Until relatively recently having a baby meant the end of a woman’s ability to have both a family and work or study. Artefact wonders whether this is still the case. In this two-part series we hear from one young mum about her daily life, and also consider how society in the 21st Century reacts to a woman in her position.
Here 23 year–old Jennelyn describes a day in her life being a mum and a full-time student.
I was pregnant throughout my second year at university. I spent my summer holiday adjusting to motherhood and now, just five months on, I’m in my final year. Contrary to the advice that I was given, I am going to prove that being a mother and a student can work.
Managing my daughter’s appointments and my own diary of to-dos is fairly tricky. I use the days that I’m not at university to fit in as much quality time as I can. When I get a moment, I forward plan our busy week.
When my sleep is brought to a halt by Ivy-May’s feet kicking away at me, I respond by issuing morning kisses. I give Ivy-May her first feed while we’re in bed. It’s around 6.30am by the time she’s fully awake.
We head straight to the changing table to see what she’s got in store for me. Fortunately she saves the time-consuming nappy cleanups for her grandparents who look after her when I’m at uni.
A morning in our household is like a game of pass the parcel. After getting ready, I have my morning decaf and croissant. I sterilise her bottles so they’re ready for my parents to easily prepare her feeds.
My decision to continue breastfeeding, means that along with the usual iPad, diary and pen, my handbag essentials now include my breast pump and a couple of bottles so I can express milk on campus.
Just before 9am, I kiss her goodbye and speed walk to the station – I arrive at uni by 9.30am and the first thing I do is express. By the time I’ve pumped around 100ml, I label the bottle and store it in the fridge.
I get to the newsroom 15 minutes before the morning meeting. I’m constantly thinking about Ivy-May so it can be quite difficult to get on with work.
For my own peace of mind, I ask that my parents document her feeds, sleep and nappy contents – I’m grateful to have such supportive and understanding parents. I just can’t bear to send her to a nursery at such a young age – she’s five months.
My friends allow me some time to pump before we go for lunch. In fact, part of my decision to continue, rather than to defer the year, was influenced by the fact that I wanted to face the final year with my friends – I think they’re getting used to my regular ‘I’m going to pump now’ announcement.
In the afternoon I give my parents a call to see how she’s doing. Those that overhear my ‘Motherese’ must think I’m weird, but I’m too preoccupied with interpreting her coos and babbles to take notice of their reactions.
At around 2pm I’m back in the newsroom to proceed with work. I have another chance to pump before I leave at around 5pm. It sounds like I pump a fair bit, but it has to be done. I don’t want the fact that I am back at uni to interfere with my decision to breast feed my daughter.
It’s around 6pm by the time I reunite with my girl. In a matter of minutes I am feeding her again.
The various stances that I adopt whilst multi-tasking are quite creative if I may say so myself; I type up my articles and do dissertation research with her attached to the boob.
She’s recently discovered the art of tapping away at my keyboard. I’ve just had to undo a couple of her edits as I write this account of my day.
Once she’s done feeding, I abandon my work so that we can play and have a little sing-song. She may be unable to give me verbal feedback, but her toothless smile and giggles that turn into hiccups are all the approval I need.
At 7pm I give her a bath and a soothing baby massage. She sits with us as we have our dinner.
By 9.30pm it’s time to rock her to sleep. I sometimes get bored of the old Twinkle Twinkle and Frère Jacques, so I draw some inspiration from my playlist.
Generally she sleeps well but there are nights when her sleep is broken. Once she has settled down it’s time for some me-time. I catch up with my friends on WhatsApp while I listen to the news and indulge in a sugary treat – if I’ve got an urgent assignment, I spend that time working.
I get ready for bed at 11.30pm. I have time to reflect and just breathe before I finally drift off to sleep.
Read Rose Stoker’s report on how society still reacts to mum’s in Jennelyn’s position here.
Photography by Hannah Hutchins