Just like that, we are back for another academic year! The last time I wrote a B-2 B-Well column, we were only at the beginning of this remote journey and words like “PPE,” “quarantine,” and “unprecedented” had not yet become part of our everyday vocabulary. Now, we are well-versed in the netiquette of Zoom (“Would whoever isn’t muted please do so?”), and we grab our mask along with our keys, wallet, and phone as we walk out the door. 

While we all still face unexpected difficulties, GSAS student-parents are also dealing with the immense challenge of parenting during a pandemic. Approximately 300 student-parents are juggling added childcare costs or other strains on their finances, as well as multiple schedules, remote schooling, and social isolation. Others are planning or expecting to become parents for the first time.

In fact, my partner and I are welcoming our first new addition to our family in December. I am finding myself overwhelmed and challenged by the prospect of navigating a landscape where childcare is both scarce and expensive – and I’m not even in graduate school. Navigating pregnancy, foster care, adoption, or other methods of family planning can be wonderful and exciting, but it also can be complicated in ways that are unique to each of us. You may still be in the planning stage, but the resources mentioned throughout this article are for you too. Get acquainted with them — especially Parental Accommodation and Financial Support. Reach out early, and if you need help navigating options or having conversations with your advisor, department, or others, let’s connect and talk things through!

A few weeks ago, the GSAS Student-Parents Organization hosted a virtual event that many participants found extremely helpful called Life-Hacks for Student-Parents: An Empathetic Strategy Session. The advice that came through was clear: 

Take care of yourself.” What are you doing for you? No, not for your advisor, kids, parents, or friends… for YOU, Mama/Papa! If you’re hearing crickets, that might be a sign to spend a little more of your energy on yourself. You may not suddenly be able to carve out an hour for a solo workout, meditation, or time with friends, but you can start with small goals. Five minutes of deep breathing, a cup of coffee, or writing in a gratitude journal can sometimes go a lot further than washing dishes or scrolling Instagram. If you’re looking for some fun fall-themed ideas for self-care or seasonal activities, check out the Office of Student Service’s Virtual Bulletin Board for October. We’ve collected some content to make the switch to autumn a little easier!

Be proud of yourself for being a student-parent.” How many people can say they earned a graduate degree AND were a parent at the same time? Look around… not many! Being a student-parent is tough. Acknowledge that, and all that you do every day to balance these two responsibilities. As I always say, do your best and leave the rest!

Celebrate moments of pride.” Did you remember to bring your kiddo’s favorite item for show-and-tell? Awesome. Did you forget because you were preparing for your lab presentation? That’s okay too! Focus on using this as a teachable moment for your child. Work together to ask the teacher for another show-and-tell day, talk about making mistakes, and come up with a reminder plan together. Heck, maybe you’ll find a new favorite show-and-tell item along the way! 

Find other student-parents who understand and connect.” Being part of a community decreases feelings of isolation and provides you with a network of people, ideas, resources, and support to rely on. Join the GSAS Student-Parents Organization listserv, Facebook group, or look into other parent groups in your local area. Now, remember that part of connecting to communities means using them to the fullest. Reach out and ask them for help! Create a village, especially as we navigate the reality of school closures due to increased COVID cases. 

Take advantage of the resources.” Know what resources exist and use them. PhD students can access Care.com services for children, pets, and adult care. While you’re there, check out some additional family resources, such as workshops from the Academic Resource Center that can help you address balance, time management, and remote learning with little ones at home. 

Lastly, if you feel like you are struggling, the Office of Student Services is here to steer you to resources, to talk about balancing family priorities and academic responsibilities, or simply to listen. 

Be kind and take good care of yourselves and one another. Remember to virtually visit B-2 and B-Well! 

B-2 B-Well: Wellness Tips for Parents