Barriers to Entry for Mothers

Studying for exams and cannot stop thinking about the huge barrier to fellowship that exists for mothers in particular. Dad tries his best to keep the kids away but can only hold them back screaming for so long and it really only adds to the exhaustion for everyone.

When are these upper exams going to become modules or smaller more realistic bite size pieces so we actually stand a chance? So people don’t have to make the conscious decision to hold off having a family before finishing them. So we can actually have a sane work life balance? Why am I wasting 2+ hours of mine and my kids life everyday just to be able to sign SAOs? Shouldn’t that honestly have come with the associateship?

Would love to know the statistics on gender, family dynamics and pass rates and if this implicit “bias” exists or its just in my head that i cannot get out of.


It’s not just in your head. But I don’t know if there’s a way to solve it. Unless your kids are miracle kids that sleep through the night at 2 months and don’t cry unless they need something, anything you want to do other than take care of them will be harder. I had a little of an overlap (3 years) between kids and exam-taking and it was really hard. I used to study when I took them to the park, study while nursing, you name it. One thing I wish I would have done to keep more sane - let dad take the baby-feeding duty every other night. It works much better if you take turns sleeping in the baby’s room so at least one of you can have a good nights’ sleep. I should have asked dad for more help in general. Although, dad trying to keep the kids away - you can leave your place and study elsewhere.

The issue you describe applies to all parents but is 10x worse for Moms than Dads. At my workplace almost no one who is taking exams has kids, the time constraints that exam place on you makes family life almost non-compatible with exam life.

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I always think of the moms who will be pumping in the car right before they go in to sit for 4+ hours, get engorged, and will be pumping as soon as they get back in their car after. Shorted exams or modules would really help this issue.


I’m a relatively new parent so I understand your pain and suffering.

Really your husband needs to step it up

When my wife needs time away from the baby I will take the baby to the library, to bob’s discount furniture, the local elementary school’s playground, or just strap her in the car seat and drive around for two hours.

I focused on passing my exams when I got married because I figured kids were coming soon. The nice thing about actuarial exams and children are you can plan for both with relative ease.

If I weren’t already a fellow at this point I’d probably just wait until the youngest started going to school before picking up exams again because time with toddlers is so much more precious than being able to sign SAOs

Prioritize the things you want then plan for them. If you want to be a fellow then plan to study. If you want to fully enjoy the cuteness of your children then it may have to come at the expense of being a fellow (just a delay, it doesn’t have to be permanent associateship)

An alternative to having your husband and kids leave the house while you study you can try studying in the car, the library, or your attic/basement crawl space where you kids can’t bother you

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I could not have passed fellowship exams without my husband stepping it up. I had to take a break for a few years when they were small—even with him staying home. When youngest started 1st grade, I was able to go back and finish my last big exam. But I felt like I hardly saw my kids for 6 months.

Btw I rarely studied at home unless everyone was gone. If I did I used ear protection like you might use at a gun range.


I passed most of the exams with kids and people are always shocked to hear it, but all the credit to my wife. Fortunately I managed to get through the exams with a reasonable study hour commitment, but I basically just woke up really early every day and studied in the office.

When I was a kid my Mom was going to university and my dad would just take us to a park to play for a few hours on Saturday/Sunday so she had time to study. It was great really because my dad was super busy during the week so we actually got some quality time with him and she got the space she needed. But like you say, you have to really deliberately plan your time around it. Trying to just do both in the same place at the same time just makes both worse off.


OP you won’t get a solution, only sympathy. Your spouse has to take over the bulk of the load, and you have to accept that for some small periods of time in the middle of studying, kids take priority over studying.
I studied for the prelims with a daughter. My spouse was outstanding, but there were still times where I was at the desk with my daughter in my lap so she could ‘study with daddy’.

Kids and careers don’t mix well for women. My daughter has the same issue today; growing her career but she has a kid and it’s time off work for months. And she’s not even doing exams. No good solution that I know of. Too much life, too much career building both together when we’re young.

It gets better when you’re older, cold consolation. I don’t have kid duties any more, I have the luxury of getting university degrees as a hobby and it’s really no stress.


Not always so simple, sometimes people need the extra money that comes with being a FCAS/FSA


I’m FSA, not FCAS, but I had 3 kids while taking the exams, and was able to do so because my husband was a stay-at-home parent. Even with that, my kids got into my study material, and I would have to leave the house to study. Once, I kicked them out of the house for a week (aka sent them to grandma’s) so I could get a fellowship exam done.

Once, when asked what would help re: male-female ratio on credentialed actuaries, I mentioned that perhaps they could quit changing the exam syllabuses so often, because so many of us are sure to fail an exam at least once, and if the exam system and/or syllabus changes too much, it’s such a setback. When it’s already such a difficulty, then yeah, you’re not going to bother a second and certainly not a third time.


This is a luxury that not everyone has, and further compounds the problem. When you can’t just pass off your kids to your spouse since he/she also has a job, it makes studying so much harder. You end up breathing exams for most of the year and it can be mentally taxing. I give major props to anyone who has passed an exam while expecting or already a mom.

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The CAS lets you have extra time for exams to do this, I think.

Somehow I’m not shocked if you’re the dad. If you were the mom it would be different. I could be wrong about how your household is set up, but most households I know about are still based on the mom doing most kid-care if she doesn’t have a job, and half or more - even most - if she does.

Totally agree that kids and careers are hard for women. Dads have kid duties, moms are by default expected to be the caretaker. Dads don’t usually get told to take on kid duties much if they’re working fulltime, let alone working full-time and studying. They don’t get told kids are the priority, even though they are. Not saying this is how it should be, just saying it’s the default expectation of most. My husband gets huge props for helping me out. He deserves it, but I have a feeling if the roles were reversed I’d get less.

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I get the CAS wont change overnight but I really do think smaller, more frequent exams or modules for these upper levels would do the job they’re meant to while helping work life balance. They switched over FM already and that’s one I don’t think they needed too. In my opinion, the “university credit” exams should be the FCAS ones (actually i think this is too easy, hence refer back to the first sentence).

The main point of my post is mostly to rant honestly but also stress how I shouldn’t have to chose between studying vs being present for my kids.

Dad does everything I ask without complaint and understands, but he has a full time manual job. He fully takes on the cleaning, cooking, and extra share of baby duties during these last few weeks of crunch time and I honestly cant ask him to do more than he does already.

I tried to get permission to do this but would have lost my scheduled exam and then reschedule for a different time but there were none.

If you know about it ahead of time may have been a different story though.

If it helps, I’ve been thinking of asking to work part time once my husband starts working fulltime. He’s been working part time and helping a lot, but if push comes to shove, if you have a nice employer, or if your employer wants to easily save a bit of money and help you at the same time, working part time might help.

I had my kids post-ASA and pre-FSA. I had to study late at night, after hours, and rarely got company support because consulting. It was tough, and I failed a lot. My kids didn’t sleep through the night until they were three and four years old. Not sure how I survived it, not sure how I ever passed.

I personally know more women who have or had kids while taking exams than I know men who do/did (and I know more men who are actuaries than women). Not sure what that means, if anything.

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At one point this was the SOA, back when you had points. That’s when I was passing exams.
Stupid 18 exam structures changes since then and I’ve lost most of the credits I had originally lol. And they haven’t ever gone back to smaller exams.

It probably means that women mostly have to have kids while they’re young (it’s literally healthier and better to have kids in your 20s than in your 30s, and mostly you can forget about after that…). And they usually get married younger too. While men can start a family later on. There’s a 2 year gap on average for marriage - doesn’t sound like much, but probably that’s 2-4 exam passes.

In 2018 the gap for first kids was 5 years according to the NY Times, between men and women.

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