Yesterday I was sat in the university library, trying to finish off an essay, when I overheard the conversation two girls opposite me were having. Normally if I overhear conversations, I quickly switch off and go back to whatever I’m doing, but this one piqued my attention. What I heard one of the girls say made me feel so angry, so furious, I couldn’t believe it.
“Student mothers are selfish. Stay at home and look after your baby!”.
Followed by assumptions about student mums not loving their babies enough, or not being able to cope with motherhood.
I can only assume they were talking about a classmate, or someone they knew, but I was so disgusted by what they said that it took all my composure not to kick off there and then.
Instead, I bit my tongue, packed up my stuff and moved elsewhere. But I can’t shake it from my mind, because if these girls feel this way, who’s to say there aren’t others who feel it too?
I doubt those girls will ever read my blog, and so they’ll never read this letter, but this is to anyone, anywhere, who feels that student mums are selfish, don’t love their babies, or aren’t capable of being good mums.
I am 20 years old. I am a full time student. I am a full time mum.
I don’t stop being a mum at 8:50am when I drop my daughter off at nursery, as I have done every weekday morning since she was five months old. I don’t forget I have a baby while I’m walking away, trying not to show how upset I get when she reaches for me as I say goodbye.
I don’t stop being a mum at 9:10am, when I’m sat in class or rehearsal, and I check the time on my phone, and I see her face on my lock screen, or my wallpaper. My heart aches and my arms feel empty and I have to force myself to focus on work.
I don’t stop being a mum at 11am, when I rush to the library to do the work I couldn’t get done the night before, because she has a cough and isn’t sleeping well. I see her face on my wallpaper and smile, but I miss her so much. I hear you talk about selfish student mums who clearly don’t love their babies enough, and I bite my tongue. I’m learning to do that more and more – I have to set a good example.
I don’t stop being a mum at 12:30pm, when I go to lunch with my friends, and as they laugh and chat over plates of chips, I wonder if the nursery would mind me just popping in to check on her, hoping her temperature isn’t too high, wondering what she’s had for lunch (the babies eat better than us students do!).
I don’t stop being a mum all afternoon, as I watch the clock and feel the seconds ticking away like minutes, and my arms ache to pick her up, I finally allow myself to think of her face, I hope she’s awake when we pick her up so she can crawl towards us with that beautiful smile on her face. It distracts me from my work but I don’t stop thinking about her.
I don’t stop being a mum when we’ve picked her up and had our amazing snuggles, and she’s eating her tea while I write up notes from the day on my laptop. I have to stop every now and then to pass her another sandwich, or another spoonful of yoghurt.
I don’t stop being a mum when I’m getting lost in research about verbatim theatre or trying to get another hundred words done on my dissertation, and I have to keep prising her away from my keyboard because otherwise I end up with my work reading “Griffin (2008) said that “verbatim theatre is ++++++++43434343 ——- a way of +++++++***”, or she just closes down the word document before I can save the really awesome piece of writing I’ve just done. I don’t magically re-start being a mum when I give up and put the laptop down and give her a big cuddle, only for her to bite my hand and crawl off to play with her toys.
I don’t stop being a mum at 8pm, when she is in bed and finally I can get my work done, in between washing her clothes, eating our own dinner and having a shower. I don’t stop being a mum as I surround myself with books and research and slave away for hours, desperately trying to meet seemingly impossible deadlines.
I don’t stop being a mum at 1am, when I finally fall into bed after managing maybe an hour of downtime, with my sleep disturbed as I worry about her cough, and my dissertation, and impending deadlines, and the world she’s growing up in, and how am I going to support our family, and am I doing this and that right, and do her clothes for tomorrow clash, and a million other things, stupid or otherwise, that fill my head.
I never stop being her mum. I never stop making decisions that will benefit her. I never stop thinking or worrying about her, and I never stop loving her.
When I stand in the office, handing in my dissertation, I will still be her mum. When I cross the stage and shake hands with the vice chancellor on graduation day, I will still be her mum.
When I sit there, nervous and shy, on my first day in my new job, I will still be her mum.
I won’t claim to know the ins and outs of your life. I won’t assume anything about your challenges and your responsibilities. I won’t say you have no idea what I deal with, because you may deal with more, but we have faced obstacles this last two years, and we have overcome them. My boyfriend and I are getting 2:1s and Firsts at uni while raising a beautiful, clever little girl who is loved beyond measure, and adores the people around her – us, our friends who are more like a family to us and to her, and her nursery staff.
What I will say is the next time you decide to call me selfish, consider this. I am studying, I will be graduating, I will be working, all for my daughter and her future.
If that’s what you call selfish, you’re the one with the problem, not me.