By Brianna Guillory
Being a student takes motivation. Having a job takes discipline. Being a parent takes patience. Juggling all three of these occupations at the same time takes the art of organization, prioritization, a little faith, trust and a bit of pixie dust.
Or something like that.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), 26 percent of undergrads in the United States are parents, totaling 4.8 million students. Forty percent of those student-parents also hold jobs.
Risking income stability and childcare, going to college is a difficult decision for parents to make. But it is a decision made with the intent to make a better future for their children.
Being lumped into the statistic, I take a hefty 18 unit course load and work an average of 25 hours a week at my job that is 60 miles away. I see my daughter on some weeknights if I get home at a decent hour and on the weekends. My sleep schedule is completely wonky, my body screams at me for not eating on time and my social life is non-existent. But I know that I am not alone.
Narrowing it down further, IWPR also states that 2.1 million student-parents are enrolled in two-year schools, making up 30 percent of the community college demographic.
That means that an average of about 2,400 students at Las Positas College are studying for the benefit of more than just themselves. Like a new species, we student-parents are here and multiplying.
Being a college student is hard enough on its own. The amount of studying, balancing work and school schedules and trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life is a very stressful time in life. Adding a child or two into the mix can create a sense of overwhelming chaos.
Days consist of getting yourself and your little person ready for the day, arranging sitters, packing lunches, scheduling doctors’ appointments and dealing with a fourth tantrum before it has even hit noon. Other parts consist of getting to work on time, paying bills, putting in lab hours and racing to make it to your next class.
At the end of the day, which is more of a formality than an acknowledgement, your body is ragged and your brain is mush. And that couch never looked so much like Heaven. And for the two minutes that you actually get to sit on it, it is. However, the moment of bliss ends when you remember the number of chores and essays that are awaiting your presence. And you wonder what on Earth did you get yourself into.
But, mixed into the web of stress is an elusive calm that reveals itself only at the most desperate of times. As a parent I come to the realization multiple times a day: I am doing this for both me and my child.
And suddenly, with a little bit of pixie dust, all the struggle becomes worth it again.