We’ve all been there. You’re in class, the teacher is lecturing about some obscure scholarly theory or complicated math problem. Taking notes carefully, you become distracted when you notice a baby a few rows ahead of you. The small child glances curiously around the room, smiling at students who meet their eye and babbling a few incomprehensible noises. The learning environment is just as efficient as it had been before the baby was present, but suddenly, an ear-splitting cry rings out across the auditorium. A common reaction is to become annoyed, cast a few piercing looks at their parent, maybe the professor even stops the lecture to single out the upset child and frazzled mother even more. Though it’s easy to understand how these situations can be disruptive, it’s not fair to judge women who bring their children to class.
The culturally held belief that women who have children should become stay at home mothers is outdated and classist. Modern mothers receive more support and opportunity to pursue careers and interest outside of their children. Fathers are often permitted leave to spend time with newborns and many don’t feel pressure to conform to the traditional breadwinner role, choosing to stay at home with children and share an equal partnership with their significant others. This contemporary narrative is changing the way society views raising children but is still inaccessible to those families that cannot afford to live off of one salary or take leave from work every week. Childcare is expensive and asking family members for help isn’t always an option. These limiting factors can stand in the way of women pursuing a degree, and who shouldn’t be forced to choose between their child and their dreams. Mothers who go to school extend themselves in so many ways and should be commended for their determination — going to school part/full time as well as caring for another human is hard work.
Students without children feel entitled that their learning environment should be free of children, an attitude that can bar mothers from the academic community and reinforce gender stereotypes that women with children should be in the home. Childcare itself is a privilege that not everyone has access to, and we as a learning society should accept and support these mothers that may have no other option than to bring their children to class. So next time you feel annoyed that a student had the audacity to bring their child to class, stop. Take a moment to evaluate your judgment and the reality of modern motherhood. Mothers who go to school are incredible members of society who we should continue to raise up and support.
Resources for Family and Child Care at the University of Utah: https://childcare.utah.edu/
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