Triple Play – Juggling life as a student, parent, and an employee

By Hannah Bennett
Observer Contributor

How difficult is it to take care of yourself during college?

There’s getting up on time, getting ready, eating breakfast, and the rest of the “morning routine” before school.

Setting time for any homework or projects is also a must and isn’t always easy. On top of that, a job to support yourself takes up time, energy, and focus. Together, a job and college classes are enough to fill the day, leaving little room to take care of yourself.

So what would caring for a child do to that schedule? Being a parent is a full-time job on its own. How hard must it be to be a student, employee, and parent all at the same time?

Vanessa Roberto, an MRT major with a focus on Photography, is a student parent involved in several organizations on and off-campus. She works in the Food Pantry on work-study, she is the president of the Parent Support Group (PSG), and she is organizing the upcoming Dobby Sock Drive.

Life as a student parent is “rewarding but very challenging,” she said.

Work and academics on top of daily life and childcare take up a lot of time.

“I just feel like there’s not enough time in the day,” said Roberto. “I drop [my kid] off at daycare, go to school or work-study, pick her up from daycare, and I barely have time to do any work.”

Because being a parent comes with responsibilities and obligations to her child. Roberto’s academics often suffer from other demands in her life. Group projects are common in college classes but are not always the best for students, especially student parents.

“Group work isn’t always an option,” said Roberto. “It’s an unrealistic expectation for student parents. We’re different from kids who come here right out of high school. I’m not staying up late because they want to push it off. I put my phone down when I’m putting my daughter to bed.”

Being a student parent is also incredibly stressful. Costs of food, housing, clothing, and childcare are high.

“Daycare is a huge issue for all student parents,” said Roberto. “Single parents especially need daycare.”

The cost of school expenses is also an issue. “Many [student parents] may be living paycheck to paycheck. So buying a textbook I hardly ever us is irritating,” said Roberto. “The PDF versions cost way less than the books, so those would be better for classes.”

If a parent gets sick, their child gets sick, their car breaks down, or something worse, it interferes with what little free time they have. “Issues in life (like car troubles) become even worse,” said Roberto.

So how can student parents get assistance with any issues they’re experiencing? As Roberto mentioned, MWCC has a Food Pantry located in room 192 (to the left of Financial Aid on the opposite side of the hallway just after the Advising Center). The Food for Thought Food Pantry is run by the Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

The Brewer Center promotes programs involving service learning, volunteering, internships, and civic outreach. The Food Pantry provides food for any student in need and does not require proof of income.

“If you’re hungry, you’re in need,” said Roberto.

Any and all students are welcome to use the food pantry on campus. In partnership with Food for Thought, the Serving Our Students (SOS) program also helps students in need of foodstuffs, along with transportation, baby supplies, and school supplies.

Roberto is also the president of PSG, a support group for student parents that meets once a month..

The group was established to help parents in both academic and personal areas, such as tutoring or advice on how to manage life as a student parent. The group holds charity events such as toy drives and clothing drives.

From her experiences, Roberto’s advice to student parents is, “Don’t be afraid of the stigma surrounding needing help. It’s okay to get help.”

“Don’t be afraid to talk to your teachers,” she added. “You need to let teachers know at least a little bit of what’s going on so they can try to help you.”

“It’s obviously hard to be a part-time student,” said Roberto. “But you don’t have to rush. Do things at your own pace.”

Originally published in Mount Observer 14 Nov. 2019.