Time to Care: Full-Time Mom and Student

This article is part of Time to Care, a collaborative story series from Families Valued and Shared Justice, both initiatives of the Center for Public Justice.

By Chelsea Maxwell & Krista

One in four undergraduate students are parents. Of student parents, women comprise 71% of the population, 43% of whom are single mothers. Krista is one of them. She is a full-time mother of twins and a full-time student.

CM: Tell me what it was like learning you were going to be, and then becoming, a mother.

K: I found out I was going to be a mom on January 3, 2016. At first, the thought of being pregnant scared me, but then I was happy. I went to the doctor to be sure and found out I was really, really pregnant. I mean, I had taken five pregnancy tests, but it wasn’t real until the doctor confirmed it. That same day, I found out I was pregnant with twins.

My babies were born on September 7, 2016. I had a C-section. My first daughter came out at 3:01 pm, and then my second was born at 3:02 pm. I remember the moment I first saw my daughters. One of them just looked at me, and I was like, “That’s my baby.” The other hadn’t opened her eyes yet, but I was like, “Look at her fat cheeks!” I suddenly had two little human beings, and I realized that they would rely on me for the rest of my life. It was amazing. Yet, I was scared, and it just hit me: “I’m a mom, and I have tiny little babies that weigh five pounds. I have to get my life together.”

How has being a parent shaped your life?

My life doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to my daughters. I do the best I can to make sure I’m taking care of myself mentally, emotionally and physically for them. I do the best I can because it’s just me. I had to leave their father and get a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order earlier this year, so now I’m a single mother. Being their mom has changed me and made me stronger and wiser. They made me stand up for myself and for them.

I don’t have time for me. My time is all about my girls. My time is their time. Everything is about them: taking care care of them; making sure they’re eating, talking and meeting all of their baby milestones. My only time is when they fall asleep.

Sometimes I ask myself, how are you doing this? And the only answer I have is God.

My babies actually inspired me to return to school. When I found out I was pregnant, I had been working as a certified medical assistant and certified dialysis technician — a hemodialysis technician. I had to put my two weeks in when I found out I was pregnant to protect them. I didn’t want the environment that I worked in to threaten the safety of my pregnancy. Working in hemodialysis meant I was around blood, needles and patients with HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis. It would have been a huge risk to stay.

I started college when my babies were six months old. They are two now. Being a full-time college student and a full-time mother is hard, and it shapes my life. I want to help people and have a steady career. I want to make money to provide for my babies, and I want to be able to take care of them when they’re sick, so I’m studying to be a nurse. I have about two and a half years left.

Being a student and being a mom are both really time-consuming jobs. How do both of those jobs shape your time on a daily basis?

It's hard to manage being a full-time mom and full-time student. Sometimes I ask myself, how are you doing this? And the only answer I have is God. That's it. I get my strength from God, and He lifts me up and He helps me and He guides the way.

This semester I’m taking three classes – one online class as well as two classes on campus. When I pick up my babies from Angels’ Place*, my time is dedicated to them. Once they go to sleep, my time is dedicated to school. And then I have to find time for myself, which…that never happens. I get about five to six hours of sleep a night. I’m functioning off that. It’s never going to be enough, but I’m making it work.

I miss them when I am at school. When I’m in class, I think about them: are they okay? What are they doing? Are they asking for mommy? Are they crying? Even though I know they’re safe at Angels’ Place, I think about them all the time. But when I’m out of school, I’m all theirs until it’s time to go to bed.

When I am with my daughters, we run around and we play. My babies know their shapes and  ABCs and can count to 20. We're working on learning our colors. They love bubbles, and we watch Elmo. I just talk, play with them and love on them. And that's all they need.

What would need to change in your life to reduce your stress level? What would help?

Krista with her twin daughters.

Krista with her twin daughters.

First, I’m really thankful for the help I do have. My mom and sister don’t live with us, but they are an important part of our family. My mom helps me pay my mortgage, and my sister helps me pay some of my other bills. My mom also helps me with potty training, getting my babies off of their binkies, disciplining and loving them. She gives them love and all the baby fun that they need, playing with them. Together, we are teaching them the ABCs and how to count. I’m really grateful.

I’m also really grateful that my childcare, called Angels’ Place, is right down the street. I love Angels’ Place. They have helped me so much. They provide the best care that I could possibly imagine for them. They help provide Pampers, wipes and nutritious food. Everything you could possibly imagine that a baby needs, Angels’ Place provides it while they are there.

Right now, what I wish I had is a car. I do everything for my babies on the bus now, so it’s really, really hard. With a car, I could get them to the doctor promptly when there’s a problem and get them milk. I could do things that normal people with cars are able to do. But for me, those normal tasks are really complicated and time-consuming. I’m dependent on the bus schedule, including its route, timetable and timeliness.

So far, I’ve avoided taking my kids on the bus with me. With two kids, a double bag and a double stroller, I think it would be impossible. When I go grocery shopping, I make sure they’re in childcare. I take the bus to the store and then either take the bus or use a jitney to get home. A jitney is like an old-school, cash-based Uber or Lyft. I have to think about what I can carry at one time or, if I can’t take a jitney, whether I have to worry that my bookbag will rip on the way up the hill. Since I don’t have a car to go get my books, I have to order them ahead of time so I can get them by mail in time for classes. Overall, not having a car is my biggest stressor right now.

If you could have one wish come true, how would you use it to help all families?

Wow, if I could have one wish come true, it would be... childcare should be free. Childcare should be free, and it should be safe. Babies didn't ask to be here; children didn't ask to be here; they're innocent. I wish everyone would come together and help care for children. The main focus in everybody's life is their children: making sure that they're safe and okay and nourished and eating and learning and playing and just safe. I wish we could all see that. I think colleges and workplaces would look different if we did.

What are your dreams for your family, both for yourself and your daughters?

I hope my babies are healthy and safe and continue to thrive. I want the best for my daughters. I want them to be smart, intelligent, respectful, loving, just amazing babies, amazing people. I hope my work results in high grades and that I get accepted into nursing school. I dream of finishing nursing school, graduating with honors and having my babies in the crowd, saying "Mommy, mommy!" and having my children know that I did it.

Krista is the loving mom of twins and a full-time student. Though busy, Krista shared her story for Time to Care because she values every moment with her daughters and believes all parents should have time to bond with their children.

Chelsea Maxwell is the Program Associate of Families Valued, an initiative of the Center for Public Justice, and the contributing editor of “Time to Care.”

*Angels’ Place offers exceptional family support and quality early childhood education for single parents in need in Pittsburgh, PA. In particular, it provides comprehensive support for student parents at no cost. Learn more about the work of Angels’ Place in upholding justice for young children in Unleashing Opportunity: Why Escaping Poverty Requires a Shared Vision of Justice.

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