Kat Marjoribanks is an ordinand studying at St Mellitus. Below, she shares her story of training for ordination, having a baby, and parenting.
My name is Kat, I live in Loughborough with my husband and three little children and I started training for ordination doing the three year BA in Theology Ministry and Mission at St Mellitus in September 2018. My first visit to St Mellitus was in January that year when I came for the open day with my son who was 9 months old. I was nervous about taking him along- whether he would be disruptive, whether I would be able to concentrate and whether people would be ok with him being there. My fears were alleviated very quickly; we were so warmly welcomed into the college and he certainly got lots of lovely attention!
During the coffee break, someone came down to see me. She introduced herself as a first year student saying that she had wanted to come and share with me that she had a little one similar in age to my son and that it was absolutely possible to train for ordination with small babies and children. I was overwhelmed with relief to hear someone say that! I felt like that was one hurdle managed - I at least wouldn’t be the only person trying to work out how to juggle life with very young children and the demands of training for ordination - working in placement and studying for a BA!
I still had another hurdle to get over, which was to pluck up courage to ask what the possibilities were if we were to have another child while I was training. I didn’t know if that was in our future as a family, but I wanted to know if it could work. I saw someone in one of the worship times who was (very obviously!) pregnant and so I was brave and asked in my interview what would happen if… maybe… would it be ok… there might be the possibility of us having another child? And the wonderfully matter of fact response I got was ‘of course that would be ok. You would be able to take maternity leave.’
"There is so much flexibility to support a mother in college, or on residentials but it is important to speak up and discuss those possibilities."
Others will have experience of bringing babies into college or along to residentials. I do not (yet!), but as I was breastfeeding my son when I started training, I had to factor this into my experience at residentials. I actually only realised the impact of this on the day of our first residential- I was going to have to express milk regularly throughout the weekend and the rooms were shared! Fortunately, I had a wonderfully open and accepting room mate who did not mind at all, and thankfully our room was not too far away from the main area of the conference centre. It simply hadn’t occurred to me to prepare for this. I would strongly advise anyone thinking about training for ordination with babies (whatever their age, however they are fed, whatever your situation) to work out what it is that you need to make your situation work and then ask about it! There is so much flexibility to support a mother in college, or on residentials but it is important to speak up and discuss those possibilities.
At the end of my first year our third child was born and again, the college have been so supportive of enabling my maternity leave to work really well around studying. I have felt very well cared for as a mother and I have been able to work with my formation tutor and other staff members to take maternity leave around assignments. This was especially complicated in my case as our baby was born 12 weeks early! I would also really like to encourage any mother who is breastfeeding, that becoming a full time ordinand does not have to mean the end of that relationship. There is support available and there are ways of enabling the breastfeeding relationship to continue for as long as you want.
"There is such a refreshing openness to being both a mother and an ordinand."
I will be honest and say that these experiences formed a significant part of my reason in coming to St Mellitus to study. There is such a refreshing openness to being both a mother and an ordinand. I once saw a quote that said ‘the trouble with our society is that we expect women to mother as if they did not work, and we expect them to work as if they were not mothers’. There simply is not this attitude at St Mellitus. There is a genuine recognition that all mothers (and fathers) have their own unique situation which will be supported and managed in whatever way is best for that individual.