Parents carry a lot of stress. Students carry a lot of stress. It makes sense that you, as a student-parent, would also carry a lot of stress. Whether you are pregnant unexpectedly or intentionally, married or single, an undergrad or grad student, close to home or far away, building a support system to help you through your pregnancy and as a student-parent will be beneficial to you and your child(ren).
The benefits of having a support system
Between paying bills, going to school and doing homework, having a job, and taking care of your family, the stress can add up. A strong support system can help alleviate some of the stress you are feeling. Having a network of people willing to advocate for you and help you succeed is important. It takes a strong and empowered woman to acknowledge when she needs help, so don’t be afraid to ask for it if you need it.
Though having a support system is important for everyone, not just student-parents, each person builds his or her own team. Different people need different kinds of support and from different people. However, it may be of use for you to find people to help you out academically, materially, psychologically, and/or emotionally.
Build your team
While everyone’s team will be different, here are some groups of people who may be helpful to you as you complete your education as a parent.
If you sense you are being discriminated against, get in touch with your school’s Title IX coordinator. He or she will be able to assess the situation and be your advocate with the school. Pregnancy is not cause for discrimination and is protected by Title IX. For a full description of your rights as a student parent, click here.
In stressful situations, it can help to talk with a counselor or a chaplain. No matter what your personal beliefs are, both of these people are here to listen to you and help however they can.
Your academic advisor is a great resource to capitalize on. If you are pregnant and expect to miss a lot of classes or need to work around a child care schedule, your academic advisor can help you choose the classes and schedule that will work best for you and your family. If you are concerned about graduating on time, talk with your advisor about your options going forward.
Most schools have a peer tutor center. If you find yourself falling behind in class because of your pregnancy or parenthood, consider asking for help in the tutor center. You may even be able to work out an arrangement where you can bring your child to tutoring sessions or have someone come to you.
Friends and family also play important roles in your support system. The ones who care about you the most will be there when you need them to be. It is often helpful to have a friend or two in class with you who is willing to share notes or help you catch up when you miss class. Many student-parents receive help from friends and family when it comes to child care and sometimes finances. Accepting help when you need it is empowering, especially if you are working toward a goal that will allow you to “pay it forward” to someone else who may need your support someday.
Being pregnant may be very emotionally difficult, and you may decide you want to obtain professional help via counseling. A free, confidential resource available is OptionLine, a live chat that provides information on resources and can directly set up an appointment for you at a local pregnancy center. Simply text “HELPLINE” to 313131, call 1-800-713-4357, or use the website’s live chat. The Nurturing Network also provides services to women facing an unexpected pregnancy and may be a good first resource to reach out to if you discover you are pregnant in college.
Pregnancy and parenting are daunting and stressful responsibilities, especially as a student. Remember: This is a short time in your life, and while it may be difficult, it will not last forever. Your child will not always be an infant, and your hard work as a student is leading to a degree. Don’t underestimate yourself and those around you who may want to help you!