By Christine Harris
College students face competing priorities. Not only do the parents who do return to school now have to juggle both responsibilities of parent and student, but they also experience their peers’ and administrators’ new perceptions of them.
Most college universities offer different options for students who are also parents, but in most cases being both a parent and a student isn’t talked about in the classroom settings. Chelsey Davis, 20-years old and a child development major, said that she has looked at people in class when they say they have a child.
“I remember I was in class and some girl answered a question starting with my daughter. I wanted to look to see who was speaking, but I was also curious to see if she was older or not,” Davis said. “She said she had a son and daughter, but I didn’t view her differently at all. I was curious to see if she was the age that is perceived to be culturally appropriate or my age.”
Unless people have experienced the daily tasks of being a parent, very few realize what it entails. Yvette Cuevas, a communications major and mother to her 2-year-old daughter, has had a positive experience with being both a parent and student. Cuevas feels that her peers were supportive of her having to balance both roles.
“I believe that the only negative comments came from those who didn’t know me,” Cuevas said. “I felt some peers saw me differently and treated me like a parent rather than a peer.”
A major factor of any parent’s daily lives is being able to find quality and affordable daycare for their child. Affordable childcare has been an important topic nationwide for many years. Cuevas shared that at first finding quality daycare for her daughter wasn’t easy.
“At first it was horrible,” Cuevas said. “It was summer and she was around six-months-old, so I had to pay various nannies that didn’t stay long because of summer.”
When it comes to having children, especially young ones, being blindsided by unexpected situations is a normal occurrence. For a parent who is also in college this can become very difficult with having to attend classes. Armeda Reitzel, professor and department chair of the communications department, said that she has had instances where students have no other choice but to bring their child to class.
“I have had students come to me,” Reitzel said. “Both students who are going to become parents during the very same semester that they take a class with me and students who have children. I actually do appreciate it, so if for some reason they are unable to complete something on time, if for some reason they are late or have to bring the child or children to class at least I’ve been given a heads up.
Reitzel says she “loves little kids” and has no problem with them being in class if there is no other options available for the parents.
“If I am aware of it ahead of time, that kids are going to be coming because of circumstances, I’ve got a whole bunch of crayons,” Reitzel said. “I mean look at my office you see all the stuffed toys. There is a reason it’s not just for me. When kids are here I’ll give them a stuffed toy or two to play with while they’re here.”
Lisa Drew, communications/dance major and a member of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, said she knows a few people who are also parents and students and has a lot of respect for them.
“When I first had met the person I thought they were like any other college student; independent and a hard worker,” Drew said. “After I found out my respect for them grew. Not only are they juggling the responsibilities of a college student but also a parent. They’re probably more badass than I thought.”