What It’s Like Being a First-Time Mom and a Full-Time Student During a Pandemic

Student and Parent During COVID
Student Engagement, Student Perspectives, Student Success, Whole Student Support, Work/Life Balance
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Author: Destiny Woodhouse, Cengage Student Ambassador

 

In September 2019, a month into a new semester and into a new on-campus job, I found out I was pregnant. It was certainly not my plan to get pregnant two semesters before graduation, as I’m sure no one plans to get pregnant in college, but rather after.

On April 10, 2020, while the world around me was shutting down, I was giving birth. My home state of Tennessee was under lockdown. Everyone worked virtually, restaurants closed and grocery stores limited the amount of people who could enter.

This being my first baby, I was excited about a lot of things: newborn photos, my mom helping me through delivery, being surrounded by family, my baby’s first holidays.

Due to COVID, my birthing plan was rearranged. My partner wasn’t allowed at doctor visits. I was only allowed one person to assist during labor and delivery, therefore my mom had to stay home and photographers and other visitors weren’t permitted. The holidays were also forfeited. This was one of the most unprecedented times in history—and I was bringing a new human right into the middle of it.

Parents in College: The Statistics

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was worried about how I’d balance a baby, school and work. I never imagined I’d have to add a global pandemic to that list. While it wasn’t the plan to have a baby right before graduation, that’s what happened.

Of course, I wasn’t the first person to be a mom in college. According to a new analysis of data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study,  “More than one in five college students—or 22 percent of all undergraduates are parents.”

The study also states: “Of the 3.8 million students raising children while in college, roughly 2.7 million (or 70 percent) are mothers, and 1.1 million (30 percent) are fathers.”

I knew I’d be added to this 22 percent. To me, this was comforting. My mindset has always been, if they can do it, so can I. Knowing so many people were parents and college graduates brought me peace.

The Challenges I Faced

One of my biggest struggles during this time was isolation. During this time, everyone was in quarantine mode. If you’re a parent, you understand when you first bring a baby home, you appreciate all the help you can get.

In this case, I was urged to quarantine for 12 weeks so my baby could build an immune system. I couldn’t go anywhere, because if I got sick, I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. This was so hard for me. Before the lockdown I was taking classes, working three jobs, doing an internship and multiple extracurriculars that kept me on campus more than 40 hours a week.

Going from spending so much time around so many people to only seeing the same four people for weeks on end was very hard for me. I felt like I completely lost myself. Between doing my schoolwork online, and no group discussions, I felt I was just aimlessly doing busy work and, in many ways, teaching myself.

I became a teacher—and a mom—in the span of less than two weeks. Though I was good at being a student, being my own teacher and a new mother was a different experience.

Teaching myself how to do my schoolwork became harder and harder as I started prioritizing taking care of the screaming baby over writing papers. This was a huge struggle; it became increasingly hard to schedule time to do homework. If I had free time, I’d choose sleep over homework.

Not having a class to physically sit in meant being surrounded with all the things I needed to do at home. I couldn’t find time to complete school stuff. It always felt like something more pressing needed to be done. In pre-COVID times, I’d remove myself from my house just to do homework.

Finding the Positive

While there’s been a lot of negative aspects of being a student, employee and new mom through the pandemic, there’s also a lot of positive. I’ve learned how to lean on people. It takes a village to raise a child.

Mainly, I realized I’m never alone in my journey. If I ask, I can gain support when I need it; I don’t have to go through all this alone.

I’ve also learned how to meditate on situations. Sometimes it’s better to wait and think about a solution than to just act irrationally. I’ve learned it’s good to slow down, take your time and really enjoy being at home with the people you love most.

By reworking my routine, I accomplished things while working from home. As a result, I realized I might have other options for careers going into the future. I could be a remote worker, and I could really enjoy being able to watch my son grow every day.

I can’t change the fact I wasn’t able to have newborn photos taken. Or that my mom wasn’t able to be in the room for her first-born grandchild. But, I appreciate the three uninterrupted days I had to learn my baby before anyone else.

I can’t change the fact that I struggled for a couple of months learning how to balance home, and school, when they happen in the same vicinity. But I can in confidence know that no matter what the obstacle, I’ll find a way to circumvent it.

Want to hear more student perspectives? Check out our other student-authored posts for insights and learnings, straight from the source.  

Also, check out our list of student-submitted tips and advice for studying, learning and succeeding in online courses.