Student Parents need to find a balance

Jaesung Lee with his children Seoyoon, left, and Gijoon, at their home in Calgary. Lee is entering his second year in the Information Systems Security program at SAIT while also being father to his young children. Photo by Jesse Boily.

Going back to school as a parent presents unique challenges and stresses, and without support, those stresses can become overwhelming.

Amanda Metcalfe has been upgrading at SAIT, and is looking forward to entering the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program in the future.

She also has two daughters, ages 6 and 8.

“When I do find more time for the kids, my schoolwork takes a dive. I haven’t found a successful balance yet,” she said in an interview.

Aiofe Freeman-Cruz, a phycologist with SAIT Student Development and Counselling Services, said student parents face similar problems to their childless classmates, but those problems can be more extreme.

“If you’re used to being a worker and parent, but now you’re a worker and parent and student, it’s just adding another complexity,” Freeman-Cruz adds.

That complexity can affect, not only school work, but relationships with your fellow students, due to different priorities at different stages of life.

“You have an added element of chaos in your life,” said Freeman-Cruz.

Metcalfe agreed, but saw that different perspective as a positive. This is her second time attending post-secondary and she said her motivation and focus has changed.

“I have two reasons, walking around, to remind me to do my best every day.”

There are challenges specific to attending SAIT as a parent. When asked about what supports are available on campus, Freeman-Cruz’s answer was simple.
“There’s not much.”

Lack of Child Care on Campus Concerning

The lack of child care on campus has been an issue for many years, even though studies have been done and progress made, showing that students and faculty support the initiative.

Saitsa President, Ryan Morstad, notes the challenges to getting on-campus child care are not always simple to fix.

“The main one, is the space. SAIT tells us they don’t have enough room for offices, and child care requires a lot of space,” he said in an interview. “It just doesn’t seem to exist right now.”

Saitsa is proposing an early childhood learning centre model, like the one used at Bow Valley College.

In 2003, research from the Campus Childcare Centre Society, showed that childcare on campus would require 3,600 square feet and 18 staff members to support 75 children.

Child Care = Recriutement Tool?

Morstad also sees child care as a recruitment tool.

“If you’re a parent and you see a school has a daycare, you’re probably going to choose that school.”

That is the issue for many parents. We want to be involved and excel at school but without supports, it becomes difficult to balance all the demands that come with being both a student and a parent.

Freeman-Cruz has advice for both student parents and childless students, who want to help their classmates find that balance.

“Try to be empathetic,” she said.

“Taking care of yourself is first priority.”

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