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"As a student and a mother, I always hope I don’t get male lecturers."

I’ve been told that my inability to attend a lecture because of my childcare arrangements is equivalent to not attending because I’m lazy or hungover

As a studying mother of three children, aged eight, six, and three, when I’m enrolling in classes at university I always hope I don’t get male lecturers. Not because I’m sexist, but because in my experience, they are.

I try not to let it influence which classes I enrol in, but I know when I see that the course lecturer is a Michael, David, or John that they will make my student-mother life more difficult than their female counterparts would.

I’ve chopped and changed courses and even universities a fair bit since I started trying to study as a mum, and this experience has rang true in each different course and each different university.

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When I started my Bachelor of Arts at a university in Melbourne, my very first impression of this institution was the politics lecturer who outright refused to be flexible enough to offer one of the three weekly lectures for his course online because it was impossible for me to attend the two-hour, 4pm lecture and commute 1.5 hours back to collect my children from childcare by 6pm.

I mean I’m smart, but I haven’t quite figured out how to fit four hours into two yet. Sorry. Embarrassingly, I cried when he refused this concession. His reason for his refusal was because if he starts putting lectures online, every other lazy and hungover student will stop showing up.

"...the one male lecturer I had the misfortune of being stuck with was wordy and condescending...". via iStock.
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After being told that my inability to attend a lecture because of my childcare arrangements is equivalent to not attending because I’m lazy or hungover, I quickly fell behind despite my best efforts to attend every other lecture and tutorial and eventually dropped out of my course. After moving interstate a little over a year ago, I decided to take up my studies again; this time online, so childcare would be less of an issue.

Out of the three units I undertook in my first semester, I had one male lecturer and two female. I managed the full time workload pretty well considering I still had two kids at home more than half the time, until it came to a point where I had three large assignments due immediately after the school holidays.

With my husband working all the time and the kids at home, I decided to pre-emptively get extensions on my assignments. I did this well in advance – I wasn’t freaking out the day before they were due or anything - letting my lecturers know the situation via email.

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By the end of the day, I had my answers. My two female lecturers were more than understanding, actually extending upon the new due date I had requested by an extra week. The response from the one male lecturer I had the misfortune of being stuck with was wordy and condescending, but the gist was, “you knew you had kids when you started so too bad.”

Yes, I was well aware that I had kids before I started, but like any mother trying to study at the same time, I do the best with what I’ve got. It’s rare that I ask for any sort of special consideration, but it is the role of the teaching staff to provide that support where it is needed in order to ensure a fair and fulfilling learning experience and positive outcome for their students. Let’s face it; we pay enough for the privilege.

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