While celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday yesterday I started chatting to Elanor Brammer about her first blog post. Elanor works with Dimitrios Lamprou (another friend of mine) who’s a new academic in SIPBS and is using social media to communicate his research and get his team ‘web-engaging’. Science blogging is often about the ‘scientist’ rather than the ‘science’, and Elanor has posted a piece on the challenges facing single mothers as University students.
Raising Children as a Student
Being a parent is far from easy; however it is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. Being a teen parent, on the other hand, often carries with it a “stigma” which leads to many other issues for the young mother. We say mother here as the teenage parents are often unmarried and living apart, so the father sometimes manages to “escape” many of the duties that a parent should be responsible for, leading to little effect on “normal” life.
Finding out you are pregnant while still in high school can be a rather daunting experience, especially if you have just spent the past six months making choices for University. The student may feel judgement directed from many sources, even from members of staff within the school. There are many stories from school girls who have been asked to leave high school because they were pregnant and the school did not want to be associated with a teen parent. However, you must never give up on your academic or other dreams, because you “decide” to bring a life into this world.
Many teen mothers don’t continue with studies because both the financial and emotional support is not available to them. While some effort has been made to provide financial support to students, awards agencies and institutions can often only fund a small part of the childcare costs for the year, leading the student to seek help elsewhere. It wasn’t until 2008 that students under the age of 25 were recognised as independent students if they had children. Before this, the parents of the student would be required to provide the financial support which in many cases wasn’t possible.
Young mothers may also be “put off” by the level of work expected from them for a University course. It is often difficult to juggle studying while bringing up children (especially younger ones), however the majority of the Universities offer support in the form of a Children’s Centre and Nursery. Many degrees today offer the opportunity to carry out a work placement within leading companies, providing the student with relevant experience when they are faced with applying for jobs after University. This is a fantastic opportunity, however may be more difficult for a parent to accept that due to the location of these companies; being far from the Universities. Despite this, it is sometimes possible to offer placements within the University campus; however, this is dependent on the field of study undertaken by the student.
Despite all the struggles that a mother may face, it is not impossible for them to manage perfectly well and excel educationally. It is important to tackle the “stigma” associated with pregnancy (especially teenage) and provide more support so that mothers are not left feeling isolated. Any women returning to education after having a child should not be judged any differently to those returning to work. No woman should be made to feel guilty for choosing to pursue a career. The Equality Act 2010 ensures that Universities are committed to providing equal opportunities for everyone, making it easier for mothers to pursue their chosen career. By going out and working hard at University this will help provide a better life for their family and demonstrates they are an excellent role model for their children.
The original blog post is here 🙂