extra time in reserve further towards the end of the week. If you do manage to get everything done earlier in the week, you can always use the extra time to get ahead on next week or simply to relax.

BertieBotts · 29/07/2020 12:08

Oh, well that's even better! :)

Greengrapes1357 · 29/07/2020 12:33

8 hours of study a week is doable especially with a partner and you know that academically you are able.
I'd get as much of a head start as possible though as you don't know how long it will take you to recover after birth (with dc1 I had a traumatic birth and would not have managed till at least 5 months with dt I had a normal birth no complications and could have probably done bits from about 3 weeks - every delivery /recovery is different).
Is there an option to extend if needed (last resort)?
I was a single parent and could have managed this - routine is what you need.

Mamabear2020 · 29/07/2020 13:16

I think it depends on what sort of baby you get - and how you choose to feed too. 2 breastfed babies here. First was a velcro baby - couldn't put him down, even when he was sleeping he wanted to be permanently attached to me. I barely had 10 minutes to myself birth-6months and was exhausted. Second is much easier and I manage a workout most days as well as home cooking, keeping on top of washing and housework etc. BUT he wont take a bottle, so handing him over to hubby for a few hours just isnt possible yet. It's so variable!

Hardbackwriter · 29/07/2020 13:48

It's not that they suggested studying wouldn't be possible, it was that they out and out said that my life as a FTM would consist entirely of caring for the baby, without even the odd hour off, for at least the year of my maternity leave (one person even suggested "writing off the first 4 years"!). I'm certainly prepared to be 100% devoted to the baby to start with, but I had hoped that there would be the occasional opportunity to feel more like ME again, even if only briefly during a nap or while my husband looked after the baby (for example).

This is total competitive mummy-martyrdom, and can safely be ignored. It will be quite hard, but it's totally do-able if it's what you want. I really agree with @BertieBotts' idea about blocking out more time than you need to give yourself 'slack' and I'd also say to do that with assignments (if that's how the course works) - plan to get them done at least a week or two ahead otherwise the baby will get the sort of illness that means you end up all day and night with them right before it's due! Good luck and congratulations on the pregnancy!

Birdy1991 · 29/07/2020 14:10

I’m studying social work, due tomorrow and planning to go back in October. Course is full time and includes a placement four days a week. It’s not ideal but his dad will stay and look after him at home and financially it’s easier for me to go back rather than defer a year. We will just have to make it work 🤞

Birdy1991 · 29/07/2020 14:13

My point being, I think with the right support and determination you can achieve great things! 😊

BiBabbles · 29/07/2020 14:21

It really depends on so many factors. Many women do courses pregnant/with young children, but if you have to or just want to delay it, many do that too. Neither makes you better or worse.

I have fond memories of finishing my dissertation with baby DD2 on me. It was more stressful than that at the time, I questioned finishing repeatedly and sometimes needed my spouse and others to talk sense into me, I think having others' support is an incredibly important part of it, far more than an uncomplicated birth which I didn't have (well, the birth went fine, but the placenta didn't and I ended up on the high dependency ward).

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