Student Life

Tips & Tricks FOR Student Parents FROM Student Parents

Text: Tips & Tricks from Chaos Coordinators (aka Student Parents)
Image: Scattered books and food

The Family Care Office collected tips and tricks from student parents over the start of the fall semester. Some of the tips were submitted in writing, and some provided by the student parents who spoke as part of the FCO’s student parent panel that took place October 14, 2022. Here they are, compiled in alphabetical order, not order of importance! If you have a tip to add, add it as comment! It takes a village.

  • Access the Family Care Office.
  • Add yourself to listservs and lists. Learn about what is happening on and off campus.
  • Appreciate your support network. I was lucky to have a group of advisors, mentors, and colleagues who fully supported my decision of PhD parenthood. They knew and understood my family situation and worked to ensure that I met my PhD milestones. In the end, any student’s success – with or without babies – depends on the support networks at school and beyond. I could not have finished my studies without the support of my mentors and extended family.
  • Be brave enough to dive into the unknown.
  • Check out U of T STEM programming for kids.
  • Check with college/department to ask if any funds are available to support students with families, especially single parents.
  • Cherish your family time.  Most people envision children as an impediment to their studies. It can be true. But it is also true that children can save you from many unproductive nights and weekends and teach you to be highly efficient. After “forced” breaks at a zoo, aquarium, park, and others, I craved to return to my dissertation work. I appreciated my intellectual labor, peers, and workspaces all the more, thanks to my energetic children. These family times were central to my intellectual creativity and persistence to the finish line.
  • Communicate with your professors in advance, as much as possible, if you might miss a deadline.
  • Create connections with professors.
  • Delegate chores among family members. Family members of all ages are capable and benefit from contributing to the household.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist!
  • Explore childcare options early, and ask the Family Care Office for childcare information.
  • Explore the EarlyON programming around the city, especially if you are on leave.
  • For grad students, join a Graduate Writing Group or a Grad Productivity Group to dedicate time for your work with fellow graduate students. Undergrads and graduate students can join Study Hubs to complete readings, work on assignments and prepare for tests and exams.
  • Hold on to your “rope” of intellectual work. Having and taking care of a newborn for months or longer is a very different kind of work from the intellectual work that we do as students. First-time parenthood is especially difficult. But I believe it is essential to continue your intellectual work in one way or another as parents, so that you can spring back up to your studies after life-changing events of birthing and childrearing.
  • I needed to realise that I might be able to have it all, but not necessarily at the same time. Taking a break from studies is okay. (Check out SGS leave of absence policy & parental grant.)
  • If you have a child with disabilities, U of T and other places are not as accessible as they could be. You will need to advocate and keep asking questions.
  • It takes a village.
  • Junior Blues has classes and programs for kids.
  • Look for the many free opportunities and events.
  • Make sleep non-negotiable. Rest will help you to be more efficient, productive and less grumpy!
  • Make use of the libraries and library services. Use virtual library services such as librarian chat. Check out OISE’s library, and the family space at Robarts.
  • Meet with academic advisors.
  • Parenting is a hard job which teaches patience and prioritizing.
  • Practice self-care through movement! Go for a nature walk, do a Youtube yoga session, or find a class on campus!
  • Seek out family/children’s programs at your local library or recreation centre to connect with resources and families in your local community!
  • Start your research early. Toronto is one of the best places to start a family and raise children. It is also a great place for student families because of the generous city subsidies for daycare. But like everyone else, if you plan to send your child to a daycare, you need to start the research early, sign up for subsidy and daycare waitlists while you are pregnant, and decide how your child will be taken care of when you are engaged in academic work. Having consistent, reliable daycare was essential in my experience.
  • Support networks are especially important for single parents.
  • The Daniels faculty has some programming for kids, as well as astronomy and music.
  • The downtown YMCA has good programming for kids (as do other YMCAs!).
  • The Toronto Public Library system is a great place for kids and parents.
  • There are times when things will be challenging. Let go of the myth of the superparent.
  • Things can be beautiful and challenging at the same time.
  • Treasure moments. Taking it slow is okay.
  • Try to form a support network with other students with families, especially if you do not have family nearby. Friendships with other parents will support you, and give kids a chance to play with other kids.
  • Use on-campus resources and supports. I recommend the FCO’s virtual workshops, library services, and on-campus writing centers.