This fresher has three kids and is more on top of life than you
She got pregnant at 17
While you’re sleeping through your 11ams and struggling to eat three proper meals a day, this first year is balancing all the same uni hurdles, and looking after three kids at the same time.
Meet Eleanor Stanley, 25, and from Sheffield originally. She’s in her first year of an undergraduate degree in Education, Culture and Childhood Studies, and has three children: Warren, who’s nearly 7, Brooke, 4, and her youngest Payton, who’s 2.
Within a couple of minutes of speaking to Eleanor it’s clear to see she is infectiously energetic, relentlessly driven, and more motivated than most of us could dream of when we’re onto hour sixth hour of Netflix of the day.
“It’s always a problem with phone calls, whenever I’m on it the children love having a crisis, be it needing a drink, or a wee, or something to eat immediately, literally every time I put the thing to my ear,” she says.
“During my childhood I suffered badly with social anxiety and depression and felt very let down by my secondary school, both in the education they delivered and the support I received while suffering with this mental illness.
“I also had a difficult relationship with my parents at home and was kicked out by my Mum a week before my 16th birthday.”
This resulted in her leaving school with only a C in GCSE English, and the same in Health and Social Care.
“I had no other qualifications at all.
“At the age of 16 I moved into a hostel and attempted to start college straight after school, but my anxiety and depression lead to me dropping out.”
It was at this time, in Year 11, where Eleanor met her partner of nine years, Nick: “I relied on him a lot to support me. We met in February 2006, and moved into a flat together in 2007.
“We didn’t plan on getting pregnant at the age of 17, but we weren’t scared or disappointed when we did.”
“I gave birth to Warren in July 2008, when I was 18. My mental health had improved a little and this gave me the confidence to enrol on Sheffield Online College in September 2008, where I gained a C in AS level English.
“It was then I started thinking about what I would like to do for a career and I decided I wanted to work in education and become a teacher.
“Being a Mum did distract me from my studies, but I enrolled on an access course at Rotherham College of Art.”
It was then Eleanor found herself unexpectedly pregnant again, with her second child Brooke. “I left the course and decided to focus on being a mum. I gave birth to Brooke in 2010.”
She went on to do a GCSE in Maths, and both a GCSE in Science and an access to higher education diploma while pregnant with her third child Payton.
“This was probably the most ‘full-on’ experience in education, as my daughter was due in December, but the course didn’t finish until July. I did the access course full time and my GCSE science on a Wednesday night for 3 hours.”
Eleanor then had Payton, and went straight back to studying after the Christmas holidays. She passed the access course with flying colours, and applied to UCAS.
“I got an unconditional offer and it felt absolutely amazing. I announced it to all my family and I really felt like all my persistence had finally paid off.”
She started uni in September and hasn’t looked back. “It is very full on when you study with children. I brought Warren into uni once, he wondered if everyone was having ‘playtime’ and couldn’t believe they sell sweets in the shop!”
With four other mums, Eleanor has this year started the Student Parent Society, a social and support group for other people with children at uni.
Eleanor and Nick are also engaged to marry in February 2016, the month of their ten year anniversary.
At this point I stop to consider how different our uni experiences have been.
While we’re enjoying impromptu nights in the club, napping up to three times a day and cooking overly extravagant breakfasts with your student loan, Eleanor is working tirelessly for what she has achieved, and working tirelessly for her children.
It’s clear to see how much she values something we so often take for granted.
“I could never say I have any regrets about having my children, but I would certainly advise my children to have them later than I did, to give them the chance to gain life experience.”
“I never got to experience partying and being reckless, and I do feel like I’m not necessarily experiencing the uni I imagined when I was younger.”
“But, the children give me a reason to keep going and trying my best. I know everything I am doing, I am doing for them, as well as for myself. I do feel proud of myself for trying my best to provide for myself and my family.”