Photo: Maiah Khin

Academic Parenting is Heckin’ Stressful

Stephanie Johnston tells us the woes of academic parenting.

You’re not alone in feeling this way – two weeks into the new semester and I know I’m not the only one feeling personally victimised by the sheer intensity of third year. Between trying to adjust to the new workload, a brand new timetable (or lack thereof – hello, 4 contact hours a week) and a bunch of extracurriculars, third year is already gearing up to be kind of overwhelming. All of this before even embarking on that grand odyssey of the year – academic parenting.

As someone who had been reluctant to even be adopted myself (17 year-old me didn’t quite know how to respond to a culture of ambiguously sardonic “Daddy” related Crushes posts), I was undecided as to whether or not to take part in this particular tradition. In spite of my own fantastic Raisin experience, my lovely academic parents and my love for every other mad tradition our little town goes in for, I just wasn’t sure if parenting was my shtick.

Yet, I was inspired to give it a go, lest I should someday reach the grand old age of a graduate and, in a nostalgia-fuelled bout of afternoon self-reflection, realise that I probably should have gotten more involved in one of our university’s oldest (and most iconic) traditions.

Photo: Maiah Khin

Two weeks and five academic kids later, I don’t regret this decision. However, I think that more needs to be said for the already stressed out third years who decide to take on parenting and a little bit of admiration is due to those who realised early on that the fun-to-responsibility ratio of Raisin is a lot more in favour of the designated ‘druncle’ than the parent.

I’m not claiming that all academic parents are saints, or that we deserve acclaim and reward for giving a couple of weekends of our academic lives to Family Time (and anyway, if academic parenting is done well, those weekends become more about spending time with friends who happen to be two years younger than you than babysitting). But, I am saying that academic parenting is still an investment and a major responsibility, which, much like real parenting, is just not suited to everyone.

Beside the time investment, the money spent on alcohol, food and activities for Raisin weekend (and any other pre-Raisin gatherings if you’re feeling particularly flush), parenting adds a little bit of psychological pressure to an already stressful time. What if your kids don’t want you? What if you pick the wrong kids, totally incompatible with you and your adopting partner(s)? What if your kids hate each other? What if you completely fail on every front, totally and irrevocably ruining your kids’ one and only experience of, arguably, St Andrews’ most famous weekend? All thoughts which bring back that same uncomfortable self-consciousness which cropped up so much throughout high school – feelings of incompetence, undesirability or just general uncoolness which you definitely thought you’d long since transcended in your journey through uni.

Photo: Zoe Spirgel

In any case, these feelings are valid – it is scary trying to take on the responsibility of other people’s first experiences, which could shape their perception of life here for years to come. It’s also scary trying to be the ‘cool mom’ for people who honestly just happened to be at Tinchy Stryder the same time as you, and being manically compelled to try and show them a really good time.

All in all, academic parenting is shaping up to be an amazing part of my final years here – between my kiddos, academic husband and massive extended family of other adopting third year friends, I’m less intimidated by the prospect of pseudo-parenting for a few weekends. That said, we shouldn’t be afraid to admit that we are overwhelmed and that we might need a bit of help with the whole affair – after all, we were kids ourselves just two years ago.

Do whatever you need to do to take a little bit of the pressure off and ensure that Raisin (and the rest of the year) is a fun time for all the family.

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