Yes I made a mistake but that will not determine my future

This picture says a thousand words. I see a young girl who said: "yes I made a mistake but that will not determine my future". I see someone who fell but dusted herself and soldiered on.'

I have the responsibility to raise a child, and I don’t take that lightly. I’m a college student and a mother, and my life is completely different than those around me.

I've learned a lot in the process, though. I’m extremely proud of how far I’ve come and where I stand today. I won’t sell myself short because of a stereotype or my competition. I’m living a different life than other students and that’s perfectly fine. While college students are busy binge-watching Netflix, I’m teaching my son how to write and read for kindergarten. I’m not just a mother but a teacher, and I take pride in that as other mothers do. I know I’m not the only mother at my university or any college campus. I believe there is room for connections to be made, and though I’m not entirely sure how to go about it, I hear Meetups are a great way to connect locally. I hope that my story inspires other mothers to see that no education path has to be perfect. It’s your ambition and a positive mindset that will prevail when you feel like all odds are against you.

Supporting Student Moms in the Classroom

Whether a new mom or an older mom returning to the classroom, the challenges for student moms trying to complete a degree is daunting. However, there are some things we can do to help support student moms in our classroom. Many students who are moms may not know or feel comfortable advocating for their needs to their professor. Consider the following list of suggestions to support student moms in the university classroom:

  • Consider talking about balancing home and school expectations at the beginning of each course so student moms feel comfortable discussing challenges that may arise during the semester (e.g., the child is sick and daycare will not watch him).
  • If you are a mom, discuss openly the challenges you face balancing the roles as both a mom and professor. Students feel more comfortable when they have mentors who understand the difficulties they are facing.
  • Be aware of the scholarships and grants that are available, specifically for single moms or student moms, to help provide support for childcare or tuition costs.
  • If you are a mom, consider becoming a mentor to a young mom on campus. We recently had a student who gave birth and had never changed a diaper before.
  • When possible, add in flexibility within a program sequence due to demands of giving birth, breastfeeding, or child-rearing.
  • Be supportive of campus initiatives that would provide childcare on campus, parent/ family support services, or family-friendly housing. One campus reported that those students that utilized the on-campus childcare center had an on-time graduation rate that was three times higher than those who did not have access to on-campus care (IWPR, 2018).
  • View motherhood as part of diversity instead of a problem or inconvenience.
  • Understand that students are not provided with the same protections as faculty or staff in regards to FMLA leave or maternity leave.
  • Be conscious of the difficulties with limited study spaces on campus that are kid-friendly and become aware of lactation areas that are available so you can advise students.
  • Understand the challenges associated with simple tasks such as “just drop your paper off in my box” when not considering the difficulties of finding close parking, pushing a stroller across campus with lots of steps, or finding childcare in order to drive to campus to drop off the assignment.
  • Encourage student moms to consider starting out as part-time students and help them develop both short and long-term goals related to school and timelines to completion. Connect student moms with other moms to provide support, swap childcare during class times, and develop a study routine that promotes success in the course as well as in the home setting.

Overall, in order to best support student moms in your classroom, try to understand the unique challenges they face, be sympathetic to family life demands, and most importantly, listen when those feelings of overwhelmingness pour out into the classroom. Seek to support the student moms where they are and help them get to where they want to be.

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