career

"Investing in myself makes me the mother I want to be."

University of Southern Queensland
Thanks to our brand partner, University of Southern Queensland

When I first fell pregnant I was at university part-time, studying accounting. I know, I know, boring right? Not for me. Actually not only was it was my dream to finish my degree, I was also determined to be the first in my family to gain a tertiary education. Not just that, I actually just really loved studying.

So when I fell pregnant at 22, I’ll admit that for a second or two, I thought my dream was over. I mean, how could I possibly have a child, still work part-time and finish my studies? I was well aware, even then, that “having it all”, was really nothing more than an elusive concept. Or was it?

I’m here to tell you, right now and without pretence, that you can do it. But I’ll also tell you, straight up – it isn’t easy. But I guess nothing this important should be.

balancing career and motherhood

Bern and her family. Image: Supplied.

Let’s be honest, anyone who has a child, whether it be one, two, three or ten, knows that the reality doesn’t always marry up to expectation. Some children are easy, are down and asleep for the night by 8pm leaving you to do with your night as you choose. For some mothers this might mean that they get to do some reading. For others, it might be watching the latest episode of The Bachelor. For me, that was when I slotted into my very full and overstuffed calendar, studying to finish my degree.

I started studying my accounting degree online. Now for one, studying online meant I had to have a certain amount of discipline. This, I had in spades. What I couldn’t quite control however, were my child’s day-to-day behaviours. Because even though my gorgeous bundle of joy had been fed, changed, was warm and should by all accounts, be satisfied, she still did not wish to sleep or settle or give me a moment’s peace. That, I hadn’t factored in.

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So for a lot of that first year, should you have peered into my window, you would have caught me with a baby in one arm, a textbook in another, singing ridiculous songs that were set to the Beatles music but had my own (often very colourful) lyrics. Suffice to say, my 16 year old still looks at me funny when she hears ‘I am the Walrus’. I digress…

"I actually just really loved studying." Image: iStock.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that continuing to study when you’re also a parent, an employee and a partner, well, something eventually has to give. For me, it was the housework. Which, hey, isn’t so bad right? Well, if having dishes stack up on the sink for over a week and clean underpants being hard to come by, then no, things aren’t so bad. But they aren’t by any means, optimal. At times, it put a lot of strain on my relationship and after a night of cramming, I sometimes wasn’t exactly ‘employee of the month’ the next day at work.

The thing is, I was passionate about my studies. Just as passionate as I was about my child and my family. I especially wanted my partner to understand that just because I had become a parent, it didn’t mean I had also lost myself and my self-worth, along the way.

I’d like to think that by completing my degree by correspondence, despite the obstacles in my way and especially when it felt like ALL of the odds were stacked against me, not only did I show my children that hard work pays off, I also provided them with what I hope is inspiration and ultimately, a good role model.

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Weirdly, in a way for me, it also helped me to become a better mother by keeping in touch with my own needs which in turn, allowed me to keep in touch with theirs.

balancing career and motherhood

I had always believed I’d achieve something that I not only loved, but also something I was born to do. Image: iStock. 

But really, what drove me to all this comes down to a defining moment. I realised one day, after I’d put the kids to bed and all was quiet in the world that I was “me” again. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you’ve been a mum and have been giving absolutely all of yourself to your children. My “mojo” I guess you could call it, came back after that day, in small increments, but it definitely made its presence known.

I had always believed I’d achieve something that I not only loved, but also something I was born to do. And that’s what gave me the push to enquire about online study and then, follow it through. Sure, it also requires a lot of balance. Finding it, juggling it then maintaining it. I had to work out how much exactly I could, as one person, as one human, take on. Then I had to negotiate this with the rest of my family. It wasn’t fair for me to want it all, too quickly. Yet I didn’t want to lose the momentum.

I graduated, six years later. A long time after I thought I would but still proud that with all of life’s curve balls, with all of the life that I had lived, I had done it. Which means, that if anyone can - if I can - you can.

What have been some of your personal achievements as a new mother?

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