For this week’s piece, we’ve invited ultimate multi tasker Sarah-Jane Reeves to talk about her experiences of being a mum of three … and a full time mature student … and mixing with younger folks in the classroom.
As I open my son’s book bag from school I spot yet another ‘reminder’ letter. It’s usually telling me he hasn’t returned his library book, permission slip, or most likely a ‘donation’ of cash for an up and coming project at school – which, by the way, is never a real ‘donation’ or why would I get a reminder to pay? Anyway, these little slips of paper only serve one purpose and that’s to remind me that I am not the wonder woman I strive to be.
In 2015, at the of 38 I decided to return to university. A year after my eldest child started university herself. I had my daughter when I was 18, and, like so many parents, I put my own dreams on hold. I have no regrets in doing so, I have spent the last 21 years enjoying raising my daughter and her two brothers and they have brought me nothing but joy …well not always joy, sometimes stress, (actually a lot of stress, parenting is hard!) but mainly joy. So, here we are in 2017, I’m in year two of my English and Creative Writing degree and my daughter is preparing to graduate.
The decision to return to education as a mature student wasn’t an easy one. There are the obvious financial implications of student life, and with a family to think of there is no doubt that I feel selfish in my decision. I was also filled with fear and perished the thought of looking, feeling and being so old! How would I cope in an academic setting surrounded by fellow students the same age as my daughter? How well will I take instruction from a tutor who might be younger or the same age as me?
If you’re thinking of returning to education as a mature student, I’m sure these thoughts have crossed your mind too. Well, firstly, I had to stop overthinking. This degree is for me, and hopefully my family will benefit from it too. Secondly, you need to get the issue of age out of your mind. I’m on a course with like-minded people, and that’s the focus – age has very little to do with anything.
Of course, the social side of Uni life is different as a mature student, I skipped Freshers week, for a start! At the same time, I’m more than comfortable going for a drink or coffee with my peers. They don’t make me feel old, they make me feel like me. They’re inspiring and it’s exciting to watch them blossom, I’m always impressed by how much more they know than I did 20 years ago. Likewise, I hope I bring life experience to our debates, not in a ‘know it all’ fashion but a helpful insight into life from a different perspective.
This is all starting to sound a little romantic don’t you think? Think again. I get weeks when I am filled anxiety. I want to be the best possible mum I can be, I need to remember appointments, arrangement, my husband’s shift pattern, and deadlines. It’s chaos, my home ends up looking like a war zone. Before I know it I’m giving the kids chicken nuggets for the second night in a row, buying pre-packed sandwiches from the corner shop on the way to school for lunch boxes and rubbing yesterday’s ketchup off my five year old’s school jumper with a wet wipe. Instead of clearing the kids’ toys off the dinner table before we eat the aforementioned nuggets, I’m clearing away my own lecture notes, whilst apologising for making a mess like a child.
Essay deadline week is a particularly spectacular time. I’m an argumentative, stroppy, chocolate-demanding rat bag who peers from behind the laptop once every five hours just to acknowledge my partner’s existence. He never complains, he brings coffee and waits for Sarah-Jane to return, so normal service can resume. I’m under no illusion that any of what I’m doing right now would be possible without his support. I need to tell him that more often.
And all the time this is going on and I’m seemingly ‘keeping it together’ my mind is thinking up stories. Stories to entertain others with tales of the weird and wonderful as though that’s not really going on in real life. Being a mum, aged 40 and a mature student IS very much weird and yet wonderful.
Sarah-Jane is a mum of three living, what should be, a very ordinary life in Cardiff. However, deciding to become a full time mature student at the age of 40 rather turned life upside down. Sarah-Jane loves to write short stories, flash fiction, poetry and blogs. Sarah-Jane also writes about the local community in her monthly Cardiff Times column. Her ultimate goal is to live and write in a cottage by the sea with her ‘Essex boy’ and three children.
- Sign up for the weekly We Are Cardiff newsletter
- Check out what’s going on with We Are Cardiff Press
- Like us on Facebook
- Squawk @ us on Twitter @wearecardiff
- Follow us on Instagram/WeAreCardiff