What it’s like to be a student mum

A toddler, a second baby on the way, running a business, a marathon-runner, working part time and completing a master’s degree… we ask Dominique Beach how it feels to be a student mum – juggling work, motherhood, hobbies and studying…

Dominique Beach, 34, lives in Taunton, Somerset, with her husband James, daughter Lara, two, dog Hector and two cats.

“Before going on maternity leave, I was working for a company called Futures for Somerset as a project manager, working on a £50m new school build construction programme in Bridgwater. My role was to manage the community use and leisure contracts – to encourage the public to utilise the amazing facilities available.

During this time I also completed the first year of my master’s in education and continued in my voluntary roles as a school governor in a special school federation and as a head coach at a local judo club.

I left my role to accept voluntary redundancy, which enabled me to focus on the early months with my daughter. During this time I continued onto the second year of my master’s degree and trained for my first ever marathon (in London) which I completed when Lara was 11 months old. I would get up at 5am to train before James left for work.

Dominique - student mum - theearlyhour.com

After maternity leave, I went back to work part-time in a brand new role working as a project manager across 10 special schools in Somerset. I also took over a company called i>brand (I more than brand) – a marketing company working predominantly with schools and SMEs. I was mentored by the previous owner and shadowed some of the initial pitches, but now I go out on my own, winning work for the company. I dedicate one day a week to the business, working from home.

Being a student mum

I really found my vocation when I started working in education and as I had not particularly enjoyed university the first time around I felt it was time to challenge myself again to achieve a higher level than I ever thought possible before.

It was also important to me to have something else to focus my mind on as motherhood can be and is all consuming – which is wonderful, and sometimes overwhelming. I wanted to keep some of my identity as the person I was before – although being a mum has changed me in many positive ways.

Becoming a mother has made me appreciate ‘spare’ time much more. It is amazing how productive you can be

The master’s degree is distance learning through the Open University. I found this type of learning really suited me as I could work through the night (between feeds/cuddles) or during the day when Lara was sleeping. My husband has always supported me through my studies and other interests so I have been able to take time when needed – especially when it came to submitting my dissertation and running the marathon in the same month!

It’s been difficult but I’m good at planning. There have been times when I have been physically and mentally exhausted but the desire to achieve has always pulled me through. I am a very competitive person. Having been a full-time international judo player in my youth I know what it can take to achieve your ambitions and I have applied that philosophy to other areas in my life.

Lara goes to nursery two days a week. She has been attending since she was nine months old and has thrived there; I believe it has created a positive balance for the both of us. So I get my work done on those two days, at the weekend (when James is at home), in the evenings and during nap times. It has taken a lot of discipline, sometimes working until 3am and having only two-three hours sleep before Lara wakes up.

My first assignment is due about three days before my due date and another one only two months after

I have always been active but becoming a mother has made me appreciate ‘spare’ time much more. It is amazing how productive you can be and I genuinely believe motherhood upskills you in so many ways that are not recognised. There should be some sort of qualification for it as you have to have exceptional organisational skills. I can’t just leave the house now, I have to remember all of the things Lara needs or may need – especially now that we are regularly trying to avert a ‘meltdown’ (Jelly Babies are a godsend!).

I have just entered into the final year of my master’s. As I have been working in education for a few years I want to further extend my knowledge at a strategic level so I can support the decision makers in improving learning outcomes for our young people across the schools I work with.

I’m also expecting a second child. I think it’s harder managing pregnancy and a toddler than studying! I have found it a whole new experience second time around. The study is my chance to really focus my brain so I actually find it refreshing and a bit of a break from the chaos of chasing Lara around.

I’m planning to take six months maternity from my job but my study will continue throughout – my first assignment is due about three days before my due date and another one only two months after. I know it is going to be a challenge but the end is in sight now and I will be so proud of myself achieving my master’s and relish in the new challenge of being a mummy to two children.”

Are you a student mum (or dad)? We’d love to hear how you’re getting along in the comment section below…