Posted at 12:39 p.m., Dec. 3, 2014

College is hard; parenting is hard

Look into life of young college mother fighting to make it

The "teen mom" epidemic seemed to captivate the United States in recent years. From the thousands of stories in the media of babies having babies to television shows such as “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom,” no one could escape the subject.

But the phenomenon is not just in the media.

According to thenationalcampaign.org, in 2012 in Wyoming, 622 teen pregnancies were reported with 34.7 births per 1,000 teen girls.

I was one of those girls.

Most people know exactly how hard it is to complete school assignments with distractions all around. Being a parent compounds those distractions.

Some days I feel I have it the worst.

I start feeling sorry for myself: dreading waking up at 7 every morning to take my daughter, Lily, to school; taking a shower half asleep; force-feeding myself breakfast; hauling all my college stuff to my car; sitting through class all day; picking up Lily from school and taking her to child care; squeezing lunch in somewhere; returning to class; picking up Lily from school; getting home and doing, you guessed it, homework.

Some days I want to throw my hands up and scream at the sky, "I QUIT!" I want stay in my bed for eternity on those days. But I soon I realize self-pity is getting me nowhere and many have it even worse than I.

Peer offers perspective

I remember my classmate, Kayla Gregory, with whom I went through a parent program at Cheyenne East High School.

I was still pregnant when she had her little girl, Shayla, but, nonetheless, all of us in the class shared some sort of weird hormonal, motherly bond. If being a teen parent was hard enough, Gregory was diagnosed with cancer when she was 17. Her daughter was 2 at the time.

Thankfully, she has been cancer free for four years and has had a second child. Gregory is attending at Laramie County Community College full time and working full time at Lifecare Center of Cheyenne.

The majority of people on campus around my age have a job if not two or more to support themselves, but the difficulty multiplies when you have others who depend on you.

“I have no idea what free time is anymore,” Gregory said. “I feel like I never see my kids because on my days off (work), I'm in class.”

Her daily routine looks like mine: up at 6:30 a.m. for a shower; wake up, shower and dress the kids for school and child care; drive to child care and school; go to class; pick up both kids from child care; return home to try to do homework while the children are sleeping. Repeat.

Young parent or not, raising children while going to school can be financially draining as well. My bank account is just about dried up.

Thankfully, because I have a dependent, more financial aid is available to me. After tuition and books are paid, I should go on a shopping spree and buy the new iPhone, right?

I wish.

Budget challenges family needs

This is what I live off of. A part-time job and money from the reservation (My daughter gets per capita as part of the Eastern Shosone Tribe.) are definitely not keeping us afloat. I need gas in my car, food on my family's plates and supplies for class.

Add child care to that list. What full-time student-parent has $600 laying around to pitch at a child care every month? I don't even make that much in a month. While I am eternally grateful the Wyoming Department of Family Services pays for about 95 percent of my child care costs, it comes at its own price. I have to maintain a 2.5 grade point average, or I lose my assistance.

It's hard sometimes, really hard.

But when I feel as if I have it so bad, I remember that there are more complicated situations exist out there, and I should be thankful for my health and the health of my child. Not to brag or anything—OK maybe a little—but the titles "Mother" and "Father" are much more than just words.

We adapt. We base our lives on our children's needs. We no longer come first. Even when Gregory was battling cancer, she made sure her daughter was well taken care of while she received treatment.

Situations are hard. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. That's a given.

But, like Kayla says, "I go to school to better my children's lives and show them not to give up when life gets hard."

 

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