Juggling a Master’s in Global Health with Motherhood

So is it possible to combine motherhood (or fatherhood) with the intensive one year Master’s in Global Health? I can tell you. I am doing it right now!

I am in my forties and have two children. Previous to starting my Master’s,  I worked for many years as a pharmaceutical market research analyst. My husband works long hours and frequently travels and I have always been responsible for “taking care of the home front”. Fortunately, I have had a flexible job, which has helped me to “make it work”.

When I applied to the Global Health Programme, I was concerned that I would struggle to find a balance. So far, things are going well and although it is not easy, I have no regrets about my decision to “go back to school”. Together with some of my course mates who are in the same situation (altogether 5  in a class of 35), I have identified some of the main challenges and suggest a few tips for how best to deal with them.

Daycare

As a parent moving to Stockholm to start a course at Karolinska, one of the main concerns is securing childcare. Swedish childcare (also known as “Förskola” or “Dagis”) is relatively cheap and of high quality and all children are eligible from the age of 1. However, waiting lists are generally long, so you have to apply as early as possible to secure the facility of your choice. This is difficult if you haven’t found a place to live before arrival as you will probably want your child’s daycare to be close to home.

Tip# 1 Start looking for accommodation as soon as you have decided to come to Stockholm and get onto dagis waiting lists as soon as it has been secured.

It is well known that accommodation is difficult to find. Living near Karolinska would reduce the stress of rushing to drop off and pick up kids from daycare, but it may not be possible. Instead, try to find a place to live with good public transport links to the university.

Tip# 2 Try to find accommodation near school or with good public transport links.

Long school days

Many of us were surprised that in the Global Health programme, students are generally in class from 9-4 from Monday to Friday! In addition, we have a lot of preparatory reading and group assignments and have to revise for exams. There is some, but not much, time for this during allocated study sessions/ days, which leaves evenings and weekends. However, at these times, we take on our other role of being parents, driving our children to and from sports and other activities, playing with them or helping them with homework, cleaning the house, washing clothes, making healthy nutritious meals (not!) – the list is endless. Some of us even have a part-time job! On top of all this, we try to fit in time with our partners, our friends and ourselves.

So we have to make the most of each and every opportunity. We take advantage of the train or  bus ride and of breaks during the day. At home, we might let the kids watch an extra 10 minutes of a television program or stay up a little longer. We could, of course, always do more, but we learn to accept the concept of “good enough”. And it generally is, because we have learned to be very effective!

Support available

It is also important to know that support is available

  • Fellow students will generously lend you their notes if you have had to miss class.
  • The programme is flexible. If you miss class assignments, you can hand in compensation work.
  • Lecturers are very accessible and always make time to answer any questions or address any concerns.
  • There are many opportunities to resit exams if you have to.

So, if you are concerned about balancing the Global Health programme with parenthood, there are many of us who have gone before you who can reassure you that although it is a challenge it is possible and it is DEFINITELY worth it!

 

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