Every night while her peers are studying or hanging out in the Connector, Sayira Caldwell stays in her dorm room and chats with her son on Skype before heading to bed.“When we Skype, he cries because he wants to see me in person,” said Caldwell, a sophomore nursing major. “I wish I could be with him. It’s not the same.”
As a full-time student, Caldwell lives in Yoder dormitory during the week. Her one-year-old son Brandon, meanwhile, lives with her parents in Indianapolis. Every other weekend Caldwell makes the three hour drive home to be with him. She would like to visit more often but the trip is time-consuming and the gas money isn’t cheap.
“I miss him all the time,” said Caldwell of her son, “but in the end I want to do everything possible to give him a good future, which means graduating.”
One of the hardest parts, though, is coming home and discovering that Brandon has learned something new while she was away.
“He likes to sing, and he claps when my mom sings to him,” said Caldwell. “When I came home I was surprised because he started doing it during the two weeks I was at school.”
Even so, Caldwell knows she is lucky to have support from her family, her son’s father and the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning, through which she has a scholarship. With their help, she hopes to graduate in two years and become a nurse.
Jacqueline Martinez, a junior interdisciplinary major, agreed that having a strong support system can make life as a student mother a little less daunting.
Martinez feels fortunate that she and her seventeen-month-old daughter Julianna are able to live in South Bend with Martinez’s parents and four siblings. She also receives help from friends who let her stay at their apartments and professors who understand if she’s a little late to class.
Still, Martinez said, being a mother requires a lot of time management and selflessness. Before, she’d spend her weekends out with her friends. Nowadays she stays in, does homework, and watches SpongeBob Squarepants with her daughter.
Daniela Zehr, a 2011 graduate and mother to three-year-old Micah, agreed that motherhood—especially during college—requires sacrifices.
“Procrastination is not an option when you’re a mother,” explained Zehr. “I quickly learned all the time management skills I never wanted to learn. And I didn’t want to sacrifice time with my son so I had to sacrifice my sleep. I was pulling all-nighters every Sunday.”
Zehr, who moved into an off-campus apartment during her pregnancy, has been financially independent ever since Micah’s birth. Though challenging, Zehr described that period as a “great learning experience” because it forced her to grow up.
Other changes in Zehr’s life included switching from a pre-med major to a nursing major, opting for SST alternatives courses, and taking an extra year to finish school.
Ultimately, though, Zehr has many reasons to feel blessed. “As a nurse, I realize what a miracle it is to have a healthy, normal baby,” said Zehr, adding, “The mother-baby bond is truly the greatest relationship.”