Member Stories: Anonymous GEO Member/Grad Employee and Parent

Here’s another testimonial from a GEO member and parent, who wished to remain anonymous. We can win better working and living conditions, but only if we all come together and fight for them! We hope all members will come by our General Membership Meeting, tonight from 6:30-7:30 at the Channing Murray Foundation!

“I am a PhD candidate and a mother to a 2 year old little girl. I am somewhat of a non-traditional graduate student in that I went from undergraduate to a Master’s program and while finishing my Master’s degree, I started working full-time as a lab instructor at a university. I worked at the university for 4 years before starting at UIUC in a PhD program. I have been in the current program for six years. If you add all those years together, I am not a typical 22/23 year old graduate student who came directly out of undergrad. After 3 years in the program, my husband and I decided to start a family. Yes, this was actively our decision. We wanted a family, and our ages were a deciding factor. At this time in the lab where I work, I was the senior graduate student and the defacto lab manager. Anything that needed done was sent to me and I took care of the problem. My advisor mentioned several times that I was invaluable. Apparently I was invaluable only until I became pregnant. Once my advisor learned that I was pregnant, my 67% assistantship was cut to 56%. An 11% pay cut is a major amount when you’re a student, especially a student who is now expecting a child. My husband and I scrambled to find a reasonably priced caregiver. Many of the best daycares charge upwards of $250/week! That is 49.8% of my monthly income. The in home daycares that are certified by DCFS are $175/week. This is 34.9% of my monthly income which is marginally more affordable, but not much. So, we were left with leaving our baby girl at an in-home daycare that was not certified by DCFS, but is still 26.9% of my monthly income. The same week we started our daughter in this daycare, there was a major national news story about a mom who left her son with a noncertified daycare provider and who paid the ultimate price. I was terrified, as any parent would be. And, because my pay was cut, because I was not protected, because I couldn’t afford a better place, my daughter continued in a noncertified day care. Thankfully, my daycare provider was an excellent person, but it is unfortunate that I was forced into this position. I should have been able to send her to a daycare with proper oversight. This is the position that many graduate employee parents are forced into.

The argument that it is our decision to become parents, while true, is disrespecting us as people and as productive members of the university. Yes, it was our decision to start a family. But, my desire to pursue knowledge and higher education should not come at the cost of my desire to have a family. And my basic right to have a family should be protected within the halls of academia.”