This year, the Graduate School and the James Jackson Community of Scholars launched #ULGradNet, an initiative to bring students of similar backgrounds together to support one another. The first event centered on graduate students with kids, in recognition of the systemic challenges, from financial burdens to time management, that can impede progress towards a degree. Faculty and students from across programs joined us to discuss the unique challenges of parenting while in grad school.
Navigating the barriers to success as a parent in graduate school can be isolating, but having a support system in place can make a huge difference in your ability to advocate for your success. There is a growing acknowledgement of the role of family and gender in academia, and the ways that the pressures of teaching and research can be multiplied for students who are parents or are thinking of having kids. While equivalent data is not available for graduate students, NPR reports that 22% of undergraduate students are parents. Many of them struggle to find and pay for childcare. Students and universities are looking for ways to proactively offset these concerns.
A change in attitude towards having children as an academic is long overdue. Students who were warned about the negative impact of having children may find that the discipline of parenthood can make you a better scholar. By prioritizing your commitments, and embracing the skills you’ve gained as a parent, graduate students can, in fact, “have it all” by strategically balancing grad school and kids.
Most importantly, grad students should know how to access the resources that are available to you. Per UL Lafayette’s Human Resources website, opening a flexible spending account for dependent care can allow you to use before-tax dollars to pay for expenses like daycare and babysitting (provided you meet the eligibility requirements). You can also review your rights under Title IX as they pertain to pregnancy and parenting.
Get involved in our conversation about succeeding in graduate school as a parent by joining the Graduate School’s GroupMe messaging group and stay connected with students in a similar situation. Plus, sign up for our next #ULGradNet event about maintaining committed relationships during grad school for another opportunity to find support.