Balancing Motherhood and Education
Being a mother is a hard job that no book can prepare you for and college can be stressful for any student to complete. What happens when you are faced with both experiences at the same time?
Santa Monica College student Natalie Gonzalez planned on finishing college and becoming established in her career before having children. However, last year she became pregnant with her now 8-month-old son, Austin. "I basically have only one day off, but with an 8-month-old son, I feel like I have no days off," said Gonzalez. Gonzalez has a full schedule between attending classes at SMC and working at Islands restaurant, located in Marina del Rey. A lot of her success comes from an excellent support system she attributes to her mother and fiancé. "I have great support from my mom and the father of my son," said Gonzalez.
Being a young mother and student brings challenges that many of her college friends at SMC don't face. "You don't really realize how much time you have on your plate when you have bigger responsibilities like having a child," says Gonzalez. After her son goes to bed around eight o'clock, Gonzalez does her homework and studies for classes. This doesn't stop Gonzalez from working toward her goals. "I do love being a mom and I would never trade it for the world," said Gonzalez. Gonzalez is majoring in journalism and communications and plans to be an entertainment news reporter one day. Even though being a college student and mother is difficult at times, she advises others to "never give up on your dreams."
Faten Fakher Safadi, a mother of two, takes night classes at Santa Monica College. As a non-traditional college student, she is part of the pre-health club which she joined with her son Wail who also attends SMC.
She moved from Israel to the United States in 2006 with her husband and two children because of the recession. "As a mother like me, to come back to school after 25 years, it's a big challenge... and with another language that's not your own language," said Safadi.
Safadi's educational journey began when she started taking adult night classes at Olympic High School for English as a second language. English is actually Safadi's third language since she is also fluent in Arabic and Hebrew. "I want to thank Brett Schneider who is a producer for the game show 'Jeopardy,' and was my ESL teacher for four years at Olympic High school, and has been a big influence in my accomplishments," said Safadi.
Safadi was able to land a job as a caregiver. Her patient Fannie Fishlyn, a law librarian at USC was suffering from lymphedema cancer. She encouraged Safadi to go back to school and earn a GED. Fishlyn helped Safadi study for her GED in between taking her to chemotherapy appointments. Safadi earned her GED from Olympic High School in 2012. After receiving her GED, another patient, Ruth Greenburg, told her to consider nursing school. "They encouraged me to go to nursing school. They said you are good for this major, why don't you go to nursing school?" said Safadi. Motivated by her patients, Safadi found Santa Monica College and began taking prerequisite classes.
"There is a lot of struggling to be a mother and watch teenagers. Sometimes I would only see them for a few hours, and then study from 12 to 3 a.m." said Safadi. Currently one of her sons, Wail, is attending SMC as a pre-medical major. The other son, William, is transferring from SMC to a university this fall. William was accepted to California State University, Northridge, and plans to go on to dental school. "Nothing can stop you, if you have the will you can do it. Just manage your time and improve yourself. Every mom can do it," said Safadi. She is currently working toward her associate degree in nursing at SMC and plans to transfer to earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
Balancing a busy schedule is something that SMC student Thai Buckman knows all too well. The mother of two is a non-traditional college student a 10-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son. Buckman started taking a few classes at a time at SMC after her son Mark was born. There were a few breaks in between semesters due to her family obligations.
"My children are first, always. No matter school, no matter work, they are first and I work around them," said Buckman. On weekdays, Buckman is a writer for a monthly newsletter which allows her to work from home. Buckman has to be done with her day no later than 4:30 p.m. to be able to pick up her daughter Savanna from school. Buckman's schedule has to remain structured to make sure that she gets things done on time. During many late nights, after her daughter is asleep, she stays up to finish homework. Buckman, a film studies major, loves to involve her daughter in projects and get her input. Buckman has shot various videos around campus for the transfer department and for the psychology department. Being a good role model to her son and daughter are important to Buckman.
Buckman aspires to transfer to USC or UCLA to continue her education after Santa Monica College. She says that she is very fortunate to have her husband's help and to be able to do everything that she's dreamed of. Buckman's said, "There's a lot to being a parent in itself, and to add school... it's a lot, but its worth it. I would encourage any woman to take small steps. The tortoise beats the hare. Small steps... you're making movement and going forward. That's what I focus on."
Joining clubs such as pre-Health, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Black Collegians and Adelante at SMC is something these moms encourage students to get involved in to keep them engaged with their studies. They urge students to see what SMC has to offer and to make time for it. These hard working moms at SMC play an important role by inspiring other women and other students. They are of various ages and backgrounds and they each have different stories. However, they all seem to embody the same qualities: they are motivated to keep moving forward and to never give up.