Being a Parent and College Student

“The immediate need to get some sort of income is often so tempting that oftentimes (single parents) will drop out to work at that minimum-wage job that’s not at all fulfilling to them because they need that immediate income … or because their child care becomes unreliable or unavailable and that juggling becomes just too much,” says Katie Kough, director of the Women with Children Program at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa. (Source)

Kate Duffus was a different single parent, though. She had a dream, an ambition: to finish college. However, there were a few obstacles in her way that would make it a challenge for her to achieve such a desire: having a four-year-old son named Alec, a newborn named Charlotte, and working at a coffee shop and movie theater. That didn’t stop her from getting what she wanted, though. The following is a story of how a young woman excelled at the rare accomplishment of being a parent and college student. Kate attained her master’s degree while being a single mother and working two full-time jobs.

Kate began her educational career at Scott Community College in 2009 as a 21-year-old where she worked hard to receive her associate’s degree. Two years later, she transferred to St. Ambrose University to receive a bachelor of arts degree in history. A year later, she was able to receive her master’s in business and organizational leadership. Although this seems like a piece of cake, remember that she still had to make time for work and raising children.

“My day was very limited, and a normal day would be as such: wake up at 7 a.m. and take children to daycare and school, work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., pick up children from daycare, (take) them home where my babysitter would be waiting to watch them, attend class from 5:45-9:45 p.m., go home (and do) homework until midnight,” said Duffus. “Unfortunately, you have to make the decision to sacrifice time spent with the children while you attend school in hopes that in the future, you will acquire a good job and provide a better life for them than you would have been able to with no schooling.” Duffus might not have been able to see her children much during weekdays, but thankfully, she was able to spend more time with them during the weekends.

For some mothers, working and going to school might not be as difficult, especially if the children are able to fend for themselves. However, since Duffus had small children, they required more attention and care and really challenged her to balance her schedule and manage her time. When asked if the ages of her children had different effects on her schooling throughout the entirety of her educational career, Duffus said, “It is more difficult to have younger children in school as their care is more expensive and time consuming, but on the flip side, they may have less memory of your absence.”

“What about when your children are sick?” you might be asking. “How did that affect your schooling?”

Duffus said that whenever one of her children was ill, she would have to either call in to work, miss class, or both. If none of those were options (for example, if she had an important event in class like a presentation or exam), she would pay extra for a sitter to watch and care for them.

It took Duffus five years to complete college between juggling two jobs and being a parent and college student, but she was finally able to walk across the stage for graduation and clutch a diploma in her hands as a 25-year-old by the spring of 2012, and she has no regrets. She also encourages fellow single parents to attend and finish schooling by providing this advice:

“You may feel overwhelmed or guilty attempting to attend school, work, and raise children, but don’t. After all the struggle, sacrifice, and time, you will graduate and be able to provide a much better life for them. Education is the best gift you can give to them and yourself. In my own situation, I pushed through school, got an excellent job because of it, and now my children have health insurance. We got off welfare, attend great schools, eat healthy home-cooked meals, get to go to summer camps, want for nothing, and I was able to buy a house and a new car. I was able to afford stability and now can spend every night with them, and all weekends as well. All of this would not be possible without my education.”

To further convince single parents that being a parent and college student is one of the best decisions they’ll ever make, she left off with these lasting words:

“Look at school as an investment in your children, and your own future. You will not regret it, and you will be a better parent for the sacrifice in the end. College teaches more than history and math–you learn work skills, how to be on time, how to be responsible, how to interact with other professionals, and how to be a productive member of the larger society we live in. You network and meet people that will assist you with references and ‘foot in the door’ opportunities. Your children, no matter what, will see the dedication and sacrifice and will be proud of you and learn to mirror you in the process–everyone wins.”

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Britni Roberts

Britni Roberts

Britni Roberts is a senior at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois pursuing a degree in English Writing. She has been an Editor for the North Central Kindling humor magazine, Assistant News and Arts Editor for the North Central Chronicle newspaper, as well as a DJ and Rock News Reporter for WONC-FM 89.1, her college’s radio station. She enjoys listening to music and spending time with her friends, boyfriend, and his cat Willow.
Britni Roberts

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