With an honors cord around my neck and my son held at my waist, I walked across the stage at graduation last spring with both of us wearing our cap and gown. It was the best and biggest “fuck you” and “thank you” I had ever given in my life.
Fuck you to the nurse in the delivery room that told me I should “think twice” before returning to school within my son’s first year of life.
Fuck you to the professor that told me I should “take next semester off to focus on family” when I asked just one time to be excused from class because my son was sick.
Fuck you to my colleagues that underestimated my ability to contribute to group projects because of my life outside of class. (Also fuck group projects in general.)
Fuck you to my self-doubt at 4 a.m. whispering in my ear that there was no way I could remain academically ambitious while being a mom.
Thank you to my dad for instilling in me the work ethic it takes to be competitive force in academia at UC Berkeley.
Thank you to my mom who taught me by example of the love and hard work that being a mom demands of you.
Thank you to my professors in the gender studies department that continue to advocate for women and mothers alike and their place in academia.
Thank you to the Student Parent Center for having answers to the questions that no one else on campus did. Thank you for being the only place I could go to with my son to study without feeling like a fish out of water. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of self care. Thank you for making me feel like I always had someone in my corner.
I came to UC Berkeley from Southern California with no knowledge of the area and no friends, let alone friends that were students with kids. So, to my fellow student-parents who have made the transition easier, thank you for being my greatest support system, strongest allies and biggest inspirations. The student-parents at UC Berkeley have become not only my friends, but my mentors.
Thank you Bonnie Cherry. In the fall of 2015, I sat next to you on the 52 bus to the village and remember knowing within that 20-minute ride that you were one of the most brilliant individuals I had ever met. The work you have done and continue to do on this campus both in academia and in the student parent community has only fueled my own ambitions more. Thank you.
Thank you Sarah Roncskevitz. Your son was my son’s first friend here in the Bay Area. It gave me so much peace of mind during my first semester at the university to know that I was dropping my son off at a school where he had a friend. Thank you for answering all of my odd questions via Facebook messenger at 4 a.m. You are incredible.
To every student-parent that continues to persevere on campus against all odds, thank you. Thank you for never taking no as an answer. Thank you for demanding that our unique demographic is heard and is understood. Thank you for raising babies that are friends to mine.
My time at UC Berkeley would be unrecognizable without all you mama and papa bears. I will hold the gratefulness in my heart toward this community forever.
Lastly, thank you and congratulations to me. I fucking did it.
Mia Villanueva writes the Thursday column on her experience as a student-parent at UC Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].