Issue 27: The Student Parent Issue

Insights & Outlooks

Fall 2020: A Senior In The Making, A Mother Soon Breaking

COVID-19
Fall 2020: A Senior In The Making, A Mother Soon Breaking

I, like the rest of nearly four million student parents, am already juggling a million different tasks all at once. Student parents juggle ever so carefully because we have perfectly balanced everything out. However, in March, those carefully balanced tasks were all thrown out of balance and we were tasked with yet another hundred things to pile on.

At that time I was working part-time, was holding an internship, had five courses, and was doing speech therapies with my youngest and my oldest was in school. Everything went remote. My classes, my internship, the speech therapies and my eldest’s classes, but not my job. I had to fit all of those things during “business hours” but I still had to be a present parent, something I was not. 

Now, I have two part-time jobs, four courses, and two kids to homeschool. I was torn on whether I should go forward with enrolling my youngest in Head Start because I felt it was going to be too much to homeschool two kids under five, but he was so far behind academically how could I not do it? Do I choose my sanity or my child’s education? My husband assured me we would be fine, however, two weeks in and I don’t feel fine. 

My two sons are sitting in front of a laptop from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM and then again at 1:15 PM to 2:30 PM. I will be sitting in front of a laptop from 9:30 AM until 3:15 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with only fifteen minutes in between. I had very little choice of asynchronous courses and as a senior, there’s not much wiggle room in my schedule. The university offered asynchronous courses, but not for my major requirements. The department of Government & Politics (GVPT) at the University of Maryland decided to hold all GVPT courses for the fall synchronously, however, some of these same courses are offered asynchronously during the summer and winter. 

Not being able to have the flexibility I much need for this last year is difficult. Having to choose between taking a semester off, taking fewer classes, being a present mother, and losing all my scholarship money was haunting me. I had earned enough scholarship money to cover my last year of college but was now faced with being tied down to a full-time schedule because three of my grants, which carried most of the money, had an obligation of being a full-time student in order to receive the funding. I know this is something many student parents are currently struggling with. The lack of flexibility is making it hard to balance all the things we need to as parents pursuing our degrees. 

In the midst of all of this, I also am trying to adjust my status from DACA to Green Card, a quite lengthy and expensive process. I have switched three jobs in the last month, decisions I haven’t been able to take lightly. I have switched from part-time night jobs to a part-time day job. I work Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays as a receptionist, and I am not home to be with my kids while they are in class. I also work from home as a Community Liaison for Maryland Delegate Jared Solomon, which is a role that provides me with all the flexibility I need, as I work on my own time.

I am not being the present parent my kids need. I also can’t forgo the pay because the process to adjust my status will end up costing us somewhere between seven and ten thousand dollars. 

I also serve as a Parent Advisor to Ascend at The Aspen Institute and am juggling this new adventure of being on the other side of philanthropy. I was proud to be a part of the Parent Advisors launching a first-of-its-kind fund called the Parents Powered Solution Fund. In the month of September, we will be reviewing all applications from the Fund as we hope to announce winners by October. While I am overjoyed to be a part of such an amazing project, it is overwhelming me because of the amount of work that will be required of me in the month of September when I am trying to adjust to this virtual learning thing. 

There’s so much going on in my life and making choices this semester has been hard. Do I pass up opportunities I am granted to advocate for fellow student parents by Generation Hope and Aspen Ascend, and to pursue professional growth in my role as a Community Liaison and my new job as a receptionist for an immigration attorney, or do I just pile them onto my already spread thin time? I have been heavily debating the idea of law school to become an immigration attorney, so to even think about quitting this job continues to tear me apart. 

I am in my senior year and want to take advantage of networking opportunities for my future career, but do I just become a non-present parent for my kids? Do I delay adjusting my immigration status until I am done with school, but risk losing status and being deported? What do I do? It’s a question no one else can answer for me. Generation Hope is providing me with the tools and support I need to continue pushing through this last year, but it is challenging during the pandemic. Sometimes I miss being to just talk with my Hope Coach in person or receiving a hug from a mentor and having them tell me everything will be alright.

The mental health toll this takes on me is overwhelming. As my Aspen colleague Waukecha said, “If I was spread thin before, in the light of COVID, I am spread transparent.”  While I’m looking forward to finishing my degree in the spring of 2021, I am also wondering if I even will make it that far.