Caution, parents on campus: Plenty of students are juggling kids and classes

By in Opinions

They lurk among you — silently slipping undetected through the halls. They are often absorbed anonymously into the sea of bodies in a lecture theatre. These shadow specters in question are the student parents of the University of Saskatchewan, and I happen to be one of them.

I am not a model student parent, and my story isn’t necessarily representative of the majority of hard-working young parents who float stoically around campus. First of all, I am old — really old.

Every day is a little bit like 21 Jump Street for me but much less funny. I can pass as a young undergraduate, with many of my peers generally unaware that I am closer to 30 than I am to 20. I must give credit to my beauty routine — bathing in the blood of virgins.

Author Erin Matthews posed with her daughters in the Geology Building.

Being a mature student parent is not something that I divulge to everyone I encounter. Often, I won’t mention it at all. I don’t find relevance in discussing my life as a parent while working on a group project with strangers. As soon as the information comes to light, people’s perceptions of me change. It’s a sudden, noticeable shift.

Being a mother is a large, cherished chunk of my identity, but it does not ultimately define me. It is only a precious portion. We cannot be boiled down to a collection of nouns.

My children are older — seven and five years old — so navigating school work and mom work is somewhat easier than if I were   tending to an infant or a toddler. Toddler parents, I feel you. I returned to the land of educational endeavours when my youngest was six months old.

It can be an ongoing struggle to manage the pressures of parenthood and studenthood. Being a student parent means you have different priorities than those around you. You have tiny humans to raise in between classes. You have swimming lessons, karate class and birthday parties to fit in around essays and midterms. The lifestyle can take a toll on you if the necessary supports are not in place.

I am sure you have heard the old cliché “it takes a village to raise a child,” and if you are a student parent, you know there is nothing more true. Without the resources I have access to, I don’t think I would be able to do what I do. I am fortunate, and I recognize that there are many student parents who are struggling.

If you a parent looking for a little extra support, the U of S has some great resources available. For example, Parents on Campus is a group that provides assistance and community to students and their children.

For those in the campus community who have their kids in tow, Parents on Campus offers the Comfort Room. The group also holds family-friendly study times, which allow parents to hit the books while their progenies play nearby.

If you are a student parent and feel as if you are treading water, take a deep breath. You will not drown. Have courage to ride out that storm. I promise the payoff will be worth it. Know that your children are going to benefit from you achieving your goals and that you are their greatest teacher.

At the end of the day, allow yourself a break. Do something special with your kids for an afternoon or evening. Carve out time specifically for them, but don’t forget to take a moment for yourself as well. In the stillness of the night, go ahead and turn on Netflix, make a cup of tea or even crack open a beer.

Take care of yourself, parents of the U of S. Cheers to your accomplishments, and keep on grinding.

Erin Matthews