Twenty-first century mothers face a vastly different world to the one their mothers did and their grandmothers before that, especially with regards to accessing higher education.
Becoming a university student while juggling the demands of motherhood is an increasingly common experience. Flexible schedules, affordable childcare and online study can all ease the way but what does being a mother and a uni student really look like these days? Some of our students who are mothering and studying share their experiences.
Sydoni, a yoga instructor and single mother of two daughters aged 16 and 10, is undertaking a Master of Teaching to be able to teach PDHPE in secondary schools.
“I feel the biggest challenge is time management and although I like to be very organised and make plans, things can change as the day goes by… like taking my daughter to hospital with a broken arm or staying up all night to finish an assignment,” she says.
Flexible online study means Sydoni can fit her university work around a busy life. Fitness and family are also a great help. “My eldest daughter cooks dinner some nights which means I can work or study during that time.
It’s really important to stay healthy physically and mentally… it enables me to make good decisions as I juggle responsibilities and it sends a positive message to my girls.”
Lee began her degree after having children and qualifying as a Dispensary Technician.
"I had no interest in attending university at all! I had only worked and raised our children with my husband," she said.
As her children grew into teenagers, she thought about what life and finances would look like when they left home.
"So I thought 'Why not try university?' I completed the Preparing for Success Program at SCU and went into Sport and Exercise Science. I love it!"
Lee says that fitting everything in, including study, can make life hectic at times but her family is very encouraging.
"Attending university as a mature age student also showed my children that they have so many options and that age is not a limiting factor when deciding your future".
It was an unexpected marriage breakdown that led Angela to study law at Southern Cross University.
“I found myself as a single parent living in a rural community without close-by family support… I knew that I had to take on a law degree because I knew that it would provide my children and I with a secure future and better prospects,” she says. Angela has gone from strength to strength during her degree, also attending Oxford University and attending a United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as an Australian delegate. “I think that if you have a passion to study you should definitely study. Everyone has issues in life and a lot of things to juggle but you just have to find the right balance.”
"Today’s mothers, who are combining extensive home responsibilities with their studies, are actually doing a great deal for the positive futures of their children. Not simply because they are improving their qualifications for career advancement or change. They are actually teaching their children what it means to commit to something, to strive to improve themselves, to work toward ambition, and the life prizes that come to those who persist even when things are tough," said Professor Nan Bahr, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students) at Southern Cross University.
"Mothers who are also students provide their children with a life model and a message that says 'you can'. If you want to improve your lot, then it is up to you. In my mind there are very few lessons that are more important in parenting," she said.
Kristy started studying occupational therapy at Southern Cross when she already had two small children and an established career as an employment consultant. She had another child while she was studying and her children have been a source of constant inspiration.
“When they saw me graduate, I hope that was a lesson they’ll always remember: if you want to do something, then do it! Don’t doubt yourself. There are so many ways to get there,” she says.
Kristy embodies a new generation of university graduates – carving her own path with determination and creativity, deeply connected to her origins but with an eye always on the horizon.
She is also the first in her family to go to university. “I didn’t really notice it until my Nan mentioned it, but now three of my cousins have gone too,” she says. She may not feel like a trailblazer, but her work is making a difference to the lives of children and families every day, including her own.
Scroll down for 5 tips to survive and thrive
Five tips to survive and thrive
You are already a logistics expert: you shop for, cook for and feed small people every day, you get them to school/sport/parties/doctors and back again. Some days you are not sure how it happens but it does, so extend these magical powers and tools to organise your study. Use calendars, apps, plain old fashioned diaries and wall charts to map out what you need to do and by when. Then stick to the plan.
2. Bump up your academic skills
If it’s been a while between academic drinks - don’t fret! There are awesome support services to help you get back in the saddle. Our Academic Skills team can help you with things like time management, academic writing and referencing, study techniques and more.
3. Mentoring and Study Buddi
A problem shared is a problem halved – your grandma was right! Study Buddi is an academic peer-to-peer support program where students help students with questions about assignments and skills like referencing. Our UniMentor program can also hook you up with a student mentor who can help you navigate our uni systems, services and resources that are available to you.
4. Use the flexible options on offer
A great number of units at Southern Cross University are offered online – you can listen to pre-recorded lectures or study when it suits you and work a study schedule around your family commitments. Some courses such as law also offer accelerated learning through summer schools where you can study a unit through an intensive workshop.
There is a whole support team at Southern Cross that wants you to succeed. The University provides free and confidential counselling sessions as well as a career and employment advice service. There are numerous sporting, cultural and special interest groups where you can connect with your fellow students and get the most out of your University experience.
We are here to help
Are you looking for more specific information on your study options, how to apply to the University or how to enrol? Register for a personal consultation with a Southern Cross University study advisor. They can explain your study options, answer any questions you might have and help with your application.