‘I was late for lectures because my fiancée was giving birth’: Meet the people your age who juggle a degree and having kids

It’s the latest student craze

Rebecca McWilliam is a History of Art finalist at Manchester, just like any other.

She works hard, has a boyfriend and has just started a business.

The only difference is she has a five-year-old son.

Stats say teen pregnancy remain the lowest since 1969 but there are still many freshers who go to uni with a child.

Rebecca is one of them.

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She explained the difficulties of being a parent, managing her course and raising her Dylan.

Mum Rebecca, 25, said: “It’s tough. Most people have to juggle uni work, revision and a job as it is, but I have to raise a child as well.

“I get my books and I get home to work, then I pick up my son Dylan from school. I used to spend more time in the library but after I had a brain seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy, I study at mine.

“My lecturers don’t treat me differently, it was never an issue that I have a child.”

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Mum Rebecca

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And son Dylan

Rebecca explained the only difference she really faces is finding it harder to get involved in the social side of uni.

“In first year a bit I got involved, not so much now.

“I did all my going out when I was 16 to 18 and to be honest ended up pregnant as a result of it.”

Now she works on her degree and has started a network marketing business with her boyfriend Michael.

“As a parent you just get on with it. If you think too much you drive yourself insane.”

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She is not alone. Gemma McKeown is second year sociologist at Belfast and also a parent at uni.

She’s 20 and looks after Ailbhe-Lillie, who is two and a half. Last time we spoke to her she was just getting used to being a mum.

One year on, she’s getting used to juggling studying and parenthood. She said: “At the beginning in first year, it was definitely quite difficult to get everything done.

“But I have been able to prepare myself this year and make sure I am on top of everything.

“It is fun. I mean I can’t really imagine what student life would be like without my daughter.”

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Ailbhe-Lillie last year

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Ailbhe-Lillie now

Now she’s used to balancing work and watching over Ailbhe-Lillie.

“To be honest nothing really has changed [since last year] apart from being better prepared like I said before.

“I’ve learned to make use of the time that she is in crèche to get a lot of my work done so I don’t have to try and manage it at home with her running about too. It just means I get to enjoy all the time I do have with her not in uni.

“My lecturers don’t really know I have a child  they probably just assume I don’t and it’s not something that comes up anyway.”

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“And my friends are all great, they understand that I can’t always go out and things but they still ask me and make sure I don’t feel left out or anything.

“In the beginning it was quite difficult as I had taken a year out when she was born so I had spent everyday with her up until she started crèche.

“So it was really hard to leave her at the beginning, but then I get lots of work to do so I had no choice.

“I think it would be harder if she didn’t settle in very well but she loves going now.”

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Also a parent at uni is Jack Grasby, a journalism finalist at Nottingham Trent.

He has a two-year-old baby called Ella to look after in between lectures and freelance work on his local newspaper.

Jack remembers missing a seminar for the birth of his child by fiancé Amber.

“It seems like such a long time ago. It was a shock at first but at the same time it was amazing, and exciting.”

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Proud Jack with daughter Ella

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Jack and fiancé Amber

Jack, 21, added: “I came home one day and [Amber] told me she wanted to do a pregnancy test, we bought one and it was positive.

“I was sat down at the time, when we found out I just sat there and didn’t move.

“Having a baby is a massive thing and I knew it would be a challenge to do that at the same time as going to uni but I have embraced that challenge and absolutely love it.”

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The responsibility of having a child to look after doesn’t phase Jack.

“The hardest thing is getting out of bed. I don’t see it as that much of a busy schedule, I love doing everything I do. Sometimes I have to juggle writing an essay and looking after Ella, but I see it as fun and she makes sure I’m always on my toes.

“On a serious note, I get up really early and often go to bed quite late.”

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Greg Mattocks-Evans is one of Jack’s close friends and remembers when he came in late on the day Ella was born.

He said: “Everyone in the room knew that Jack had a very good reason to not be in the lecture. Everyone except the lecturer.”

Pal Megan Felsing adds she was impressed by how he came back inside.

“He strolled into the room and just said sorry to our disgruntled lecturer.”

Do you have a child at uni? Tell us about them on [email protected]

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