When Both You and Your Kid Are Going Back to School
For many parents back to school season is stressful, but for student parents like myself the stress is doubled.
Since the age of 16, back to school for me has meant having all of my back to school details squared away while simultaneously looking for a quality and affordable daycare for my daughter, having enough diapers in the diaper bag, clean bottles, and everything else that parents need to pack and ensure their children have as the enter daycare.
Although the planning season for most parents begins about a month before school starts for their children, for student parents the process starts when we enroll ourselves into our next semester classes while still dealing with the current semester. Finding courses that line up with the times our child is in school to minimize the cost of daycare, after school programs, or a babysitter is essential but also limits the amount of credit hours a parent can take during a semester. Then there is the minor detail that certain days of my school schedule don’t line up with the early pick up times for her school or public school holidays that simply don’t exists for college students.
Back to school for me means shopping online for more affordable alternatives to the painfully high prices of textbooks in one tab on my browser and prowling the Internet for the most affordable back to school sales for my daughter’s school supply list, uniforms, and snacks at the same time.
Then there is the chance that the babysitter you thought secured had something come up and they can no longer watch your child for that night class you signed up for and can’t drop because you need it to keep you on track for graduation or it’s past the add/drop date.
Her first year of public school was especially difficult because it was also my first semester back to school after a year break. I was a nervous wreck. While I went through the emotional motions of having my baby become of school age I was also dealing with making sure her vaccines were up to date, mine where up to date for my school, and attending day long orientations.
Of course, you can’t forget the grueling enrollment process some public schools make parents go through. We had to wake up at 6am to wait two hours in line at our zoned public school in hopes that there would be a seat left for her by the time we were called in. I anxiously watched the clock ticking away while emailing my professor through tears that I wouldn’t be in class today because of the current enrollment line I was waiting in. I felt hopeless and like I was undergoing an impossible feat of getting both of us into school.
After 7 years of being a student parent I’ve learned that I have to have both school calendars posted all around the house, in my planner, and my smartphone, a team of baby sitters, and a lot of patience for unforeseeable circumstances. All the while trying to forget my bank account that is dealing with several back to school expenses and longing for the day that it will stay above a three-digit balance for a week.
Although being a student parent during the year, and especially during back to school season, is a grueling process I value it because it teaches me everyday how resilient, strong, and determined we both are.
Gloria Malone is a mom, student and activist in New York City. Read more about her and her Teen Mom NYC blog here.