Traditional college students notoriously struggle with balancing full class schedules, saving money from their part-time jobs, maintaining their social lives and finding time to sleep. In addition to these stressors, many students must also balance parenthood.
Senior English and Spanish double major Haley House had her daughter at 18 years old. She returned to Southern Miss after putting her education on hold for six years. When she got divorced a year after having her daughter, House had to work full time in order to make ends meet.
“Finally, I decided I had enough of that life and got up the courage and savings to come back,” House said.
Although finances and time management have been difficult, House said that scheduling her classes is typically convenient, and her professors are generally supportive.
“I can schedule all of my classes during [my daughter’s] school time and get home right as she gets off the bus,” House said. “I have also found instructors are supportive. If I have an evening class or any extracurricular activity like Spanish Club, they’re very accommodating and let her join the class.”
Senior cultural anthropology major Abraxas Pittman was 19 when she had her daughter Gemma. Pittman took a six-month break from school when she first had Gemma, but she graduated with an associate degree from Pearl River Community College in summer 2017 and transferred to Southern Miss the following fall.
Like House, Pittman said her professors have been supportive.
“All of my teachers in the past and now have allowed me to bring my daughter to class if it were ever needed,” Pittman said.
Senior exercise science major Shaden Miller had her son at the end of the fall 2018 semester. Like House and Pittman, Miller chose to take a break from classes.
“I took off school in spring 2018 and found out I was pregnant in February. I didn’t go back to school in the fall because I was due in November. I didn’t want to have him and worry about school,” Miller said.
Since returning to Southern Miss, Miller said she doesn’t think anyone other than her advisor knows she is a mother.
“The only time I’ve said anything to my professors about my son is if I need to leave for any reason pertaining to him, but I don’t want my professors to think I want them to pity me or judge me because I am a young mom,” Miller said.
Like House, Miller and Pittman both struggle with time management and balancing their lives as students and as mothers.
“It’s hard. I constantly feel bad because I’m always studying, at school or at work. I feel like I’m not getting to help him develop or learn anything because I’m always having to focus on school,” Miller said. “When I do put my school work down, I feel like I need to keep studying, or I’ll fail or miss something I need to know.”
Pittman said that although she does well in her classes, she believes she could do better.
“It has not been easy. I struggle keeping up with my courses from time to time, but I somehow manage to keep a 3.0,” Pittman said. “When [my daughter] was smaller, it was difficult to do school work when she was awake, so I had to wait until nine or 10 at night to do my work. Now I go days, even a week without seeing my daughter because of school and then having to go to work right after classes.”
Out of these three women, only Pittman utilizes Southern Miss’ child care program at the Center for Child Development.
“We love it. The teachers are great, and the staff is wonderful,” Pittman said. “My daughter looks forward to going every day. Her tuition is subsidized because I receive a Pell Grant.”
Miller said that she looked into Southern Miss’ child care program but could not afford it because it is not discounted for students. Despite the constant balancing act between classwork and parenthood, Miller said she feels that she was lucky throughout her pregnancy.
“I think being young, I have more energy. I worked out up until [I was] six or seven months pregnant really until I couldn’t put my shoes on by myself,” Miller said.
In addition to her health, Miller said she received more support from her friends and family than she originally expected.
“I was scared at first, but everyone was supportive, and it just made my pregnancy that much more enjoyable,” Miller said.
Despite the difficulty with balancing parenthood with her life as a student, House said she is determined to finish her degree to be a good role model for her daughter.
“I think the biggest positive is emphasizing the importance of education and determination in achieving your goals, no matter how hard you have to work,” House said.
Pittman shared House’s determination to stay in school for her daughter.
“My daughter is my main drive, my motivation,” Pittman said. “Without her I would have given up a long time ago.”