Balancing School and Family, Fatherhood, Parenting, Student Life

Juggling Fatherhood and Academia

Fathers have a huge role to play in their children’s lives. In anticipation of our upcoming workshop “Fatherhood: How Dads Can Encourage Self-Regulation in their Children,” we’ve interviewed Juan Pablo, a PhD student, father of 3 young children, and our Outreach & Communications Coordinator for U of T Mississauga, to learn about how he balances his family responsibilities with school.

Being a Student and a Parent Concurrently

Compared to his former job in the Mexican government, Juan Pablo shared that his PhD program allows for plenty of time to spend with his family. While formerly he might not return home until 11 or 12 at night, JP is now able to make every meal with his little ones. For JP, his roles as a father and student complement one another. He explained,

“when you do a PhD you’re always reading. You need a break, and sometimes you get lonely. My family helps me to be in contact with people. My family is a huge help to have a break and to think about other things.” JP spoke about how in a PhD program “you have much more room to breathe. If you manage your time well, it’s a really good moment to have a kid.”

In addition to taking reading breaks, Juan Pablo finds that going for walks with his wife is helpful. This is because they can talk about family stuff as well as things related to his studies. Says JP, these walks “help me to relax. Then the ideas just come to me.” It’s important to engage with life outside of school no matter how intensive your program is. By scheduling in mandatory family time, Juan Pablo is able to stay balanced.

Tips for New Fathers

JP’s number one tip is to prioritize spending time with your partner after the birth of your little one. This is important because having a baby

“creates pressure for the couple.” He reminds new parents to “make sure you’re spending enough time with your partner. As long as the parents are fine with each other, the baby is fine.”

Says JP, “my kids and my wife come first, always. If you’re organized then you’re prepared; you’ll have time for work and time for your family.” 

While it’s wonderful to have a new addition to your family, make sure you remember to give your other loved ones the time they need.

Pointers for Juggling Fatherhood and School

While people often think that being a parent and student at the same time is a huge challenge, JP begs to differ! He suggests that although difficulties of course arise, JP credits the concurrent roles as helping him to stay organized. For him,

“the responsibility to get up in the morning, get the kids ready for school creates a schedule for you. It structures your time. In that sense I think it’s easier with kids, it forces you to stay active.”

For JP, having family care responsibilities has helped him to gain structure as long as he dedicates time for his family members as well as for himself. To this end, JP studies for the entire period that his kids are at school. When his children return, he has a break with them and then takes two more hours to study before a family dinner. On the weekends he dedicates one day completely to his children and the other exclusively to his school work.

JP stresses the importance of having strong communication with your partner.

“You should together decide the family’s schedules and have an equal say in everything.”

FCO Resources

Want to chat more about being a dad? Come out to our Fatherhood lunch and learn on Wednesday, May 17th. You’ll learn how to support your children in mastering their emotions and making healthy choices as well as meet other U of T-affiliated dads!

Also, check out our in-office library! We’ve got tons of books on fatherhood including the kid-friendly activity book Come On Dad!, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, and The Expectant Father, a month-by-month guide to all the changes that fathers-to-be may experience during the duration of their partners’ pregnancies!

Baby sleeping on father's chest under fuzzy taupe blanket.