Classes, homework and diapers: life as a student parent

Betsy kisses her son Niccolo. Photo courtesy of Betsy Annoni Editor's Note: A portion of this story has been changed at the request of the sources involved.

Betsy Annoni is tired. Not an entirely shocking state for a college student, but unlike many, her tiredness is not the result of partying or even a late-night study session. Betsy is tired because she was woken up this morning, like many mornings before, by her 15-month-old son, Niccolo.

“He still gets up once or twice in the night so I'm usually up in the middle of the night, and then he gets up around 5:30am,” she said.

While most college students find it difficult to juggle school work with their social life, on top of extra-curricular activities and maybe a part-time job, Betsy also has to cope with being a full-time mom. She lives at home and relies on her parents for support with her son while she concentrates on her studies.

“I don't know how any parent could go to school and not have a good support system,” she said.

Betsy found herself pregnant while studying abroad in Italy. Her son’s father still lives there.

“I was just completely shocked and terrified, and every other crazy expression you can think of,” she said. “My first thought was to have an abortion, and I've never had that thought in my entire life.”

“I saw the ultra-sound and that's hard to see and then get an abortion,” she said.

The decision to stay at school during her pregnancy and as a mother was completely non-negotiable.

“That fall I went to school full time as a pregnant woman,” she said, “All my teachers were cool about it, they understood,” she said.

Betsy, despite the situation, knew she had to complete her education and continue studying. She had a couple of years left when she discovered she was pregnant, but is graduating this May.

The semester after having Niccolo she took two classes and was able to have her parents take care of him so she could avoid putting him into day care.  This semester she is taking her final twelve credits.

“It's hard because half of your brain is already taken up. You're constantly thinking about your child . It's hard to concentrate.”

Julianne Peters is also a single mom studying at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Like Betsy, she lives with her parents and describes her daughter's upbringing as “a group effort.” After taking some time out from studying she was “pretty determined” to go back to school after finding out she was pregnant. Julianne describes herself as “kinda stubborn” and refused to let having a baby stop her from doing what she wanted to do.


Like Betsy, she also struggles to balance her life as a mom with her studies.

“It's having this whole other aspect of your life that needs constant management,” she said. “I try not to be a perfectionist with school.”

While Julianne's family and friends look after her daughter three days a week, she also takes advantage of the Children's Place on campus, which she takes her daughter to on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“It has its pros and cons,” she said. “It’s a time-consuming process to get a two-year-old ready in the morning.”

The Children's Place provides full-time care for 52 children from the ages of six weeks to the first day of school, around five-years-old. Their website describes it as providing “quality, nurturing care and educational experiences for young children and their families.” The Children's Place is open from 7:30-5pm, Monday to Friday and assists both students and staff members in child care. There is also a room available for nursing mothers in the Multi-Cultural Center on campus, which Julianne used in her first semester after starting school again with a newborn.

Both young moms are excited for what the future will hold, and neither have any regrets about their decision to continue with their pregnancies. In the US, more than 52 percent of abortions are obtained by women under 25, according to the Guttermacher Institute. One study found that 38 percent of women who had abortions did so to avoid interference with their education and 70 percent of pregnant teens drop out of high school. The Department of Education recently reported that 13 percent of students enrolled in college were single parents. The US Census Bureau released figures in November 2009 that showed that single parents are raising 26 percent of children in the US under 21.

“I do miss my single life,” Betsy admits. “Then I look at the blessings he's brought me - how I would be a different person if I hadn't had him, in a negative way.”

“Being a mom has definitely made me a less selfish person,” Julianne agrees. “I'm proud that I'm a parent.”

Are you a student with an unusual school experience? Are you a student parent in the local area? We’d love to hear your stories in the comment form below.

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