Parenting While Studying More Challenging Than Ever Before


Photo courtesy of scui3asteveo on Flickr.

Vianney Galvez, Staff member

As COVID-19 grips America, student parents have been left struggling to balance children and classwork at home. I am one of them. So is Zury Guptill, a San Diego State University student and parent with a full-time job, who said she wouldn’t have been able to complete her Master of Business Administration without the support of her family.

“I was very stressed at times, and towards the end of the program I was ready to give up,” Guptill said. “After studying throughout the week, I would spend 12 hours on Saturdays and 12 hours on Sundays on many occasions” in order to complete classwork.

To graduate from SDSU with a major while being a full-time mom was a huge accomplishment for Guptill, who said “there is no way” she could have done it without her family’s help. But, many working parents aren’t so fortunate. Among the 13.6 million single parents in the United States, only 45 percent of single mothers graduate from college within six years, and the same percentage of parents hold college degrees, according to Very Well Family.

The coronavirus pandemic has only made things worse. A recent survey conducted by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center reported that nearly three-quarters of single mothers said that school and day-care closures have had a “moderate or severe” impact on their daily lives.

I’ve been told that since I’m young, I should have the energy to do this. But I find myself struggling against waves of exhaustion as I strive to be a good parent and student. My days consist of feeding my baby every few hours and putting her to sleep. Then I try to balance working on classes and resting. It’s nearly impossible to stay caught up, and I’m often forced to sacrifice my own much-needed rest.

Some schools, aware of the steep challenges facing student parents even in normal times, make extra effort to facilitate their studies. Diablo Valley College, for example, has a Children’s Center Program, which offers child care for actively enrolled students and faculty.

According to the Children’s Center Program website, “the program is guided by the belief that families have a primary influence on the development of their children and early childhood is the most critical period in this development.”

Rebecca Thomson, director of the Children’s Center Program at DVC, said the cost of enrolling children in the school’s daycare varies depending on their age and how many days they are being watched. But parents can defray those costs by chipping in time working at the center.  

When classes are in session,“students from the DVC campus are able to earn their units by helping prepare snacks for the children, working one hour per week in the Children’s Center,” Thomson said.

Ordinarily, the DVC Children’s Center is open Mondays through Thursdays, 8 am to 2:15 pm. However, due to the pandemic the program has been forced into temporary closure.

The Contra Costa Community College District offers two childcare centers.  One is at DVC, while the other is at Contra Costa College.

After the pandemic is over, I plan to enroll my daughter at the Children’s Center. It’s a valuable resource that I, and many single parents, could use.

But with more than 15 million children being raised in single-parent households in the U.S., it’s unfortunate that we must wait until then for the assistance that we desperately now need.