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What It’s Like Being a College Student & a Mother

By Jessica Beltran

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.

Before I dig deeper, here’s a little back story. On my 21st birthday, I found out that I was expecting. I was in the middle of my college career, and decided to take time off to raise my pride and joy. In the midst of all this, I had a full-time job and other responsibilities to uphold so I only went to school part-time. You can imagine how a two-year degree quickly turned into a four-year degree. I was determined though. After receiving my associate’s, I headed to a university with a desire to pursue advertising and public relations. Now I’m about to be 27 and graduate and still haven’t made any lasting connections on campus.

Whether it’s the mom in me speaking or the age gap, I’ve found it challenging to find appropriate conversations with my peers aside from schoolwork. Whether it’s campus living, sorority pledging or being fresh out of high school, a lot of students go into college with a fun and carefree mentality. Of course, they’ve got their own responsibilities, but it’s a little different when you’re raising a child. As much as I want to be “aid back and “go with the flow,” I really can’t. I’m not saying that I don’t love and cherish my role as a mother. In fact, my son has pushed me even farther as an individual. He has made me exceed my own expectations, and has given me the courage to break down walls that have stood in the way.

I’d love to do a keg stand at a home game, but the mom in me finds pleasure in trips to the pool and arcades on the weekends. I will admit that over the last five years of motherhood, I’ve had times where I’ve questioned my identity and wondered who I am. It’s easy when the roles you play in your life all coincide with one another and it works. But when you are trying to discover yourself, your strengths, your talents and what inspires you as a young professional, you need time to self-reflect.

I had to prioritize roles because I played many—mother, student, worker, friend, daughter—and things began to shift. I became more of an introvert, and it was when I applied for my first internship that it became apparent. I went through a series of interviews, but wasn’t the right fit for any company. Perhaps it was the hesitation of being transparent with potential employers. Why couldn’t I tell them the truth when they asked, “Why can’t you work on weekends?” or “Why did you take so much time to finish school?” Mentioning that I was a mom didn’t seem like the appropriate response. Accepting an unpaid internship was another barrier, as many employers didn’t understand that I had to put food on the table. It was frustrating to be stereotyped as a typical college student when my life was anything but that.

I’ve learned a lot in the process, though. I must be honest with others and be a good communicator. There are ways to be truthful and still maintain a professional appearance. I fear because I’m not married, look younger than my age and am raising my son with minimal help, employers will be quick to judge and dismissive. But you know what? They’ll be more upset if life happens and I’m trying to explain my circumstances then.

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. 

Alaina Leary is an award-winning editor and journalist. She is currently the communications manager of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books and the senior editor of Equally Wed Magazine. Her work has been published in New York Times, Washington Post, Healthline, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Boston Globe Magazine, and more. In 2017, she was awarded a Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her dedication to amplifying marginalized voices and advocating for an equitable publishing and media industry. Alaina lives in Boston with her wife and their two cats.