When Slade Stoodley comes home after an ENGL 451 lecture on Victorian fairy tales, he likes to consult with his study buddy and three-year-old daughter, Evee.
Ever since Evee was born during Stoodley’s first-year exam period, being a student parent has been a balancing act.
“We knew right off the bat when I was going into school, that this was going to be a different dynamic from the rest of my colleagues—because I was going to be a young father,” he told The Journal in an interview.
Stoodley, ArtSci ’26, initially wanted to pursue a career as a forensic detective. He decided on an English degree after teaching ESL in Argentina as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His wife Elizabeth is from Kingston, so going to Queen’s was the “logical answer.”
Queen’s professors have been very accommodating, Stoodley said.
“Especially in first year, all my professors and TAs were aware that we were expecting a child. They were all very helpful and considerate, asking how things were going. I didn’t have any issues getting the accommodations to have my exams deferred.”
As an undergraduate student, Stoodley hasn’t really found a community at Queen’s. The few student parents he knows are mostly in graduate programs.
“I always feel weird. In my first-year psychology course, I was actually older than my TA,” he said, referencing how he took time off after high school.
“As I interact with students and colleagues, I find people that have similar interests, similar backgrounds. […] Those similarities help ease that sense of alienation that can kind of come up sometimes—especially when people are talking about things that are hot and current that I’m not aware of.”
Advertising the student parent community is something Queen’s could do better, according to Stoodley. The University should improve the accommodation system for student parents because kids can get sick too.
“Especially as after COVID, we’re getting more illnesses […] I know of other professors whose kids are just constantly getting sick. It stresses them out as well, as I know it would student parents,” Stoodley said.
As an older student and a father, Stoodley feels a lot of pressure to have everything figured out. With group presentations and assignments, building his schedule around his family and daughter’s bedtime is difficult.
“Don’t let being a parent stop you from going to university. You can do it. It’s worthwhile, and you’ll actually see it. Work for your family […] It’s not going to be a burden,” he said.
Before law school at Queen’s, Jessica Bazor, JD ’24, worked two jobs at Leon’s Furniture and the National Bank of Canada. She worked 72 hours a week.
As a part of her undergraduate criminology degree at Carleton, she went to the Elgin Street courthouse and realized it was what she wanted to do. With two kids, she now commutes between Ottawa and law school at Queen’s.
All student parent experiences are all “wildly different,” Bazor said.
“There are challenges that I definitely face that others don’t have. At the same time, there are more struggles other people have that I don’t,” she said in an interview with The Journal.
Despite this difference, Bazor and Stoodley have similar lifestyles. Bazor said she goes to the gym three times a week, where there’s a playroom for children. Stoodley also takes time to exercise, typically right in the morning.
They’re both early risers; Bazor wakes up between 5 and 7 a.m. and Stoodley around 4:45 a.m. After spending the day at school, both parents usually take the evening shift.
Having a supportive spouse is crucial. As Bazor commutes from Ottawa, she said having a partner to care for the kids has made a “huge” difference. Stoodley’s wife Elizabeth is a full-time mom, so the couple doesn’t have the financial burden of daycare.
Bazor also finds being a student parent isolating. Her life is too busy to meet new people, and having children can be a full-time job that’s emotionally taxing and causes sleep deprivation, she said.
While most of her peers are concerned with being successful, Bazor said she doesn’t feel the same extreme stress around school.
“I’m surrounded by my family all the time, for better or for worse. And basically, I already feel like I’ve won at life, everything else is just a cherry on top.”
Bazor said she doesn’t know many other students on campus are breastfeeding or pumping but that there should be more accessible spaces near the Law building—even if it’s just a multipurpose room. She noted the Ban Righ Centre on campus is useful for pumping.
The Ban Righ Centre has been supporting mature women since 1974 when it was opened on campus during the early days of the women’s movement, Director Susan Belyea said in an interview with The Journal.
From the 1920s to the mid-1970s, Queen’s residences were gender-separated. When the two were amalgamated, the women’s residences had a surplus, according to Belyea. From the surplus came the Ban Righ fund.
“To this day, our finances are a little bit different from the other student services at Queen’s because we do have these historic endowed funds that generate income that is specifically just for us,” Belyea said.
Today, Ban Righ supports women on campus through student advising for academic, financial, and personal issues. Filled with rooms for napping, meditating, and working, they’re responsive to student interests, Belyea said.
Work-study students or guest chefs make a hearty vegan soup for visitors every day, filled with beans and veggies.
“My favorite thing is when I can I come downstairs from my office and can just see the lounge is full of people eating soup; students are talking with students they didn’t come in with,” Belyea said.
The centre provides emergency bursaries, awards, and holds workshops. There are a lot of mothers on campus, and around half are international students, according to Belyea.
“Any student is welcome to come in and use our services. […] Any mature women students or moms are welcome to come in and use our student advising and our emergency bursary services.”
She added there’s “very little” specific funding for student parents from the University and government, and it’s inconsistent and inadequate.
She said programs that address food insecurity and the lack of options for parents are the “most significant” things Queen’s has done recently.
“Sometimes families break down in complicated ways. And sometimes students are the ones who are best situated, most stable or whatever, and able to look after a child.”
Some parents have been coming to the centre for around four or five years and their kids have grown up there.
“They’ve been there for several events, and they start to really know the place, and then they take ownership, which is adorable. You find them running around all over the place.”
Ban Righ is a place of support for any student. Belyea referenced Iranian women who witnessed horrifying events, and students in the weeks following the Turkish earthquakes.
“We become a really, really central part of that Queen’s experience for a significant number of students.”
Certain groups of student parents, such as graduate and professional students, can seek support from other means.
“The [SGPS] covers a number of students. It covers all those students in the School of Graduate Studies, and postdoctoral affairs, […] as well as Law students, medical students, and consecutive education students,” SGPS President Beth Langdon, JD ’24, said in an interview with The Journal.
The SGPS currently provides financial assistance, a student advisor program, and mental health support—areas that are meant to support specific issues affecting graduate and professional students.
Devin Fowlie, vice-president (graduate) of the SGPS, touched upon the specific issues that student parents face.
“Graduate student parents are a unique group of students in that they face additional pressures not only financially in supporting their children, but also with their time. This makes financial stability incredibly important.”
Currently, all graduate students are financially supported through funding packages which begin at a minimum of $20,000 and average around $24,000. This figure is before tuition, which is deducted from the package, leaving students with a smaller amount. This fund is meant to cover living expenses such as rent and groceries.
However, both Fowlie and Langdon admit the money from these funding packages is not enough for students, much less for student parents.
Funding packages depend heavily on federal and provincial contributions which have remained stagnant and largely unchanged for the past 15 years, according to Fowlie. Although the University also contributes to funding, Fowlie said that the contribution is limited.
“The University is a very large operation which has many expenses to manage […] It’s often a delicate balance to ensure that all priorities are being managed.”
The result is funding that’s become less and less adequate to cover the rising cost of living, increasing the financial stress on an already financially vulnerable population, Fowlie said.
Langdon added the Kingston housing crisis has contributed to the inadequacy of current funding packages.
“I would say with Queen’s the main issue that compounds our situation compared to other schools is the cost of living in Kingston has increased quite a lot in the last few years […] Last year, the vacancy rate in Kingston was 1.2 per cent.”
“People with children, they’re more likely to need a two bedroom or perhaps even more bedroom unit. […] The cost of the two-bedroom unit was up 4.9 per cent.”
When asked what the SGPS is doing to increase funding, Fowlie discussed the role they have advocating on behalf of students and their goal to work with the University to resolve students’ financial burden.
“How it works in Kingston is there’s a centralized waitlist […] and in some cases, the wait to get into a daycare can be over two years. […] That just makes it more difficult for students to get into Queen’s daycare because they’re not around for long enough.”
“It’s not that our admissions policies were prioritizing faculty or staff or anything like that. It’s this, there’s this structural problem of the waitlist.”
Access to childcare is not an issue specific to Queen’s. According to Pasolli, decades of neglect within the childcare sector has created a national shortage of high-quality licensed spaces.
“I would say there’s a massive shortage bordering on crisis, and that’s not unique to Queen’s Daycare. This is a Kingston problem, and it’s also a Canada-wide problem.”
Another challenge daycares face is ensuring workers are treated fairly, especially regarding compensation. Staff turnover is an issue daycares are facing, which is hugely taxing to resources given how new staff must always be retrained.
Pasolli is an advocate for public investment in childcare and spoke to the benefits a new federal program would provide in terms of worker compensation.
“With this new Canada-wide early learning and childcare program we are seeing the shift to more public investment, but what I think would help more than anything is making sure some of this public money is earmarked specifically for the workforce,” she said.
Pasolli also mentioned the benefit public investment has on reducing the cost of childcare for parents, especially financially burdened student parents.
“Queen’s Daycare fees have gone down by about 50 per cent in the last several months, which is huge and makes it way more accessible for families, especially students who are living on a low income.”
As more awareness is drawn towards childcare and issues student parents face, strides are beginning to be made to support an important community within Queen’s.
“The pandemic really highlighted how crucial it is to invest in caregiving. Not just for working mothers, but for everyone in society,” she said.
—With files from Anne Fu
Childcare, children, Parenthood
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