College life can bring its fair share of dilemmas. Which friends should I live with, what subjects should I chose, does that cute guy in class fancy me, should I go out tonight with that 9am lecture looming in the morning?
Imagine the added responsibility of having to spend all of your free time caring for a child and ensuring that they are being cared for by someone else, sometimes at very large costs, while you’re sitting in class.
Whether it is an accident or a carefully planned occurrence, having a baby is a life-changing experience, which can blow even the most organised person’s life upside-down.
Unsurprisingly, having a baby while at college is something that most students wouldn’t consider for a second and who could blame them. Babies and all-night cramming sessions for that exam you really meant to study for but somehow forgot, simply do not mix. Not many want their extra few minutes in bed and precious down-time to be filled with tears and dirty nappies.
However, it seems that many women choose to wait years after their last lecture has concluded to start making babies. A recent report by the Economic and Social Research Institute tells how the average Irish woman is now waiting until her 29th birthday to have a child, two years older than the average age in 2001. Interestingly, a third of all babies born in 2010 were to women between the ages of 30-34.
College is a time many consider as a chance to really come into being, to cut lose and to experiment with all different kinds of things. It is a time to be pretty much completely carefree and not feel tied down to anything.
In spite of this, things don’t always work out the way we anticipate. People often find themselves prematurely in a situation they had not contemplated for another decade. They also find themselves having to make a very big decision – college, a baby or both.
Having a child while in college often seems like an automatic death sentence to your further education. Henceforth, an emphasis is placed on pregnancy prevention for students, including the use of contraceptives. Encouragement from good friends and family often makes it possible to attain your dream of getting a degree.
Rachel Murray, a 26-year-old journalism student, discovered she was pregnant at 16. Yet with the support of her family she was able to return to school within a year and finish her Leaving Cert.
Speaking about her experience of going back to school after having a baby, she told The College View, “I thought that I might have to give up college after I had my daughter but I realised that I wanted to get a job that I really loved. I decided that I would just have to grin and bear it for the greater good for both of us. My family were great and really supported me. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without their support”.
There’s no denying that, as a student with a child, your priorities are going to differ to those of your classmates. While most of your friends obsess about what they’ll wear on a night out and going on a diet, you pick out baby outfits and worry about your child’s diet. “I knew it was going to change my life, but I suppose I was so young I didn’t realise how hard it was going to be”, she added.
If family are unable to help you out with child-minding, most colleges have crèches, which are often a lot cheaper than childcare facilities you find elsewhere. Research by the National Consumer Agency (NCA) has found that costs can go as high as €268 per week in Central Dublin. DCU’s Magic Days Crèche provides a day care service for the infants and young children of students.
Crèche manager, Paula, told The College View that at the moment, “there are about five students who have children in the crèche”. The crèche takes children from three months to school-going age, charging €205 per week for babies and €190 for children one and a half years old and over”. However, paying this amount of money every week is out of a lot of people’s price range especially college students.
Another option is putting college off for a few years to wait until the child is less dependent on you and starts school. This is what Rachel Murray decided upon after finding childcare too expensive. “When I found out I was pregnant, I had a plan. I knew I wanted to go back to school and I knew I wanted to go to college, but the childcare costs were killing me”.
If you discover that you’re pregnant, visit the Positive Options website to find out what is available to you, tell a friend or talk to a counsellor at your college. The sooner you talk to someone, the sooner you can get the medical and emotional support you need.
If you already have a child and you are in college or thinking of starting, make sure that you don’t have to worry about childcare and don’t be afraid to take full advantage of any help being offered to you from family or friends. Having a child should not signal the end of your education unless you want to.