M3From my point of view, I am not your average normal student that you see walking down Jordanstown Mall on a Friday morning, late for a lecture after their mad night out at ‘Sketchy’ Thursdays in Limelight. Don’t get me wrong though I’ve most definitely had my fair share of that and nowadays still occasionally get to dabble, occasionally… Maybe I’m being a little stereotypical of students (not) I’m totally spot on. However, in relation to me, my life as a daddy and as far as my university experience has gone, I am yet to find another young student male that has the absolute delight of having a baby, so in some way, I feel that sets me apart from the rest.

I’m 23 years old, the youngest of 4, having two older sisters and an older brother all of which are extremely, EXTREMELY successful in their careers, one being a manager at PWC, the other the manager of Google’s outsourcing on a worldwide basis and the other a former Google designer, now the CEO of his own company in San Francisco, so without a doubt I have taken a different route… no pressure. Being 23, weirdly enough I’m classed as a ‘mature’ student and in some sense of the matter indeed I am mature even though at the best of times I definitely do not feel like it. All my friends, (a group of about 12 of us), with the majority of us knowing each other since p1 and some nursery are all pretty much graduated and in full-time jobs. I’m the last one to yet breach the inevitable fate of adult-hood and a 9-5 job and with the arrival of my son Zach, I am actually very grateful that it worked out for me this way.

It has given me the opportunity to properly adjust to being a father and given me the opportunity that the majority of other fathers do not get, the freedom of being a student. It has granted a lot of free time and has enabled me to be there significantly more than the average dad who is sent back to work 9-5 after 2-3 weeks’ paternity leave. As for me, I was off university for the Christmas holidays when Zach was born and did not return until the end of January. I also got 3 weeks off of my part-time job and even at that, it is only part time which at most equated to 15 hours a week.

As for my son, Zach Johnston (baller name) he was born on the 19th December 2016, at 5.15am, weighing in at 8 pounds, 3 oz. Would you believe it though that we did not actually get out of the hospital until Christmas day! So I must admit it was a very surreal Christmas experience and certainly one me nor my girlfriend will ever forget! It was the craziest experience of my life, but I will spare you the finer details for obvious reasons. The upcoming months after that were in all honesty pure mayhem! I had 3 exams in the month of January just shortly after Zach arrived, but we pulled through and now not only will Zach be turning 1-year-old and It is scary to think I will have a child of that age but I will also be graduating this July (and then there is seriously no escaping adulthood). I loved when Zach was a tiny baby but now he’s getting scarily big it’s starting to freak me out slightly… he’s becoming a  toddler and will be walking any day now! Honestly, his attempts at standing up on his own are comedy gold. Part of me of though wants him to stay a baby but there is part of me itching for him to get a bit older so that I can do more things with like play football and whatever else that may interest him! As for the time prior to Zach being born, I genuinely cannot remember what I did in my spare time! I think I must of lay about the house and played Xbox or something…

Considering my actual studies there has been no detrimental effects that I have experienced. Don’t get me wrong, without a doubt I have to manage my time a lot more than I use to and plan ahead more… there is no longer last-minute cramming of assignments. Nowadays I really need to address when I’m going to get work done but if anything I’m more motivated to do work and do well than I ever was before. Once you have a child it most definitely changes your perspective on a lot of things in your life. My future career was without a doubt one of these things and ensuring I do well in university really shot up in my list of priorities and in a sense that’s probably one of the aspects in which becoming a dad has made me mature and grow up.M8

There has been a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of turning up to class late for different reasons than being hungover but it really has been a gift to me in my life and we are both very grateful that Zach is a happy, healthy baby. We would not have been able to do it without the great support that we have from both of our families and toward Zach, he was the first grandchild on both sides! for that we are eternally grateful. I am extremely excited to see what the future holds for Zach and for me whenever I graduate from University.


Matthew Johnston is a BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations final year student at Ulster University. He can be found on Facebook at: Matthew Johnston and on Linkedin at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-johnston-172055153/