Thinking about returning to school while you're raising a child? You wouldn't be alone at Bastyr University. More than 10 percent of our students are parents who balance studies with child care. It's no cake walk, but parents determined to make it work find an array of support services to help them along.
"It's a constant juggling act," says Erin Prasad, who is raising an 11-month-old and a 13-year-old while pursuing a Master of Science in Nutrition with Didactic Program in Dietetics (MSN/DPD). "I have that three-balls-in-the-air feeling all the time. It's busy, but it's rewarding."
Seeing other babies around campus convinced Prasad she could have a second child without giving up her education.
"I just thought, if there's a place it's possible to go to grad school with a young baby, it's here," she says.
Here's a look at some of our resources for parents:
1. Bastyr Parent Resource Center (PRC)
Bastyr's on-campus drop-in care center provides professional care for children ages 3 months to 5 years. The colorful center on the ground floor includes play areas, a nap room, an outdoor playground and age-appropriate curricula. Providers welcome specific instructions from parents on things like foods, nap times and diapers (cloth and disposable are both OK).
Prasad enjoys that she can specify her daughter's nap times, whether she is rocked, has a pacifier or white noise or other special requests. She appreciates that the PRC's rates and provider-child ratios are better than most centers in the area.
After operating as a student-run co-op for the past several years, the center will become a formal part of the University this summer. That will free up head provider Michele Tobias to focus on additional programming and organizing new support groups for parents (she welcomes questions at prc[at]bastyr[dot]edu).
"The majority of parents that I know do it well," Tobias says. "I'm constantly amazed at their ability to juggle everything."
2. Pediatrics education
One of the unexpected perks of Prasad’s coursework has been learning about child health and development. Her nutrition courses taught her how to take infant food measurements and about how nutrition needs change during development. Students in other programs learn approaches to pediatric care as part of their core coursework as well. A student pediatrics club also organizes activities and lectures for parents.
3. "After Hours" forum
Bastyr's online message board is a popular place for students, staff, faculty and alumni to find used items, babysitters or advice from a health-minded community. Participants often give away or sell things like baby food jars, clothes, strollers and other equipment.
4. Remote classroom viewing
Larger classrooms include video feeds that allow parents to view their classes from private campus rooms with TVs. That helps them spend time with their children during the day or be available for nursing/feeding.
5. Lactation rooms
The Kenmore campus and the Seattle teaching clinic, Bastyr Center for Natural Health offer quiet, private lactation rooms with hospital-grade breast pumps.
6. Playground, fields and trails at St. Edward State Park
Our next-door neighbor offers forested trails, a small beach on Lake Washington and a free summer concert series popular with young families. The park's extensive Northwest-themed playground (check it out) includes a tree house, ferry-boat sandbox, light house, back-hoe digger, hollow cedar-tree tower and climbing net. Our campus has its own gardens and ball fields for young ones to burn off energy as well.
7. Supportive campus atmosphere
Most of all, Prasad says she appreciates the many small signs that the campus welcomes parents and children, such as changing tables in both women's and men's restrooms. When Prasad told her advisor she was pregnant, she received help weighing different scenarios, such as taking a year off or working on her degree part-time. In the end she took a quarter off and returned part-time.
"I've learned a lot about prioritizing this year," she says. "It's doable. Other people are doing it. It's hard, but there's help."
For questions about parent resources at Bastyr, contact Michele Tobias (prc[at]bastyr[dot]edu, (425) 602-3302).