Labor pains

Your Mom Goes to College


On Dec. 4, 2013, a week after completing my calculus final and a week before I would take my World Civilizations final, I went into labor. I was admitted to the hospital at 6 a.m., and as luck would have it, I was scheduled to register for the 2014 spring semester at 8:35 a.m. With an epidural catheter inserted in my lower back and a MacBook placed strategically on my lap, I promptly registered for my next semester of classes between dulled contractions and looks of disbelief from my nurses. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this was my first taste of juggling being a mother and a student.

At 10:43 a.m., my life began. I gave birth to my beautiful son Liam. An hour later, I received a confirmation email from Fullerton College stating I had successfully registered for my classes for the spring.

Neither of my parents had graduated college, and I always knew they wanted differently for me. Since I was little, I listened to my mom regretfully tell me that she hadn’t gotten her degree because she was forced to leave her college in the Philippines and move to the U.S. at the tender age of 20.

Here I was, 20 years old, facing a different though equally challenging life change from what my mom had. I knew the stereotype I would be boxed into, and I knew the stigmas I would face as a mom in college. Rather than being another statistic, however, I decided to become the exception.

Life as a mother in college at UC Berkeley has been a lot like how it was Dec. 4. Every success I’ve had as mother has been paralleled by my success as a student, though academic feats seem a lot sweeter now than they have before. Acing a final has always been a huge accomplishment for me, but doing so after coaxing a restless newborn to sleep all night feels like nothing short of achieving the impossible.

Almost four years after my son was born, I am so proud of how far I’ve come as a student and as a mother. I’ve learned the art of rocking my son to sleep in one arm while balancing the Norton Anthology of British Literature in the other. I’ve learned that a baby’s cry is the best alarm clock to wake you up for school in the morning. I’ve learned that nothing feels better than doing the things people said you couldn’t, and I’ve learned that I’m just going to have to sleep when I’m dead.

I might not fit into the traditional mold of a student in college, but I wouldn’t change my situation for the world. Becoming a mom has given me the opportunity to see the importance of my education through my son’s eyes, as it sets the foundation for the life he so deserves.

An estimated quarter of American undergraduates are student-parents, and many of them share with me in this sentiment that their education is an essential part in providing for their child. Many parents including myself, however, have found that the culture at the university is not one that acknowledges our unique demographic, nor views itself as an organization that is family-friendly.

Too often have professors responded coldly when I’ve told them I can’t make it to class because my son is sick. Too often have I had no child care options when my classes took up my time late in the evening. Too often have I found myself having to put my parent status aside to be a student.

This semester, I hope to illuminate the triumphs and struggles of student-parents at Cal and gain the support from the university administration needed to better the resources available for us on campus while promoting the practice of equity in education among the student body.

There has never been a greater time than the present to work to improve the atmosphere for student-parents on college campuses. Just as we are pressured to study for our finals, just as I pressure my son to “please not use my MacBook as the base for your play dough castle,” we need to pressure UC Berkeley to better help student-parents succeed: because being a college student is hard, but doing so while potty-training a 2-year-old is harder. Because we are just as capable as traditional students. Because we do it on half the amount of sleep. Because our kids deserve to see us succeed. Because “I said so.”

Mia Villanueva writes the Thursday column on her experience as a student-parent at UC Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected]

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  • Zhané Garlington

    All of you guys commenting where the father is can be dismissed. Life happens and she is not obligated to give anyone those type of personal details. The point of the article is to bring light to the fact that traditional students aren’t the only type of students who attend universities yet they seem to be the main demographic higher institutions cater to and there needs to be a prompt change.

    • lspanker

      All of you guys commenting where the father is can be dismissed. Life happens

      Words up – humans are NOT amoebae, we don’t just “divide”. There are two adults required to create a child. We know where one is, so where’s the other one?

  • Alex


    • lspanker

      Don’t expect an answer from the PC sheeple crowd, which lacks the intellectual curiosity and interest in learning “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say…

  • lspanker

    Too often have professors responded coldly when I’ve told them I can’t make it to class because my son is sick. Too often have I had no child care options

    How come there is no mention of a father in this article?

    • s randall

      What’s your point?

      • lspanker

        I see that went right over your head…

        • s randall

          Why would you go out of your way to be nasty to someone that you don’t even know?

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            why is it nasty to ask where the father is? Why would you be against shaming the father? It’s a good question.

          • s randall

            Yes I know. Free speech.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            No, I’m genuinely curious why you consider his question “nasty”? It’s a good question, where is the father…

          • lspanker

            Thank you. Note how any attempt to get all the facts or apply critical reasoning skills always generates indignation from the usual suspects…

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            It’s so interesting to see these people so indoctrinated. It’s bizarre. I’m wondering where the adults are, ya know? My favorite right now is DeAndre Darnell Jackson, he thinks he woke.

          • lspanker

            DeAndre is a classic example of how “diversity” and social promotion in the K-12 publc schools allow people onto college campuses who have no business being there in the first place, except perhaps as food service workers or custodians.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            I know or he is an amazing troll…lol

          • lspanker

            How am I being nasty? I’m asking a serious question. This young lady is complaining about a lack of resources and options for taking care of her kid when she attends classes, but yet there’s no mention of a husband or fiancee or father to this kid – so what’s up? There’s more to this story than this young mother is telling us here.

    • Isabela

      even if she chose to answer your question, you still wouldn’t be satisfied. i believe her column is about HER experience being a mom and a student. maybe she’ll bring up the father in question, maybe not. it’s up to her to decide if it’s a crucial part of her experience. you should probably be patient as these articles are being rolled out weekly. just relax.