Mothers Helpers recently put out an online survey seeking participants randomly, requesting them to give feedback of their experience as a student, the challenges they faced, the consequences of the stress they came under (if any) and what they would suggest might help them to successfully gain their qualification without that stress becoming unmanageable.
About the Respondents:
- 100 participated in the survey
- Of those 100, 53% were currently studying and 52% had previously studied whilst being a parent (some had obviously studied more than one time which is reflected in the results)
- 50% described themselves as a single parent, and 50% had a partner
- A range of universities, polytechnics and wanangas were represented including (but not limited to) SIT, Otago University, Massey University, Victoria University, Open Polytechnic, Canterbury University, Waikato University, Auckland University, Lincoln University, CPIT, UCOL, AUT, MIT, Unitec, Wintec and BOP Polytechnic.
What Challenges Did These Parents Face?
We asked parents to give a stress score between 1 and 5 – 1 meaning they experienced a low level of stress while 5 indicated a high level of stress. The following gave a high score of 4 or 5 to the following challenges they faced while studying:
- 73% said they experienced high stress (4 or a 5) due to insufficient rest from work/kids/study
- 70% of those it applied to (eg. single parents) said they experienced high stress due to “parenting alone”
- 71% said they experienced high stress due to demands on their time
- 71% said they experienced high stress due to financial strain
- 43% said they experienced high stress due to childcare challenges (finding suitable/affordable childcare options and factoring in waiting list issues)
- 35% said they experienced high stress due to no family support
In What Ways Did Stress Impact their Performance as a Student?
- An overwhelming 89% said they struggled to find time to study – 48% very often, 41% sometimes
- 81% said they found demands were too overwhelming – 21% very often, 60% sometimes
- 73% said they turned in assignments that weren’t their best because of demands on their time – 19% very often and 54% sometimes
- 75% said they struggled to fit placements in on top of childcare, study and work – 34% very often and 41% sometimes
- 33% of parents were late to class due to parental responsibilies: 6% said this happened very often and 27% said it happened sometimes
What Were the Consequences of that Stress?
- 73% said it affected the quality of their assignments
- 58% said it affected their mental health
- 51% said it affected their physical health
- 44% said it caused their children distress/anxiety
- 26% said it placed a strain on their relationship
- 23% sad it affected their attendance and performance at university/polytech
- 20% had to repeat some of their course
- 16% had to give up their part-time job
18% dropped out of university (or polytech) temporarily or permanently.
What Would Help?
We asked parents what would help to support them during their studies at university.
What parents wanted the most was:
- Empathic approach (from tutors) to parents who are struggling (29% said it would help a little, 56% said it would help a lot)
- Flexibility wherever possible (27% said it would help a little, 54% said it would help a lot)
- Better training for tutors on challenges facing adult students that are parents (25% said it would help a little, 47% said it would help a lot)
- Counsellor or support-person provided to talk through issues/give advice (29% said it would help a little, 34% said it would help a lot)
- On-site casual, short-term and long-term childcare centre (16% said it would help a little, 57% said it would help a lot)
- Placements, classes and assignments scheduled around school holidays (19% said it would help a little, 58% said it would help a lot)
- An 80% expected attendance rate rather than a 100% expected attendance rate (40% said would help a little, 20% said it would help a lot)
Are you studying as a parent? What challenges have you faced and what would help you get through it without some of the consequences of stress we’ve seen above such as the effects on your physical and mental health and the effects on your family?