Juggling a masters and motherhood

I was initially excited about returning to study and receiving the opportunity to expand my knowledge, but at the same time, I was concerned about how ‘intense’ the program would be. Previous graduates had told me it wasn’t like an undergraduate degree - the summer schools were full-on and the learning was concentrated. I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t have time to work, study, and balance my home life, with my family and friends.

Having now graduated from the Masters of Physiotherapy I can confidently say I am really happy, relieved, and very proud of my achievement. Although, my study journey didn’t all go as smoothly as initially planned. It had a few bumps along the way, including the biggest bump of them all – the news that I was pregnant. This was an added blessing (and a challenge) which made graduation day all the more memorable. My certificate not only represents my hard work and achievement, but it should also have the names of my family on it, as without their support I wouldn’t have made it through. I was also lucky enough to deliver the valedictorian speech at my graduation, which gave me the opportunity to reflect upon my experience over the last few years. Click here to read my speech.

Expressing at Mater Mothers hospital while on placement.

To provide some background about how I ended up back at university: I had been working as an accredited exercise physiologist for several years and knew that I wanted to be able to offer my clients more, in regards to their rehabilitation/exercise therapy. I felt that physiotherapy was the next step for me to further my knowledge and skills in treating particular musculoskeletal, neurological and cardio metabolic conditions.

Like most postgraduate students and parents, I was worried about the time and financial burden further study would bring. However, having now completed the program, my biggest piece of advice is - if you want something bad enough then you will make it work. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It can feel like a juggling act at times, but I promise in the end it will be worth it. You will graduate with your increased knowledge and have opened your future career opportunities.

I have a few simple tips to pass onto other parents and those considering postgraduate study;

  1. Surround yourself with supportive people. I cannot stress this one enough. After my daughter was born, I honestly couldn’t have finished my degree without the help of my fiancé, and our family. They say it takes an army to raise a child, and when I was trying to complete my degree and managing a six-week-old baby, this saying totally rang true.  
  2. Sounds simple, but be organised. This applies for all aspects of your life. Try to prepare a food plan early in the week. If this involves freezing food, then do it. Future You will thank Present You! Packing your bag the night before is also a good idea so that you can sleep that little bit extra (that’s if the kids or baby are still sleeping).
  3. Constantly remind yourself why you are studying and of your end goals. I was lucky enough to continue working as an exercise physiologist while I studied my Masters (in the beginning). So I got to see first-hand that the extra knowledge I was learning, was actually making a difference with my clients and it reminded me why I was studying in the first place.

There were definitely times throughout the program when I did consider giving up and postponing my study. These included some rough moments when Piper (at three months old) wouldn’t go back to sleep at 4.30am, and I started practical placement at 7.30am. There was also my personal feeling of guilt for leaving Piper in someone else’s care when she was so young. These moments certainly tested me, but I am so thankful that I stuck it out.

Piper and I enjoying our afternoon walks after placement.

My life has certainly changed (for the better) since starting the program and becoming a mum. There are many things which many parents can probably relate to including;

  • Not being able to quickly jump into the car and duck to the shops (or gym).
  • Getting ready (for Piper and myself) now takes a minimum of 30 minutes - on a good day!
  • I now always eat, shower, sleep, after someone else has done all of these things.
  • I experienced this new, overwhelming sense of love. A love I’ve never experienced before, and I honestly never thought you could love anything so much, but you do. 

I am happy to report I have just received confirmation that I will be working part time in the neurosciences team at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.  This is where I did one of my practical placements, and I absolutely loved it. I am excited and nervous, but I am definitely up for the challenge.

My family life is also moving forward rapidly. David (my fiancé) and I were engaged and due to be married a year ago, but everything was put on hold when we found out that we were pregnant. So, this year we are getting married (yay!). We also have Piper’s first birthday and baptism to look forward to. Looking back, the last few year have been huge. We will be going on a family honeymoon/cruise at the end of the year to give us all some well-earned rest.

About the author…

Hi, I’m Emma. I have recently graduated from the Masters in Physiotherapy program at UQ. My health journey started when I was 19, teaching group fitness classes. I realised my passion for fitness and helping people reach their health goals. After graduating from with a Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology I knew that wasn’t the end of learning for me, which brought me to postgraduate study. As you can imagine my interests involve anything that is exercise-related, I love walking, swimming, cycling and going to the gym (when I get the time).

Last updated:
8 August 2016