The Internet is getting teary-eyed over a picture posted of a high school teacher holding a young mother’s baby. The now-viral photo was posted by Kimmy Lopez, a mother of a 10-month-old boy she brought to class because she couldn’t afford day care.
Lopez, currently finishing her high school education in a re-engagement program in Springfield, Massachusetts, lives in a shelter with her young son. Lopez was rightly worried that a lack of child care would hold her back, since few high schools and colleges have day care facilities on-site. Fortunately high school administrators were sympathetic to Lopez’s situation and allowed the young mom to take her son to school with her each day. Lopez says her former teacher, Mr. Guy, went the extra mile by babysitting her son during school hours so she could study and graduate with her class.
Posted only three days ago, this photo has been zipping through Facebook, with more than 3,000 shares and nearly 10,000 likes. The Internet is going crazy for the teacher’s random act of kindness because it’s something we don’t see often enough: no-strings-attached support for parents returning to school or work.
In the past year, we’ve seen two other cases of teachers accommodating single parents in class. Psychology professor Sydney Engelberg made headlines back in May for holding a student’s fussy baby as he taught a lecture (a photo Lopez included in her original Facebook post). A few months later, a photo of DeVry University’s Professor Joel Bunkowske went viral when he also held a single mother’s active toddler during class. And now we have Mr. Guy, a kindhearted teacher who was willing to babysit during class so a high school mother could finish her education.
We know by now that teachers are the (overworked and underpaid) unsung heroes, but these teachers willing to help a single parent in a bind are running ahead of the pack. Teachers who reach out to students who are parents are the ones making a real difference — by changing the way we view parents as a culture.
Yesterday’s piece in The New York Times painted a pretty grim view for working parents in general, calling the typical modern family “stressed, tired, rushed.” The article pointed out that, based on the most recent Pew research, even two-parent families aren’t really having it all. Working parents, who are now in the majority, since most children live in a home where both parents work, always feel pressured and pressed for time. Workplaces aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. While it’s not practical for parents to bring kids to work and class every day, there’s still a big problem we haven’t figured out a solution for: Most employers and schools don’t know how to support parents.
Save for a few select companies, most parental leave policies are dismal, and maternity leave has become a joke. Child care costs are beyond ridiculous, and most local day care facilities don’t offer extended hours for working parents with nontraditional schedules. And just try to go back to school after having a kid — good luck with that one. As we already mentioned, colleges, and especially high schools, have very few on-site child care options. Paying for child care while paying for school without a full-time job is damn near impossible.
In this heartwarming viral story, we see a high school teacher helping out a teen mom in need, but the underlying message remains the same. When teachers reach out to parents in high school or college, they’re not just helping one student — they’re showing how much change is needed across the board. If schools and employers start coming up with alternatives inspired by the teachers who have made their classrooms child friendly, we just might solve our cultural parenting problem. When we make it easier for parents to succeed, we have more people willing to learn and to work, and everybody wins.