Already balancing their education to include personal interest and career success, college-aged women say they now have another concern – the timing of career and family.
Sociology Prof. Sheila Bluhm said, compared to earlier generations, the current trend is for young people to begin their own families later in life.
“We know that especially students are delaying marriage,” Bluhm said, adding that she has noticed many graduate students organizing their lives to complete school before getting married.
But not all students are furthering their studies before having children, and some have put off graduate school to start a family.
Ann Arbor resident and University alum Jodi Mullet gave birth to her two children after completing her undergraduate studies but is delaying graduate school until her children are older.
“We’re younger now, we can keep up with them now,” Mullet said. She added that her desire to have a successful career directly after completing school may make it difficult to take time off for children later in life.
Bluhm said women entering the job market at a young age may have difficulties with businesses that expect them leave work to have children.
“I think it counts against younger women,” she said.
For those who choose to become mothers before furthering their career or education, Bluhm said an increasing number of corporations are recognizing many of their female employees as caregivers.
“Daycare is an important issue, particularly for single mothers,” Bluhm said. She added that among other benefits to businesses, implementing family-friendly policies and services would save businesses money by reducing absenteeism.
Daycare was also a hotly debated issue during the Graduate Employee Organization contract negotiations last winter.
Beatriz Ramirez, a Rackham student and instructor in the Residential College, said daycare for her one-year-old daughter is particularly difficult to find in Ann Arbor because of its cost and availability.
“I’ve never had daycare full-time because I cannot afford daycare,” Ramirez said. In part, she attributed the difficulty in finding affordable daycare to the needs the University was set up to serve.
The school developed with a primarily male student population and, because women were predominantly homemakers in the University’s earlier days, she said childcare for student-parents was not as much of concern as it is today.
“The institution hasn’t caught up,” Ramirez said. “It still baffles me.”
As a result, she spends her day taking care of her daughter and does her graduate work at night. “Timewise, it’s horrible,” Ramirez said. “Between the time and the money, it’s a lot of pressure.”
She added that the increased workload has already affected the amount of time it will take her to earn her degree.
Yet Ramirez admits that, because she is a student, her schedule does allow her to spend more time with her daughter than if both she and her husband worked full-time jobs.
Rackham student Amy Schiller, who studied graduate students with children for her undergraduate thesis, found many women waited to continue their education until their spouses had higher paying jobs.
“A lot of (women) were taking a long time to finish (graduate)
school,” she said, linking this to the combined time commitment of children and class.
In contrast, married men in graduate school “were finishing really fast.” She suggested that this was a result of men’s desires to provide an income to the household.
But changes may be in store for the future – some universities are starting to better accommodate older students and student-parents by offering night and weekend classes that work around job and childcare schedules.