Double Duty: Students balance classes and the role of parenting

Student Parents

Student Parents

Cheyenne Perry

Class is over for Julia Adkins by 5 p.m. on most days, Monday through Thursday. That means, if she hurries, she’ll be home by 5:30 p.m. When she comes in, she drops her book bag at the door and tries to sneak up on her son, who she knows will be playing in the living room. They play together until dinner. Then it’s time for learning numbers and the alphabet. After T.V. and a bottle, it’s bedtime.     

Changing social norms leave students in their late teens and early twenties with more choices after parenting a child. Young parents aren’t forced to forfeit their education in pursuit of proper parenthood. Moms and dads are choosing to further their education with baby in tow, so they can provide a better life for their families. However, that choice comes with sacrifices.

Adkins, a 20-year-old senior magazine journalism major, spends her time outside of school as a single parent with a 1-year-old son. 

“I don’t live on campus, I don’t go to parties, I don’t go on a lot of dates,” Adkins said. 

Adkins said you have to grow up a lot faster when your every decision will affect a child’s life. While most people think college is about going to parties and discovering themselves, she said new parents discover who they are inside the minute they find out about the baby. 

“From the moment I saw him, the moment I touched him, my whole world changed. He’s the reason why I’m here. It’s because of him that I (was) a senior at 19,” Adkins said.

Adkins credits her family with her success in school and in raising her son.

“I have fantastic parents who were able to support me not only mentally and emotionally, but financially able to give me the means to stay in school. Without them I would’ve had to quit,” Adkins said. 

She also said her mother watches her son while she’s in school so she doesn’t have to worry about daycare. Her father and brothers share a close relationship with her son, and are loving, caring male role models.

“Yeah, it’s hard,” Adkins said. “Yeah it totally sucks. But I don’t have to share holidays, I don’t have to give him up on weekends or on his birthdays — I don’t have to make those awkward exchanges.”

Adkins said many people are accepting of her and her situation because they know what it’s like to come from a single parent or separate parent household.

“They’re like, ‘Wow! There’s somebody who’s like my mom,’ ” she said.

Adkins isn’t the only young parent pressing through Kent State this year. Brody Quaintance, a 21-year-old senior advertising major, is excited to even be back on Kent’s campus this semester after taking all online classes and moving home during her pregnancy in the spring semester. 

Now mother to a 3-month-old son and smack in the middle of planning a wedding to the father, she takes her busy schedule as a sign that things are falling into place. But Quaintance said school was lower on her priorities when she found out she was having a baby.

“I wanted to be able to focus on my kid and being healthy and my child being happy,” she said. 

She also said she enjoys staying home and playing with her baby more than going out and having a “college life” and finishing her degree would be weight off of her shoulders.

Coury Richards, a 25-year-old senior digital sciences major and father to a 3-year-old son, agrees that the give-and-take of going to school while parenting isn’t always easy or fair.

“School is a big time commitment,” Richards said. “I have deadlines at work, I have deadlines at school, but above all I have a little boy who strives for (my) attention. He loves (me) so much and everything (I) do he wants to be a part of.”

Richards said that although he loves school and computers, it’s necessary for him to go school, so that he can land a job that will provide for his family.

When Richards discovered his now fiancé was pregnant with his child, he took the opportunity to finish his associate degree at ITT Technical Institute. He now works full time as an applications developer, while his fiancé works and goes to school as well.

“We have to be superman,” Richards said. “If you think an exam will stress you out, a little kid will trump that exam either with a temper tantrum or just being as cute as he can.”

Richards’ favorite part of the day is at night after his fiancé has read bedtime stories to his son. Even though the toddler should be drifting off to sleep, he wants to sit up and talk to his dad.

“He keeps me in his room and tells me about his day,” Richards said. “It’s honestly one of the best times of my life.”

Adkins also enjoys spending time with her son at the end of the day.

“He is just so bubbly. It doesn’t matter what’s going on at school, what’s going on in my personal life or what’s going on in my family. I see him and my whole attitude changes, because he is all that matters,” she said.

“It lights up your day,” Richards said. “It’s a great way to just let the world peel off of you.”

Contact Cheyenne Perry at [email protected]