Finding the balance between school and parenthood

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A full-time class schedule often means busy days and late nights. That is just the beginning when a student is also caring for a child.

Roughly 25 percent of college students in the United States have a dependent child, according to a study by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. BYU hosts a variety of students pursuing degrees while caring for children.

BYU communications major Ryan Cummings and his wife, BYU exercise and wellness major Lindsey, are currently experiencing what it is like to balance school and parenthood.

Ryan and Lindsey Cummings hold their daughter. Ryan Cummings shared what it is like to have a child while in school. (Ryan Cummings)

“Originally our thoughts were to wait a couple of years and finish school, but then we both started feeling that we wanted a kid,” Cummings said. “It just kind of happens that way.”

Once their daughter was born, the Cummings family continued with their education, but not without help.

“The technique is family,” Cummings said. “If we didn’t have family living out here, it would have been impossible.”

But relatives can’t do everything. The Cummings family has made their own sacrifices to meet the demands of a full class schedule and their other obligations.

“I have had to sacrifice some hours at work to come home and watch our baby while my wife is in class,” Cummings said. “With a little bit of sacrifice here and there and a lot of help from family, it is possible.”

Ryan Cummings and his wife even had to bring their daughter to group project meetings because they had no other choice.

“I have had my fair share of pushing a stroller up the hill to campus,” Cummings said.

(Amy Bangerter Lewis)  Amy Lewis and her Husband CJ with their son Connor.  Amy remembers it being difficult to balance school and parenthood.
Amy Lewis and husband CJ pose with their son Connor. Lewis remembers it being difficult to balance school and parenthood. (Amy Bangerter Lewis)

Amy Lewis and her husband CJ recently graduated from BYU. They also had to learn how to balance their time and schedules with the birth of their son Connor just one year before they finished their degrees.

“We were planning on finishing school before having a child,” Lewis said. “Connor came a little early, but it all worked out.”

Lewis had to rely on her family as well.

“Our family was a huge help,” Lewis said. “It was hard to find a balance between using family for help and finding a babysitter.”

Chip McNall and his wife, Angie, also know what it is like to sacrifice for school and their children. McNall and his wife had four children before he graduated from UVU in 2000.  Not only did he have to go to class and complete his assignments, but he had to provide for a large family financially.

(Chip McNall)  Chip McNall and his family at the Payson temple. McNall and his wife had four children while he finished his degree.
Chip McNall and his family pose at the Payson temple. McNall and his wife had four children while he finished his degree. (Chip McNall)

“It was tough,” McNall said. “I was working 50 hours a week and taking morning and night classes. My wife sacrificed a lot to take care of the kids.”

After all of the sacrifice and years of balancing schedules, McNall is grateful for how everything turned out.

Professor Michael Goodman, of the Church History Department regularly teaches the LDS Marriage and Family course and researches marriage and family. Over the year he has noticed a difference in students who are married and have children.

“They are usually driven and motivated,” Goodman said. “Many students who have children have shared with me that they have done better in school since being married but they’ve also shared that the challenges increased with the birth of their children.”

Professor Mark D. Ogletree, also of the Church History Department, has taught many students with children and has seen that number go down over the years.

“It feels like it is a smaller percentage all the time of student who have children,” Ogletree said. “Back in my day it was not uncommon to graduate with a spouse and at least one kid, maybe two.”

Like Goodman, Ogletree has seen a change in students once they have children.

“I have noticed people become super motivated when they have a kid,” Ogletree said, “because number one they want to graduate and finish, and number two they seem to take school more serious than before they had a kid. I have seem it be a very healthy thing for couples to have children while in school, but it can be tough to manage.”

Both Goodman and Ogletree agree and emphasize that the decision to have children is between each couple and the Lord. They have also seen that these student with children do not regret their decision. Cummings is a testament of that.

“I would do it all again,” Cummings said. “Many, many times over.”

 

 

 

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