Balancing the demands of motherhood and the demands of study isn’t easy.
More accurately, it feels downright impossible at times.
Start with late nights spent studying and late nights with the baby.
Then think of the hours spent pouring over textbooks, and hours of reading Where The Wild Things Are (again).
Most students exist on a shoestring budget, but students who are also parents have to find the money to buy nappies and extra groceries.
Then there’s childcare. Student parents need to find childcare to cover lectures and study-time, part-time work, if they have it, and maybe the occasional night out.
Childcare doesn’t come cheap, and this can be a huge barrier for those who want to continue their studies.
Unfortunately, it’s common for student parents to drop out of their courses, partly because of the difficulty of finding, and affording, childcare.
Education is important. Those extra years of studying at university or college can make a difference to how much students earn in the future.
A degree can lead to more flexible work which might be a better fit with family life. It can also give parents the tools and knowledge necessary to provide their baby with the best possible life.
Throughout the world, universities are starting to offer help to young parents – whether in the form of family housing, subsidised childcare, or simply a better understanding of the demands on student parents.
One university has gone the extra mile for a young mama who is studying while raising her daughter. Larissa Crawford shared a photo to her Facebook page last month, and the post has since gone viral.
It’s not hard to see why. The inspiring photo showed Crawford’s university lecturer teaching the class while bouncing Crawford’s baby daughter on his hip.
The caption read:
“Our 8:30am Monday class. I’m really sick this morning, and my professor, Tokunbo Ojo, could see I was struggling to chase Zyra around. He picked her up and taught the rest of the class with Zyra on his hip. The professors I’ve had, like Tokunbo, have played such a significant role in my upcoming graduation this June, and I’m so thankful for it”.
Crawford studies at York University in Toronto and says the university has supported her to continue her studies while raising her beautiful baby girl.
Unlike the many students who struggle to find affordable childcare, Crawford has been able to take her daughter to class with her. The adorable one-year-old has been accompanying her mama to class since she was just weeks old.
Crawford told CBC’s Kate McGillivray: “I see this acceptance and support of me bringing Zyra into class as one of the most feminist acts a lot of my professors have shown — and I’m so thankful for it”.
Professor Ojo, pictured in the photograph, told CBC Toronto: “It’s always my pleasure to support my students and ensure that they get the best out of my classes. It’s my belief that everyone should have access to education”.
For students like Crawford, supportive professors can make all the difference. Crawford is right; this is a feminist issue. Enabling a young mother to continue her studies while raising a child is a big deal, and it’s something more universities should be doing.
Simple, practical help, like being able to take your baby to class, can make all the difference to new mamas. Some universities offer on-site creches but they fill up fast, leaving some young parents without access to on-site childcare.
Being able to take your baby to class could solve this problem. Not only would it enable young parents to study whilst caring for their babies, it would also create an inclusive environment for those young families.
Professors who understand the value of learning for these students, and the simple things they can do to help, can make a huge difference.
For Professor Ojo, teaching with Zyra on his hip probably wasn’t a big deal. He taught the class, as usual, and had the chance hold a baby at the same time (and who doesn’t love to hold a baby?)
But that small act of kindness made a huge difference for one of his students. It allowed her to take notes, to study and, most importantly, to see she was a valued member of the university.