Being a mum while studying Genetic Counselling
Research assistant, Mia Liepins, who is also a genetic counsellor, talks to five genetic counselling students – Aasta, Bridget, Millie, Rebecca and Victoria - who are studying full time and raising a family. Hear their insights and words of wisdom.
How does your role and experience as a mother influence what you bring to genetic counselling?
“Being a mother helps to build the core skills you need as a genetic counsellor, like empathy. Being a Mum contributes to how you’d execute this role. If I’d done genetic counselling a decade ago, I don’t think I’d have the same level of understanding for the clients” – Victoria
“I did my first placement in a paediatric setting, and I had a bit more familiarity about how to interact with children in clinic, which was really nice” – Rebecca
“One of the big things about genetic counselling is to have resilience. Some of the things that you’re confronted with as a parent, like medical or learning problems with your child, makes you more resilient. I think that is something we can carry through to our genetic counselling role” – Millie
“We’re all learning about being client-centred, and we are used to being child-centred. We’re used to putting our needs behind someone else’s needs. And we’re used to the drama of parenting so the angst and emotional stuff is not scary for us” – Bridget
What are the benefits of studying while raising a family?
“I think it’s important for us to be role models to our children. I want my nine-year old son to see that learning is ongoing. I want him to have a curious nature, to know that it’s never too late, you’re never too old to learn, there’s always opportunities” – Victoria
“I say to my kids, look, this is what I’m doing. I want my daughter to know that you can multi-task, that you can do it all – not necessarily brilliantly all the time. That’s a learning thing too, that it is hard sometimes but you just push through” – Aasta
“It’s a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to say, I’ve got three kids, I’m running a household and I’m managing this big study load and placements. It’s really empowering” – Millie
What is the biggest challenge for you juggling being a mum and studying? How do you manage it?
“When on placement you have to be very prepared to juggle and that often involves calling in all your resources and support system. For my next placement I have help coming from my home in New Zealand” – Rebecca
“Struggling with priorities – my kids, my family, and my course. It’s difficult to get everything done, trying to keep up and explaining this to everyone” – Aasta
“Self-care is talked about a lot in the course and in the profession, about its importance in being a genetic counsellor. As a Mum this is one of the first things that goes. I’m having to be really deliberate and focused about self-care, so that it doesn’t go by the wayside” – Millie
“You have to see the goal at the end, play the long game” – Bridget
What advice would you have for other students who are also mothers, deciding whether to enter tertiary study?
“100% do it! I honestly thought I had no brain left before I started my undergrad two years ago. I was down on myself, I couldn’t get a job because I’d been a parent for so long… returning to study has been the best thing for me” – Aasta
"If you have a burning passion to do something but you feel limited because of kids or something, I don’t think that passion goes away until you do it. It’s a hard jump to do, to spend less time with your kids or shift career, so you have to be fully passionate about what you’re doing. At my placement recently I felt ‘I’m in the right place" – Millie
“People keep asking me, how are you doing this? My response is the same – if I wasn’t 100% committed, and loved what I’m doing, it wouldn’t work” – Victoria
“Do it now, and commit, because there’s never a right time. I’ve actually found juggling study advantageous in terms of the family situation” – Rebecca