Balancing college and parenthood

BYU Senior Zachary Bright and his wife Tyerah Bright with their one-year-old baby. Both WIC and Medicaid have helped Zachary with groceries and hospital bills. (Courtesy of Zachary Bright)

As many BYU students navigate both parenthood and the rigors of student life, two couples shared tips on how they have balanced pursuing their academic and personal goals.

In a study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, data showed more than 26% of all undergraduate students are parents. This equates to roughly 4.8 million undergraduate students raising children while going through their college careers. As of fall 2022, BYU had 31,389 undergraduate students, with 23% of the student body being married.

Zachary Bright, from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, is a senior majoring in philosophy with a one-year-old daughter. Bright said programs such as the Utah Women, Infants and Children program and Medicaid have made his life as both a student and a father a bit easier.

“They pretty such saved our lives. Groceries and hospital bills are incredibly expensive,” Bright said.

According to its website, WIC is a government program providing nutrition and breastfeeding services and supplemental foods to pregnant women, mothers, infants and children up to their fifth birthday. The organization also provides free language assistance and auxiliary aids.

While Bright thinks BYU does support students with children, he notes that many of the study abroad programs are catered to single students.

“Most if not all study abroad programs will not cover the cost for families,” Bright said.

He also hopes BYU professors will continue to remain flexible with expectant mothers, as has been his experience thus far.

Rachel Molen, a 2023 graduate of the applied and computational mathematics major at BYU, and her husband Cameron, a computer science major, are 39 weeks pregnant. The Molens are appreciative of all the university does to help student couples who are expecting.

“BYU does an excellent job supporting students that have children — I imagine better than any other university in the country,” Rachel Molen said.

Rachel Molen with her husband Cameron at graduation. Molen is 39 weeks pregnant. (Courtesy of Rachel Molen)

Although she is grateful for the university’s efforts to support student parents, she wishes the BYU Student Health Insurance would cover more treatment relating to prenatal care.

“It would be nice if BYU student health insurance offered more options for prenatal care. They do not oversee pregnancies, and the number of providers that the student insurance covers is quite limited,” Rachel Molen said.

This can weigh heavy on spouses as well, especially when it comes to trying to balance school while paying the medical bills.

“It can be a challenge to plan parenthood while also completing a degree, and sometimes the competing priorities crowd one another,” Cameron Molen said.

Another thing the Molens hope BYU will take into consideration is how pregnant students take exams.

“I do wish there was a bit more flexibility at the testing center surrounding pregnant students or students with any kind of health condition,” Molen said.

When she would take exams, she would often worry about feeling nauseous while testing and said the testing center is not a particularly helpful environment for women with morning sickness.

For students who are thinking of starting their families while in school, the Molens suggest reaching out to professors as soon as you feel comfortable to begin receiving accommodations. Amidst the stress and frustration of navigating school and parenthood, Bright encourages students to be kind to themselves.

Rachel Molen and her husband Cameron at their baby shower. Molen said BYU does a lot to help students but has some suggestions. (Courtesy of Rachel Molen)

“Just be patient with yourself and your baby. You probably will do something wrong and have moments of weakness, but it passes. Not only does it pass, it gets better,” Bright said.

Pregnant women can apply for services through the Utah Women, Children and Infants program’s website or by calling 1-877-WIC-KIDS.

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