Full-time mom, full-time student

2015 redesigned Pioneer logo.

Tam Duong Jr.

2015 redesigned Pioneer logo.

Teleia Johnson,

It’s been approximately three years since my little Layla was born and almost two years since I started at CSU East Bay.

I’ve been juggling the roles of a full-time student and full-time mom, while also working a part-time job. There’s great joy in becoming a mother, I think everyone knows that, but for those that can relate to the late night and early mornings, you know exactly how hard things can get.

People don’t really talk about the mental capacity it takes to take care of a child and still devote yourself to school or anything else for that matter.

My initial concern was not being close to family. I didn’t have the luxury of having my mom to help me in the beginning. I was miles away from my family in Southern California. When would I have time to go back out there to see them? What if I needed them? It wasn’t like I was up the street. And still I battle with making time for my Layla to see my side of the family. It’s quite sad.

I knew I needed to stay focused and get things done, but for a long time all I could think about was quitting. I didn’t want to do it anymore. School, that is. I knew I would have to be away from Layla. Was she ready for that? Was I ready? I struggled and I complained for a while, but finally got the hang of things.

Now at the age of two, Layla has become so independent, yet she is still my little baby. Study nights aren’t really study nights unless Layla is a sleep, so I usually try and study before I get home. I try and plan my work schedule around days when I don’t have school. That way I’m not away from Layla the whole day, but even school days feel like they take forever.

Sometimes Layla’s father’s and my schedules conflict or our usual babysitter may be busy. Those are the times when I wish my family was a little closer. Fortunately, Layla’s dad can still pick up some of the slack most of the time. If not, Layla is blessed with such great godparents who take care of her when things are too hectic.

As time goes on, schedules have become more packed and time away from Layla has become the norm, but not by choice. I feel forced to keep up this momentum with only six classes left. With graduation approaching, there’s no time for slacking. At the same time, I still have to work to provide for Layla, so work never stops either. I have the constant pressure to make sure Layla is taken care of while her parents are away.

Not only do I need to make sure there’s someone with Layla while I am at school, I also have to make sure there is someone there while I am at work as well. Considering this last year has been more than stressful after recently losing my car, I no longer am able to drop Layla off to anyone anymore, so whoever is watching her usually has to come pick her up, which is a little embarrassing. I even asked the Health Center if the university offered child care for mothers and was told no. She told me the closest thing was the Head Start program somewhere at the bottom of the hill.

There’s no plan when you become a mother. You think you know how things are going to change when the baby gets here, but you never really know. I’m blessed enough to still have the motivation to keep going and finish school because two years ago it was a completely different story. The upside, despite all the ins and outs of this life long process, is the fact that I’m almost done and I’m setting a great example for my little girl. I’ll be so proud to know she’s watching me walk across the stage and I pray she’ll someday want to follow in my footsteps.