With schools and universities returning to various forms of in-person, online and hybrid teaching, students and teachers who are parents have had to navigate new complications with their dual roles.
Mona Caldwell, a senior art history major, is a mother to a two- and six-year-old. She balances her classes with spending time with her kids weekly, and she said the pandemic has created a myriad of struggles for her.
“At first, the pandemic turned our lives upside down. My life was hectic to say the least,” Caldwell said. “Then, I started to get in a new routine and realized how thin I had spread myself prior to the pandemic.”
Having a toddler and a kindergartener, Caldwell said the new aspect to parenting that she struggles with most is balancing his schoolwork with her own.
“Balancing my school work with my son’s school work was probably the biggest challenge. I had to learn to focus on the top priority of the day,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell plans to graduate in November and pursue a master’s degree. She said her biggest motivator is her faith and the knowledge that she gets one step closer to her degree with every passing day.
Clinton Copp, a lecturer in the biology department, is also a father to a two-year-old. He teaches an introduction to biology course for non-science majors as well as a lower-level microbiology class. Not only is Copp dealing with teaching his three biology classes in different formats; he is also raising his son. Despite this, Copp said the university has been accommodating.
“The university has been very understanding and allowed faculty to work remotely as necessary,” Copp said.
Copp and his wife have also elected to not put their son in daycare due to the pandemic.
“(The accommodations,) in my opinion, have relieved some of the stress associated with having children who are not old enough to be in school,” Copp said.
The university does not have many accommodations for students who are parents, but organizations like the Working Mothers Support Network and the Willie Price Lab School are both options for support as well as daycare.
The Working Mothers Support Network provides an outlet for students and faculty to discuss different aspects of motherhood and life at the university. Meetings are held once a month to discuss a variation of topics from on campus childcare through pre-kindergarten to university policies related to childcare leave.
The network also meets for lunch once a month to provide outreach for women on campus who are mothers.
The Lafayette County and Oxford School Districts have returned to in-person learning since Aug. 24, but they also offer a virtual option for students whose parents do not want to send them to in-person classes.
Despite having generally limited resources due to the pandemic, Copp offered advice for any student-parent from a faculty perspective.
“I want the students here to know that faculty understand it is a challenging time and encourage them to ask questions and be in contact with their professors,” Copp said. “Faculty want their students to succeed, but we, unfortunately, don’t know when there is an issue if there is no communication.”