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My Mother’s Day: What It’s Like to be a Mother & International Student

Life as a mother and an international student can be a lot to juggle. Time management, cultural differences, finding the right work-life balance – these challenges are just a few factors that shape this journey. With that in mind, on the occasion of Mother’s Day, we spoke with two international students, Endlys and Salwa, who shared their experiences and words of wisdom as mothers who manage their education simultaneously. 

Hailing from the Philippines, Endlys is currently studying Bachelor of Business in Formatics at The University of Canberra. In addition to her studies, Endlys’ top priorities include her two beautiful children, Isabella Hadassah and Damian Thomas. 

A mother to a 22-year-old daughter, Salwa is from Malang, Indonesia and is currently pursuing her PhD in Education at The University of Newcastle.

A balancing act

Salwa shared that, being a full-time student and a mum can be filled with unexpected challenges and joys – one of which has been studying at the same time as her daughter.

“As my daughter is now also a college student, she inspires me to study hard. We often spend nights studying as night owls,” she shares.

For Endlys, her husband’s support is crucial in managing both her educational and personal responsibilities. 

“Me and my husband see to it that my kids are always looked after by either one of us. When I sit in on my class, assessments and assignments, my husband looks after them and sometimes we do our school assignments together,” explains Endlys. “After my classes, I bond with them. We value our time together.”

Mother’s Day cultural traditions

Around the world, Mother’s Day is celebrated in various ways. The celebrations, culture, gifting patterns and food all tend to vary between cultures. 

As a result, Mother’s Day in Indonesia is quite different from that of Australia, says Salwa. 

“On Mothers’ Day, Indonesian children usually kneel at their mothers’ feet in an emotional gesture of respect,” she shares.

Salwa adds that, “Mother’s Day is not a public holiday, but it is widely observed with public events and family traditions. There are week-long festivals and school programs such as reading poems or songs about mothers. Some stores offer special discounts.”

According to Endlys, Mother’s Day in the Philippines is “more like a family gathering.” 

“The family comes together over dinner, singing karaoke, sharing desserts and giving flowers to each other.”

A new kind of Mother’s Day

While both Salwa and Endlys treasure the Mother’s Day traditions from their respective cultures, both admit that this year’s celebration will likely look a little different.

“This year, I plan to spend a day off to go to the beach and eat at a restaurant. I will also send gifts, flowers and greeting cards to mothers and women. I am truly honoured that the world gives mums everywhere a shoutout on Mother’s Day,” says Salwa.

While Endlys’ plans are not confirmed, she’s confident she will spend Mother’s Day surrounded by her loving family. 

“We have exactly no plans for this year but I bet my husband and my kids will be on to something for me,” shares Endlys.

Words of wisdom for fellow student mothers

Speaking to fellow international student mothers and mothers who are considering studying abroad in Australia, Salwa’s advice is simple but powerful: seek help when you need it. 

“If you face difficulties or feel overwhelmed, you can talk with university counsellors and any parents’ students for personal support,” says Salwa. “You will find that they share a strong determination to reach their goals. Here you can share tips for parents who are juggling the responsibilities of schoolwork and raising children.” 

Similarly, Endlys encourages fellow international student mothers to simply do their best. When times get tough, she says, remember that your decision to study is not one you made for the betterment of your life, but theirs, too.

“Stick to your goal and continue to be the best mum you can be. You can study without sacrificing your children’s welfare,” shares Endlys. “There will be a time that you watch them sleeping and you will feel grateful that you did something greater for them – and that is to improve your career by studying to support their needs and give them the life they deserve.”