I became pregnant with my son the summer before my last year of law school. Although it wasn’t the timing I had expected, I was excited to become a mother. I knew it would be difficult to balance college and motherhood, especially when the baby came. Luckily I had a network of mentors and friends who helped me plan for the transition, and I hope this blog can do the same for you. The following suggestions are based on my personal experiences, as well as a few of my friends who also had babies in college. No matter when your due date is during the semester, these tips can apply to you.
If you have the luxury of planning your semester ahead of time, here are three suggestions:
1. Pick Your Professors Wisely
One of my classmates was able to ask around (either to students or the professors themselves) to see what different professors’ homework and class attendance policies were. I’m sad to say not all professors are as understanding about the time demands of childbirth and recovery. However, many will be willing to work with you, especially if they know ahead of time (more on that below). Some professors even allowed my friend to bring her baby to class, provided that her baby didn’t cry too much. I’ve even seen mothers bringing a baby monitor and leaving it in class while they listened in the hall with their baby. *Be aware that each University is different and may have their own policies for students bringing their children to class.
2. Take One-on-One or Online Courses
This was a huge lifesaver for me when my baby came. The semester my baby was due, I took a Directed Research course that required me to put in 100 hours to write a 20 page paper. I had the flexibility of completing my hours at home when I was breastfeeding or when the baby was sleeping. While it was still a lot of work, it was so much better than having to go to campus twice a week for a lecture. I had a professor who supervised my work, but for the most part I just sent her emailed updates on my hours. One-on-one courses have different names at different universities, but look for courses like “Directed Research, Directed Readings, or Independent Study.” There are also online course you can take that will have fewer deadlines and flexible hours.
3. Consider Taking a Lower Course Load
While many women can handle having a baby while taking a full course load, I would recommend taking a lower course load when the baby comes. This will give you added flexibility, especially if health complications arise either for you or your baby. I chose to take a reduced course load when my son was born. It was especially helpful when I had extra health problems arise and had to miss even more classes than I had planned. The fact that I only had a few classes made it easier for me to do makeup work. If I had taken a full course load, it would have been much harder.
Whether you planned ahead or now can’t change your classes, do the following two things:
1. Tell Your Professors
Professors are much more willing and able to help you with the transition if you tell them ahead of time. As the wife of a college professor, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is for a professor to find out after the fact that someone was pregnant and had a baby. This is because the professor could have helped them had they known sooner. But after the fact, it is a lot harder to work out accommodations. You may think your stomach should have made it obvious, but usually professors don’t like to presume pregnancy. Let your professors know your due date. As soon as you can after the baby is born, have someone contact them to make them aware. Many professors will let you do work ahead of time or extend deadlines if you keep them in the loop.
2. Do Work Ahead of Time
Childbirth and post-partum will likely be harder then you expect. You may have to recover from an emergency C-section, have problems sitting for a long time (thanks, episiotomy), or just be a sleep-deprived zombie. Even if you do have a lot of help as you recover, it’s so much easier to have things done ahead of time. That means one less thing to worry about as you and your baby adjust. Just use all those nesting urges to do homework instead of housework.
Having a child in college is no easy feat, but hopefully these tips will help you through! The biggest takeaway from these suggestions is flexibility. The more flexibility you have with time commitments around your due date and recovery, the easier it will be.