Lynn Ruane: 'Having a second child was much harder to juggle'
From a young age, middle-class women are groomed to follow a clearly defined road to personal and professional success: Go to university, start a career and - when they are financially comfortable and own a home - have a family.
Lynn Ruane did this in reverse. And, in the end, it paid off: the 30-year-old single mother-of-two will next month become president of the Trinity College Dublin Students' Union, a prestigious office once held by Labour senator Ivana Bacik and RTE presenter Joe Duffy.
Lynn's route to Trinity College couldn't have been more different from that of the university's stereotypical graduate. She grew up in the Killinarden estate in Tallaght and, traumatised by the death of childhood friends, lost interest in education as a teenager.
She was seven months pregnant with Jordanne, now 14, when she sat the Junior Cert and dropped out shortly afterwards.
By the age of 21, Lynn had a second daughter, Jaelynne, and although she had carved out a career as a drugs addiction worker, had to move back in with her parents.
"Having a second child was much harder," she says. "I had a full-time career in addiction services so my ambitions were different and it was easier to get support and pay for childcare for one child than two. It became much more of juggling act."
At 26, Lynn entered Trinity through its access programme, which is designed to prepare young adults and mature students for its university courses.
After winning an election earlier this year to run the TCDSU, Lynn is postponing the final year of her degree in philosophy, political science, economics and sociology.
"Society looks at the path of those women I encounter in college and their path in life is very set out," she says.
"They get education, get a career, and I never hear them talk about having a family. The path of my friends in Tallaght is much different - they say 'I need to rear my kids and get a job'."
Lynn was the university's first student-parent officer and is keen to help fund childcare for young parents at Trinity and to expose their young children to third-level education. Lynn walks the walk - she has taken Jordanne and Jaelynn to lectures during their school breaks.
"I know of women who have breastfed in the back of lecture halls," she says. "I think colleges should allow children in classrooms at a certain age because then they are not just educating their mothers."