Since most students are young, single, and child-free while student mothers are not, it can be extremely difficult for a mom to get all her work done while dealing with all her other responsibilities.
While I believe there are things moms themselves can do to make their school lives more family-friendly, that’s a post for another day. Today I wanted to talk about what colleges and universities can do.
Some schools already do at least some of these things. And if your school doesn’t, it might be possible for people to work either individually or together to help create some of these changes.
Here’s my philosophy behind these ideas: school is work, too. Why couldn’t we create policies similar to those that exist in the workplace?
- Create scholarships for mothers, especially single mothers.
- Allow parental leaves for parents with new babies, including holding their places in time-intensive programs and temporarily suspending scholarships.
- Create more independent study programs, even at traditional universities.
- Provide changing rooms in both men’s and women’s restrooms and pumping rooms for breastfeeding moms.
- Have official policies in place about bringing infants to class.
- Allow exceptions to time rules for certain programs and academic positions, and allow part-time schedules (so medical students wouldn’t have to put in 48-hour shifts while caring for crying babies and prospective tenure track professors with families could still realistically move toward their goals).
- Have child care facilities available.
- Allow breaks during examinations, especially for nursing mothers.
- Sell and/or rent baby and child care supplies on campus.
- Regularly review admittance and hiring policies to be sure that discrimination against mothers isn’t occurring.
- Encourage support groups for parents and non-traditional students, which could include some kind of mentoring and resources student parents could turn to for help.
- Ensure that student medical insurance policies, especially maternity policies, are fair.
These are just ideas, and I realize that coming up with ideas and implementing them are completely different processes. But I also think that change isn’t possible unless we have a vision of what it might look like.
What do you think? Do you have any other ideas? How could the academic environment be more family-friendly?