Studying through pregnancy

Halfway through their part-time degree at Kaplan Singapore, two classmates found out they were pregnant.

This meant that the women had to juggle work, family, studies and pregnancy, all at the same time.

But Madam Susan Pua, 44, and Madam Jenny Yeo, 34, who also have older children, were determined to get their degrees and continue their studies.

They graduated from the 18-month part-time course in Human Resource (HR) Management under the University of Dublin last year.

Their children, Zelene and Jeremy respectively, who were born in the same month, are one and a half years old now.

The working mothers are part of a growing trend of mature students who work and study at the same time.

Mr Rhys Johnson, vice-president, Teaching, Learning & Student Support, Corporate & Student Services at Kaplan, said: "With half of our students working full-time, we are especially mindful of adapting the learning experience to their career and life needs.

"For pregnant mothers, our programme managers help to restructure the programme so that they have a lighter load of modules. In some cases, we also accommodate new mothers' requests to defer their exams."

With the support of their husbands and family, both Madam Pua and Madam Yeo went ahead with their studies with no special privileges.

Madam Pua, a mother of two older boys aged 10 and 11, felt stagnant at her previous job as an executive secretary.

The last time she hit the books was 16 years ago, when she pursued a private secretary diploma at the age of 28.

She said: "I've always wanted to upgrade myself, but I got married and had my first child, so my plans got stalled. I found out about the pregnancy during my third semester at Kaplan. I was thinking this is not a good time, but my husband said (having a child) is always a good time.

"It was a surprise (pregnancy) and she's our greatest joy because we have always wanted a girl."

Madam Yeo, who also has an older boy, Jeremiah, three, was also encouraged by her husband to pursue a degree.

She had a diploma in mechanical engineering, but developed an interest in human resource management after she worked in admin at a travel agency. She pursued a human resource diploma in 2008 and took a pay cut to become an admin assistant at another company just to work in HR.

INVESTMENT

Her husband, civil servant Nick Lee, 33, said: "Upgrading to a degree is an investment for our family's future so that she can have better job prospects.

"I'm the main breadwinner of the family and if anything happens to me, I can be assured that my wife can support the family with a good job."

The two women admit that completing the course while pregnant was a struggle. Classes are usually at night, five times a week.

Madam Pua's pregnancy was high-risk because of her age, while Madam Yeo suffered from severe morning sickness at the start and had to be hospitalised.

This was the only time she missed lessons, recalled Madam Yeo.

While Madam Pua had a relatively smooth pregnancy, she had to deal with constant fatigue.

She said: "I had to burn the midnight oil very often because I was so tired and had to take a nap before studying. It was really a challenge for me because it's been a long time since I touched books."

But both women feel their hard work has paid off because their degrees have given them more opportunities in their careers.

Madam Yeo, who re-joined the HR department of a previous company last month with a pay rise and promotion from a HR assistant to HR executive, said: "The company recognises my experience and my qualifications and I have a better understanding of the job requirements now."

Madam Pua, who is now a personal assistant at a bank, said: "My bosses have found that I can now multi-task better and write better."

For pregnant mothers, our programme managers help to restructure the programme so that they have a lighter load of modules. In some cases, we also accomm-odate new mothers' requests to defer their exams.

This article was first published on November 26, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.