March 2023

An Interview Series - Student Parents teaser image

An Interview Series - Student Parents

Abigail Graves

We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Parenting is hard enough on its own. Late nights and early mornings, nasty scrapes and bumpy bruises, busy schedules and forgotten appointments… taking care of a child comes with many responsibilities and can sometimes seem overwhelming, especially when combined with the burdens of education. There are many student parents who strain at the difficulty of balancing their children and family with their work and school, and there are some days when they feel buried beneath the stress of it all. However, for all the snot and tears that must be endured, parenting is also an endeavor that comes with immeasurable joy, fulfillment, and love. For all the parents out there struggling to pass their classes while simultaneously raising the next generation, we hope the following three interviews can offer a simple reminder that it is not only possible to make it through, but it is also wholly worth it.

Name: Kathryn Laredo
Place of Birth: Harlingen, TX (1974)
Education: B. S. Healthcare Sciences, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (1997), M. Physical Therapy, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (1999)
Occupation: Physical Therapist

1. Why did you decide to have a kid while in school?
I knew when I graduated that I would be working full-time, but while I was in PT school, classes only took up half my time. So, I figured I would have more time to spend with the baby. I probably underestimated what it would take to have a kid because I figured the baby would sleep a lot, so I thought I would be able to study while the baby was sleeping. It didn’t actually turn out that way, but in general, I pretty much handled whatever I had to handle.

I didn’t really have a set plan on when I was going to have kids …actually, if I did have a plan that I don’t remember, the plan was to wait until I was out of school, but then at some point, it seemed like a good idea to just go ahead and have one. This was because I knew once I graduated, I would be working 8 to 5 every day. My child was a daycare kid from the time she was six weeks old, but she ended up spending comparatively very little time in daycare.

2. What was the most difficult part of balancing your academics and your family?
I underestimated how much of an obsession the baby was going to be to me. It was difficult to take time away from the baby and study because I just wanted to spend time with her. I also went back to class just two days after getting out of the hospital with a C-section. I was exhausted and anemic from losing so much blood, so it was just the worst.

But really, life became school and baby. People don’t really have other things in their lives when they have a baby and are in school. When the baby sleeps, you study. When somebody else is watching the baby, you study. People just have to prioritize and can’t wait until the last minute to get their studying done. If somebody procrastinates but then their baby gets sick or something else comes up, they are not going to be able to get their work done.

3. What was the most rewarding part of being a parent and a student simultaneously?
I felt proud to have a child and to be able to finish school and graduate. I was able to set that example for my child… that if she worked hard, she could accomplish whatever it was she set her mind to. Some general wisdom would be that it’s not a good idea to have a kid while in school. But, it actually worked out really well for me, so I don’t know that I would have done anything differently.

4. What general advice for a healthy school/life balance do you have for other student parents?
Both the child and school are important. Finishing school is important; learning what you need to learn for your degree is important; but also, being a parent is super important. So, you have to prioritize each to a point. Of course, you have to prioritize being a parent, but when you have tests coming up, you have to dedicate the time to get that done, too. You have to study when the baby is asleep and have a good routine set up so that you know when the baby is going to go to sleep.

If it is possible to have your child at the beginning of a break, that may be better. You can at least get your feet under you before having to get up for school. Even just a month to get settled and heal a little bit more is better, but you can’t always plan those things.

And of course, all of the other stuff goes by the wayside. Staying out late, doing whatever you want to do, and sleeping in goes by the wayside, but that’s okay. You’re still accomplishing what you need to accomplish.

Name: Schylar Clark
Place of Birth: College Station, TX (1993)
Education: B. S. Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University (2022)
Occupation: Process-Mechanical Engineer

1. Why did you decide to go back to school with a kid at home?
I tried looking at a few other career paths first. By the time I decided to go into engineering, we already had two kids, so there really was no waiting for there to not be kids. There wasn’t a conscious effort of “Let’s do kids first and then school later.” It happened, and we just rolled with it.

My wife and I had one kid before she went to nursing school, and she got pregnant towards the end of nursing school with our second one. I worked for her to get through nursing school, and then I went to school. I worked for the first two years of my schooling as well.

2. What was the most difficult part of balancing your academics and your family?
It was difficult making sure there was time for everything and that I wasn’t ignoring one person in the family or ignoring my own mental health during the more intense times of the semesters. It was also hard making sure that the family time that I had was actually focused on what that person needed. My family members didn’t exactly follow the semester, so they occasionally needed something more at different times. I couldn’t just say, “Here’s your one hour each day, and that’s what you get.” Sometimes they didn’t need that time at all, but at other times, they needed a lot more.

Nothing was beyond what we were capable of doing even though we felt like we pushed ourselves too far. My wife had a flexible schedule, so she could kind of set up her calendar to work around most of my school days. I also scheduled my classes, as much as I could, to be mostly on just a couple days a week, and the kids would spend the night once a week at my parents’ house because they weren’t in school at that point.

The most difficult days were when we had to deal with sudden changes in my wife’s schedule or when my parents had something come up abruptly. We would have just a day or two to figure out what we were going to do about it, and then we would scramble to implement whatever we had landed on. Those were the very long days.

3. What was the most rewarding part of being a parent and a student simultaneously?
It was good to figure out how to make the most of my time and not waste time on stupid stuff. I also got to figure out how to get the best out of the limited time I had with other people. I basically had to learn how to make the quality time extra… “quality.”

4. What general advice for a healthy school/life balance do you have for other student parents?
Save some time for yourself so that you don’t go insane. You’re not much use to anybody else if you’re going crazy. For me, I typically had a half an hour at the end of the night where I would play some video games with a friend or watch an episode of a show before going to sleep. Just that half an hour really helped.

Name: Zafar Iqbal
Place of Birth: Thakurgaon, Bangladesh (1994)
Education: B. S. Agricultural Engineering, Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University (2017), M. S. Agricultural Engineering, Chungnam National University (2019)
Occupation: PhD Student (Texas A&M University)

1. Why did you decide to have a kid while in school?
My wife and I got married in December of 2020. We believed that it was good to have a baby as soon as possible because many people face complications with having a baby. And, we also knew that complications increase with age, so we didn’t want to waste much time. However, we will wait for another kid until I am done with school because I’m close to finishing my degree. We will plan for the next one after finishing here.

2. What is the most difficult part of balancing your academics and your family?
There are some difficulties with the increased responsibilities that come with a baby, and there are some difficulties with mental stability and financial stability, also. It is a little bit hard to manage everything, but after some time, it will be okay. Everything will be fine.

It was difficult not only for the first week after the baby was born, but also, after seven to eight months of my wife’s pregnancy, problems started happening, so I had to take care of her all the time. During that period, I didn’t want to go or leave her alone, and I couldn’t work at night much. After the baby was born, it was hard in the beginning because there was less sleep due to feeding the baby every three to four hours or so. It is our first baby, so we couldn’t understand why he was crying or what was happening. For the first three to four weeks, we had a hard time, but since that, he has been gradually doing better. And now, we are very happy with the baby.

3. What is the most rewarding part of being a parent and a student simultaneously?
The most important thing is mental satisfaction. When I work all day long and then go home and see the baby, all my stress goes away. So, it’s really a very good experience to have a baby during this time. I don’t think it is a burden to have a baby during this study period because everything gets managed eventually. So, I don’t worry much about the things I need to manage.

4. What general advice for a healthy school/life balance do you have for other student parents?
When I was a bachelor during my masters, my wife was not with me, so I faced some hard times with no one in the home to share with. That was pretty difficult for me. But now, if there are hard times, I can share my feelings, and if there are some difficulties, I can look at my baby, and that gives me relief.

It is not much responsibility …well yes, it is some responsibility for everyone who has a baby, but I don’t feel like it is a burden to me so far even if it increases my responsibilities.

It is also important that one of the parents takes care of the baby so that the other can work, preferably. This has all been possible because my wife is not going to school right now, so she is taking care of the baby all the time. For right now, I can do research and go to classes even if I need to find some extra time to do my tasks. It is totally fine for me. My wife understands me, and she believes that everything will be alright.

For us, we believe that babies are a gift from God, so we should not deny the gift. In any way, it will be heaven. Accept the gift. Do not worry too much. Everything will be fine.

About the Author

image of author Abigail Graves

Abigail Graves

Originally from small beer-town Shiner, TX, Abigail is currently a master’s student in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in water resources. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M, yet chemistry is still her least favorite science. She works fulltime at an engineering consulting firm specializing in wastewater treatment plant design. She is married, has five dogs and loves anything nerdy, but will break some ankles on the basketball court if needed.

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