Try choosing between bottles and books — not beer bottles, but baby bottles. Do you choose to make your sweet but crying child a bottle or try to finish reading that last paragraph of your textbook?
Many UC Davis students attend classes while also rearing children. But just how do they do it? Kyle Tos, a first-year physics graduate student, is expecting a baby with his wife Devin Tos, a biology graduate from Texas Christian University. The baby should conveniently come right around March 22, in the midst of finals week.
“I think he’s more stressed than I am,” Devin said.
“She doesn’t have to take finals,” Kyle said. “I talked to the professors and they were pretty chill; they said I could take an incomplete and finish it next quarter.”
When asked what they admire most about student parents, both agreed it was the entertaining and unique anecdotes of such a parent’s daily life.
“I have a fellow physics grad student friend and I just really like seeing his Facebook statuses with a picture of the baby crying and [him posting] ‘Well, I guess I’m not studying tonight,’” Kyle said. “[My kid] might make me a little more motivated to get [my work] done faster. It’ll be tough to have to choose between a physics book and my newborn … I’m not at all [a procrastinator].”
Kyle plans to budget his time wisely for his family and his classes.
“[Currently I’m] taking three classes right now and assistant teaching three classes for Physics 9B … [next quarter] I plan to take three classes and assistant teaching. Anything beyond that is just not doable. I need to look more into maternity leave,” Kyle said. “Guys usually get maternity leave; my brother got two or three weeks off. So I’ll probably get one more week after spring break.”
Kyle and Devin agree that parenting while attending school is much more manageable with only one parent in school.
“I just finished taking a medical assistance class, so now I’m looking for something to do until the end of March,” Devin said. “[After the baby is a certain age] I eventually want to be a physician’s assistant but I need to get all my experience hours in first. I need about 1,500 to 2,000 hours of that to apply.”
For parents who are full-time students, it can be hard to budget time between playing with their children and studying. Such parents often use external childcare. Jay Belsky, UC Davis professor of human development, agrees that the time spent outside the sphere of the parents must be replaced with caring individuals in order to still nurture the child in a healthy social and emotional environment.
“If the quality of care when the parents are not there is good, meaning the quality is attentive, responsive, caring, then everything is great … but if there is a student that arranged to have their child cared for by someone who’s not responsive and caring, then that’s not in the child’s best interest,” Belsky said.
UC Davis has many options to help campus community members care for their children, such as the Hutchison Child Development Center. Director Teresa Heath attests to many of the attending children belonging to young parents.
“I would say the youngest parent is 21 and our oldest parent is probably 40,” Heath said. “There are about 20 [students whose children attend our center].”
In addition to daycare, UC Davis also helps student parents through subsidies offered through the Work Life Program.
“There are different grants and different subsidies that come through the work life office, and they pay for part of the tuition of the children,” Heath said.
Kyle’s schedule is already filled with studying and teaching, yet next quarter spending time with his new son or daughter will also take up much of his schedule.
“That’s the nice thing about physics — not every minute is spent in the classroom. You go to class, learn a little bit and then spend hours and hours on homework. So I can do that while being at home, watching the kid,” Kyle said.
Kyle and Devin both encourage other graduate students considering having kids that the reality can be manageable.
“I think it’s possible, more so possible, if you’re not both grad students. If just one of you is, it makes you more flexible,” Devin said.
“I would always say go for it, ‘cause I like kids. I think if you have some people that help maybe once a week or a few times a week, then it makes it easier,” Kyle added.
In the end, student parents are respected for their juggling of studies and family, and their effort to continue to fulfill their education to make a better life for their children.
“The extent that the parent is going to school to improve their life prospects, that’s in the child’s best interest. It shows they’ll be more satisfied with their lives,” Belsky said.
ALYSSA KUHLMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.