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Parenting while studying: Here’s how one young mother manages

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Juggling parenting and student life is tough, but certainly doable. Source: Shutterstock.

Parents’ lives often revolve heavily around their children’s. As is the case, doing things for themselves can seem near impossible. Making big life changes such as pursuing higher education while parenting can seem totally implausible.

But one mother is here to tell you it’s not.

April Wilcox gave birth to her son Harrison aged 15. Four years later, and she is muddling through motherhood and student life like she was born to do it.

Wilcox took just a month or so off school to have Harrison in the October of her final mandatory year at school, before returning to finish her exams. She then went to college for two years where she gained a BTEC qualification.

After college, Wilcox took a year out in which she moved out of her mother’s house and found a place for her and Harrison to live. She used that year to “figure [her] life out”.

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April with her son, Harrison. Source: April Wilcox.

“I finished college and moved out two weeks later. It needed to be done. I thought if I don’t do it now I won’t do it at all. And it was the exact same thing with uni. I thought I have to do this now,” she told Study International.

It wasn’t until the summertime came around again, Wilcox really began to question her life plan.

“It got to the summer and all my friends were posting their uni results and I thought yeah, I’m going to do it too,” she told Study International.

“If everyone else can do it, I can do it too, just in a different way,” she said. “And I’m figuring it out – well, mostly figuring it out. I’ve made all my deadlines so far.”

Pursue what you’re passionate about

Wilcox urges parents to do what they love. “I could continue to sit at home until Harrison goes to school,” she said. “And then get a job and do the normal thing that people tend to do when they don’t want to go into education with kids – and then I could work in retail till I’m 40…”

“Or,” she offered, “I could get on with stuff that I actually want to do. And it just seems smarter to get on with what I’m passionate about.”

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Wilcox is the youngest person in the new management team at Hazy Days. Source: April Wilcox.

Wilcox is studying Music Industry Management at BIMM. But she isn’t just tackling motherhood and a degree. She also works with Hazy Days, a charity music festival, in a part-time position on the second new management team.

“I just think you’ve got to grab the opportunities when they come,” she said.

“I’m always willing to take on the work. That’s the problem with so many students. They think ‘aw yeah, I’m going to go to uni and do this’ but if you don’t put everything you have into it it’s not going to work.”

Wilcox thinks being a mother has instilled some of that in her.

“It’s really great because most of the students on my course are really into it, but you see students on other courses like ‘I’m just studying this because I am.’ And I think that’s crazy.”

Wilcox said she could not afford, literally and metaphorically, to just pick a random course for the sake of it.

“This is what I want to do,” she asserted. “It’s so important to get on with stuff you love.”

“I am very tired, and I don’t remember the last time I cooked a real meal. But that’s just students. Students don’t know how to cook or sleep,” she joked.

Wilcox is brutally honest. It is far from easy, she said, but unbelievably worth it.

Finances can be tough

Wilcox claimed her maintenance loan is the same as everyone else’s. However, she is also given a childcare grant on top of that, which is supposed to cover up to 80 percent of her childcare costs. But, she admitted, it probably only covers around 65 percent of them.

“I am spending £600 month sometimes, if not more,” she told Study International. “It costs more in non-term-time and we sometimes have different terms, for example I don’t have half term like Harrison does.

“It is a lot of money. I sit down at the start of every month and work out my finances. I mean it sucks but if I don’t do it I will have no money.”

Wilcox knows, however, it will become a smaller financial strain when her son begins school next year.

Finances aside, what is the hardest bit of being a student mother? “Doing an entire day of uni on three hours’ sleep,” she laughed.

“And having to take time off when he’s sick,” she added. “I know Harrison’s health is more important, but catching up isn’t fun. Luckily, all of my lecturers are really good and all have their own tutorial slots.”

Wilcox has found a routine which works around her son, Harrison, and university. Source: April Wilcox.

Wilcox has found a routine which works around her son, Harrison, and university. Source: April Wilcox.

Having understanding lecturers makes it all much easier

Wilcox attributes much of the smooth sailing of her first term at university to her understanding lecturers.

“When I first came in, I managed to switch some of my timetable around,” she said. “They have been really good. Most of my lecturers are parents, so it’s like ‘you get it, it’s fine, you get it’.”

It is all down to her son

“If I didn’t have Harrison, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Wilcox said.

“I feel like if I had just gone to uni at 18, I would have totally wasted it. I would have been like ‘I just want to get drunk and not do any work’. I know what I was like when I was 15, before I had Harrison. That was where I was going. I can almost guarantee it.”

Wilcox had originally wished to go to university in London, but everything changed when she had Harrison.

“Maybe things would have been easier if I had ended up going to London and doing this and doing that. But also, I wouldn’t have done so many of the great things I have now done. I would have never have the job I have now because I would have moved and left. I wouldn’t have met so many of the amazing people I’ve met. It’s really good,” she said.

You can do it too

Wilcox is the first to admit it is scary. “I was downright terrified,” she said.

“I thought ‘I’m going to have no time, I’m going to fail everything. This is scary as hell’. But you just get on with it.

“I had a baby and I got on with it. I still had a life. This is just one of those things.

“You have a baby and you still manage to leave the house and go shopping and do other things. Now I just leave my house and go to uni.”

Wilcox claimed it never became an issue of ‘can I really do it?’, it was just a case of ‘I am doing it’, loss of sleep and all.

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