A proud struggle with school and motherhood

Daily Sundial

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I found out I was pregnant my last semester of community college. It wasn’t an accident, like some woman had the audacity to say to me once, but “a surprise.”

I had been in a monogamous relationship with someone for five years. Although this wasn’t in our immediate plans, I was excited about being a mother. What no one could have prepared me for was being a student mother.

It was already overwhelming to start school. For most of us transfer students, community college doesn’t quite prepare us for what a university is like. The classes are more demanding, homework loads are heavier, and stress is magnified. Now, try coupling that with breast feeding.

I remember my first day at CSUN. I had to pack my books in my backpack, and my breast pump in a cooler. In between a Spanish language journalism course, and a swimming class, I had to pump. Most of you have never had to do this, and I’ll spare the details. Needless to say, I needed privacy, and somehow the car, amidst the thousands of other parked cars on our lovely parking lots, did not cut it. So, I decided to try pumping in the bathroom, which is not exactly the most pleasant and relaxing environment books on nursing recommend.

It was always an internal debate for me to divulge the fact that I am a mother to the people I met on campus. Many reasons came into play on whether or not I would tell people.

First off, I look like I am fifteen. I am not exactly fond of the look I get from some people as they ask “Aren’t you too young to have a baby?” Perhaps next time I should reply, “You know what I think you’re right, I guess I’ll just give her back now.”

There is also this sense of being classified into a “mother” category. I know we are supposed to be living in the 21st century, but people’s archaic and preconceived notions of what a mother is supposed to be doing still exist. And I have felt and seen many judgments.

I will never forget the professor who didn’t give me an internship opportunity because she believed I would not have enough time to devote to the responsibilities. Or the peer, who in the middle of a club meeting felt it was her place to tell me I shouldn’t be going to a job conference in Las Vegas because I am a mother.

What people who don’t have children need to understand is the determination of parents who are getting an education have. Those of us that put ourselves through the animal circus of coming to school while having a family have relentless drive.

I refuse to settle for mediocrity because I don’t have that luxury. I need to do the best I can, not just for myself, but for that little person who looks to me for her every need.

I must add I was skeptical about writing this piece. I didn’t want to act like an expert on how to juggle school and motherhood. Everyday is a struggle for me. I also didn’t want to let my motherhood define me or become a martyr for student mothers.

Being a mother and student, should never be shamed with a feeling of guilt and embarrassment, rather it should develop a sense of pride. Among women, student mothers deserve more credit because most people will not work an extra job, or stay up extra hours to do the many tasks we undertake everyday.

Connie Llanos can be reached at spotlight.sundial@csun.edu.