Diapers and deadlines, balancing parenthood and education

Oshawa is home to many young parents. About 25 of every 1,000 young women here between the ages of 15 to 19 have a baby every year, according to the provincial health ministry.


Many of these parents attend Durham College as it is home to one of the only colleges in Durham Region.


Danielle Alford, 20, is taking the Emergency Call Center program as well as raising a two-year-old daughter.


Alford travels regularly between homes in Uxbridge and Oshawa and says her biggest struggle is being on time.


“Trying to get from home to the daycare to school in a certain amount of time is impossible,” Alford says.


However, having her daughter all the time does come with its problems. She was a stay at home mom for the first two years of her daughter’s life. Alford says she is glad to get some time out of the house now.


Attending school 18 to 20 hours a week, she says so far she hasn’t found many difficulties with balancing it. Alford says if you have a good support system you can do almost anything. You would not be able to do it without them, she explains.


Alford says some people question her as a mother. When out with friends, she hears things like, “Why are you out right now, you have a kid?” Activities that an everyday college student does are deemed inappropriate because of the stigma attached to it.


From a father’s perspective Cody Stephenson, 20, attends school while balancing time with his three-year-old son. Though the child lives with his mother, Stephenson still has homework and his part-time job at the General Motors Centre to worry about, on top of being a father.


Stephenson says his biggest struggle is trying to find more time to see his son. He gets four to five hours with him every Monday, and on alternating weekends. As a full-time Protection, Security, and Investigation student, he is in school anywhere from 30 to 35 hours a week, and works five to six hours as well.


“When he’s there, it’s all about him and school comes after,” Stephenson explains.


Stephenson says his biggest support is family when it comes to him and his son. If he falls behind on payments or needs some extra money for diapers, he turns to his family for help.


“A lot of people put young parents down,” Stevenson says. Some people think that young parents spend their time drinking, partying and not supporting their child Stephenson says. But what they don’t understand is “You really don’t get time to be a college student…you come home, you go to work, you look after your kid.”


He has been referred to as a deadbeat many times and says stigma is a big problem that comes along with being a young father. Whether it’s about his child’s future, or his lifestyle, Stephenson says he has daily struggles.


Stephenson believes Durham College should offer more support to students with children.


There should be a club specifically for parents, he says, to meet and discuss things.


“I really don’t know of any at all… if you have a kid, then put him in the daycare come to class and then get him when your done,” he says. Alford also emphasizes the convenience of the on-campus daycare, but says it is not reasonably priced for single parent students.


Young parents are faced with stigma and struggles of balancing school and home life and although mothers and fathers may play different roles in their child’s life, they are still faced with many of the same obstacles.


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Taylor Waines is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. When it comes to writing and reporting, she enjoys covering concerts, health concerns and student issues. She likes to spend her spare time writing, and drawing. Taylor hopes to continue feature writing following graduation.