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Picture series — Four students tell us what it is like to be a parent at university. Read also about SU and maternity/paternity leave.
Karoline Hedetoft, 26, Medicine
Mother of Wilder (2 years old) and Lula (3 months)
“When I got pregnant as a 23-year-old, there were many who thought, ‘was this really on purpose?’ and ‘is this such a good idea when you are studying?’. But the truth is that it has all come together.
I was certainly the type, that went to all the Friday bars, to Roskilde Festival and to Distortion, and I really made sure I had used up this part of my life, before I became a mother. When you have children, you close in around your own family circle. This is quite natural as you want to be at home with your children. But we still get to go to a party once in a while.
There have been tough times. My son was ill during exams, where I also had to be at the clinic. I did not get much sleep. But I think it has been much easier to handle as a student, than if I had graduated and had all kinds of worktime slots and responsibilities.
“Having children and studying at the same time gives you a lot of freedom We can bring in the kids to daycare late and pick them up early, so that our son gets some shorter days in his institution. I really think there are too few people that consider having children while studying”
Rasmus Lang Tvede Hedegaard, 30, Musicology
The father of Sigrid (3 years old) and Sonja (1)
“It’s great to be a father, but it has also been stressful to study at the same time. I have often fallen behind, and it has gone off the rails for some of my exams.
I used to be able to flextime and study late at night. After the kids came, I shut down completely at 10 pm, because I was worn out. This is a shame, because I have really liked my study programme and would like to have spent more time on it.
It didn’t help either that I got a stress disorder before I got my first daughter in 2014. And that I subsequently I got a postnatal depression. I was recently on sick leave after my divorce.
It has been difficult to find breathing space on a day to day basis. On the other hand, it was great that I could get six months of paternity leave with pay twice.
I reflect myself in my children, and they teach me every day to appreciate myself and adjust my expectations. It’s inspiring to see how they can use forever to go down to the baker shop. Because they need to mess around in the dirt or walk up and down a step.
I learned about my own mental drama, and I know now that I have to take my new life as a single father and student step by step.”
Christina Wissing Mail, 24, History with elective in Danish
Mother of Birk (1 year old)
“It has given me more confidence on the study programme to become a mother. I dare say more in class without thinking that other people might think it sounds stupid. And I have dropped out of the race for grades. I relax more, because the most important thing in my life now is my boy and not my study programme.
Sometimes you have to prioritise yourself last as a parent. I can, for example, not be stuck hanging out at the bar on Friday because I have to pick up my son. The spontaneity has largely been taken out of my life, and I know that not all students are ready to go down that path.
It’s all about planning.
I know that I can study from 9 to 14 every day, while my son is in nursery, and so I really have to study effectively. No social media and the like. But I do not feel that it has taken something away from me to become a mother. On the contrary, it has given me so much.”
Hans Worch Bagge, Information Studies and cultural communication
The father of August (1 year old)
“The first week after I had my son, I was completely exhausted. I found it hard to stay awake at night, and my poor wife who had just given birth, had to take care of most of it. My son also chose to come out in the middle of an exam period where I had to, at one time, study 30 hours straight.
In addition to the joy and love, my son has given me a lot as a student. I was a huge slacker before my son came along. A last minute person. And it just does not fit the role of being a father, where you have to plan your days and get a grip of yourself when your daily life is under pressure. I have had to overcome the procrastinating side of me.
Financially, things are a bit tight, but you automatically cut down on the nights out on the town and the beer, which previously took up a good part of your budget. Socially, you may worry that you can’t be everywhere at once. But if you are finished with the Friday bars, it is great to be a father and a student.”
Parental leave: The mother is entitled to four weeks of pregnancy leave before childbirth and 14 weeks of maternity leave.
The father is entitled to two weeks of paternity leave after childbirth. In addition, the father and mother can share 32 weeks of parental leave between them.
SU: The mother can get 12 months of the extra Danish SU student grant, and the father can get six, when you have a baby in the course of the study programme.
If you live with another SU recipient, you can get a provider supplement of DKK 2,433 a month before tax. For single parents, the rate is DKK 6,090 before tax.
These are all in addition to the tax-free child and youth benefit of a maximum DKK 4,506 per quarter for children aged 0-2 years. The benefit is available for all parents, but depends on income.
Maternity/paternity benefits: You are entitled to maternity/paternity unemployment allowance, if you have had a paid student job for at least 13 weeks before the start of the maternity/paternity leave, and have worked for at least 120 hours during the period.
The rules change on 1st July 2018, so you must have worked for at least 160 hours over the last four months (and 40 hours for at least three of them) before the leave. period.