Student-parent seeks community connection


By Cindy Pantoja, Staff Writer

There is a nagging guilt that parents feel when remembering the future of their kids is in their hands, especially when the parents haven’t even finished college yet.
When attempting to return to college, life often gets in the way and things fall apart when the situation doesn’t go as planned.
Parenting full time is already a juggling act. Keeping up with conflicting schedules, meal preparation, parent-teacher conferences and work is overwhelming for modern parents.
However, when college courses are added to the load of parenting responsibilities, life can sometimes seem unbearable.
As student-parents, we hear that developing good habits is crucial to maintaining productivity. Developing such habits, if one is busy all day and has to study most of the night, is at best difficult and at worst an exercise in futility.
Usually, student-parents like me are too ashamed to admit that they don’t have things under control.
When they have a problem, they usually isolate themselves and come up with a solution on their own or quietly seek advice in places where they feel they won’t be judged.
A lot of this advice comes from books.
The problem is there are many books that promise to outline how to become a successful college student and even more that give step-by-step instructions on how to be a better parent. Despite endlessly searching, I haven’t found that one guide, book or even a comrade parent that has perfected the experience of managing both.
A study by Kingston University professors Eve Gerrard and Ron Roberts found students, who also parent, question their career choices because of the stress they put on themselves and their families.
Since being a student-parent often means not fulfilling either role to the best of their abilities, some returning students wonder whether the sacrifices they are making are worth it.
One of the biggest challenges for the student-parent is not having enough money to afford childcare.
Even though most colleges offer childcare, it is often limited.
This burden often results in parents exchanging their college education for low-paying jobs.
The cost of part-time childcare at the Early Learning Center (ELC) at Contra Costa College is about $600 per month for one child.
Subsidies from CalWORKs and the Child Care Council are available, but there is currently a waiting list of 80 kids at the ELC, which leaves parents with limited options.
Instead, we wander around campus doing our best to survive the day without realizing we are over one-quarter of the student population.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “4.8 million students are raising dependent children.Women make up 71 percent of all student-parents, and roughly two million students, or 43 percent of the total student parent population, are single mothers. Single student fathers make up 11 percent of the student-parent population.”
Parenting, while we are doing our best to improve our kids’ futures, shouldn’t be something we do alone. We have to keep in mind that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
College must be a safe place where we can share our struggles without the fear of being judged.