It’s Freshers Week (or Welcome Week as it’s now known) which means that in university’s across the country spring chickens of eighteen-year-olds are rolling up at halls, ready to tackle 9am lectures and crippling debt with nothing more than quad-vods and Dominos free pizzas. Whilst my own student days feel like eons ago, it struck me that actually being on maternity leave isn’t that different to university life…
1.Mums and students alike are still up at 3am. And there’s a fair chance that both nights have involved a lot of shrieking and vomit.
2.No one knows what’s going on. Ok, so when I went to University tutor lists were pinned up on a scrap of paper, now I am sure that they are emailed out right to your smart phone. But I’m sure, due to the vagaries of university admin the same things still happen. As a fresher you are totally bemused by the different buildings, rooms, times. Add that to the confusion of losing all your mates, in a completely new city whilst you are off your face on whatever you can buy the most of cheaply – you don’t have a clue what is happening. A bit like becoming a parent really. You are totally bemused by the intricacies of baby clothes (so many poppers), breastfeeding, changing, sleeping and the fuzzy head from lack of sleep doesn’t help one bit.
3.Coffee is high on our priority lists. Student-me and Mum-me (who am I kidding, every version of me) needs a high caffeine kick to start the day.
4.No money, no worries. Whilst luckily I’ve had a better mat pay package then most, I did still have a period of unpaid leave which means that once again the bank of Mum and Dad pay for me and R to go visit… and there’s usually a little care parcel of goodies to bring back as well. Sounds very similar to my student days doesn’t it? Thanks Mum and Dad!
5.More of the general public then necessary have seen my nipples. Feels an odd thing to say right after thanking my parents but if you have been on a good old-fashioned night out with me chances are there’s been more of me on show then intended at some point. Equally breastfeeding a wiggly baby means the girls have been front and centre on more occasion than one. R’s latest trick, now we are no longer breastfeeding is to yank my top down (and my midi skirt), so the flashing saga continues.
6. Pizza is a food group. If you have been a student of a UK university then you will probably know that during Freshers Week Dominos offer free mini pizzas to students. Unsurprisingly this means the queues outside Dominos rival those of the Apple store when a new iPhone hits the shelves. During my first week of uni one of the girls had an enterprising scheme where she visited different Dominos several times over, amassing a stash of mini pizzas which she froze and then lived off for most of the first term. Whilst I’m not braving Dominos with a pram for free pizza, there’s been a lot of pizza consumed. Often at around 10pm when we have given up any semblance of routine.
7. Mum and baby groups are totally like seminars. There’s always some irritating twat who has read allllllll of the books ever and loves the sound of their own voice. There’s always a question that totally nonplusses you whilst everyone else nods along. There’s always some totally trendy girl with all the latest fashion. There’s always someone discreetly picking sick out of there hair (me, always me. Mum me and student me).
8. The internet is, like, a lifesaver. Definitely not just mums and students who rely on this one hey. Equally as good for googling ‘What the hell does neoliberalism mean’ as it is for ‘can you get stretch marks after giving birth?’. I’m not sure when my search history was weirder, as a student or as a mum (don’t google what baby poo should look like, EVER).
9. Freshers fifteen or a mum tum – who knows? Ugh, I hate both those terms – especially MUM TUM, but you get what I mean. The last time I weighed this much was during my second year of uni when I was drinking way way way too much wine and eating way way way too many carbs. I then lost all the weight by becoming too skint to buy food, or bus tickets and by moving into a house that didn’t have the internet. So I ran a lot and wanked a lot because there wasn’t much else to do. Et voila, back into my size eights.
This time around the weight is settling into a lovely little tyre around my mid-section. Time for running (or anything else) is pretty damn limited, and whilst I know I could eat better and drink a lot less caffeine… well I’ll get round to that at some point.
10.I am learning so so much, and really bloody enjoying it. If there were any two points in my life where I felt totally overwhelmed and like my mind was getting blown on a regular basis it was this; doing an MA whilst working full time, and being on maternity leave. These two times in my life have been totally exhausting, you are mentally ‘on’ ALL THE TIME. Either thinking of dissertation work on the commute home, or not being able to sleep because the baby is snuffly and you are worried. Maybe my MA experience wasn’t a typical student experience, but the pressure of writing a dissertation on top of working a demanding job… I was overwrought and emotional. I was so drained I cried really easily and felt incredibly stressed out. Prior to having a baby it was the most mentally draining period of my life. All I could do was just keep on going. And then once I handed my dissertation in I ignored all emails and communication from my university. I didn’t know my marks for six whole weeks after I got them and racked up a £120 library fine. Really good going there Becks. However having a baby isn’t like that. You can’t just pop the bugger out and then ignore them until you feel up to dealing with it. You have to keep on going. And going. And going.
But you do. So regardless of if you are a first year student or a first time mum, you find the stamina and the courage to get through it. Both might require some liberal applications of caffeine and gin, and I’m not sure which is more expensive – tuition fees or a baby! Both are incredible though, you will learn so much and have insane amounts of fun.
Sponsored by one baby, two degrees and enough coffee to fill an Olympic swimming pool.