Homework with Matthew: Sharing the Role of Student

Most research (and opinion) seems to focus on the negative aspect of a mother who is attending college. This could be coming more from the idea of the “good mother” stereotype we have talked about in the past, but I can’t say that for sure. Whatever the reason, there hasn’t always been a positive message toward the idea of a mother who attends college. As such a person I have searched for information on this topic because I want to know if being a student is harming my child. Well, according to studies done it doesn’t harm my child but helps him.

I enjoy doing homework with my son Matthew and he enjoys my involvement as well. On certain days I don’t get to help him or study with him, but on many occasions I do. It’s nice to have this kind of special bond between us. In a research article entitled, “College Mothers in the Dual Roles of Student and Parent” the correlation between a mother in college and the effects on her child’s attitude about school are examined. I was incredibly encouraged by this study because FINALLY I have found something concrete to support my belief.

My belief? That being in college while raising school aged children is not going to negatively impact my children but instead will be a benefit to them.

The article states, “Mothers attending college are in a unique position as parents; they share with their school-age children the important and demanding social role of student” which is so true. It is a very unique experience and relationship I have started to build with my son. We have something in common – school. Doing homework together is actually enjoyable and because I am currently immersed in academics I feel capable of helping him with subjects I wouldn’t otherwise feel confident in. The article continues on to say, “Rather than characterizing the relationship between mothers’ school and family microsystems as one merely of conflict and competition over limited resources, the attitudes that college mothers develop in their student role are viewed as informing, and possibly enhancing, their parenting of a school-age child.” I agree with this. One such incident is working on math with my son. I am not a “math person” but I did do fairly well in college math — well enough to tutor him with something he was struggling with. Between the tutoring and encouragement and quite a few pep talks on how wonderful school can be, Matthew went from a D in math on his first report card to a B-. I don’t take full credit but I do believe I did play some role in that.

And while academic abilities can play a role, it is actually the mothers motivational orientation that seemed to have an affect on their children. Through the research they found that a mother’s motivational orientation did impact a child’s own motivational orientation as well. Not only does it directly affect the child’s motivation but also through tools the mother is able to provide. Here is a chart provided in the research: (click to enlarge)



So the reason for this post is to tell you who are mothers in college and especially with school-aged children: don’t feel discouraged or as though you are harming your child. You may in fact be helping your child and creating a bond that a non-college mother simply won’t have with their child. You have this opportunity to be an example to your child in many ways and that is something special. I love studying with Matthew, sharing in his victories and him sharing in mine. Not only that but he wants to go to college because he sees me enjoying myself in my studies — I think that is important.

I will continue to research this topic, but I hope this study brings you peace of mind if you have been struggling with this topic!


Reference: Ricco, Robert, Sarah Sabet, and Cassandra Clough. “College Mothers In The Dual Roles Of Student And Parent.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 55.1 (2009): 79-110. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Feb. 2014.

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