With six classes, two jobs, three student organizations, and an almost four-year-old daughter running around, life can get hectic. I make sure that every night I strategically plan out my next day, because I can’t afford to get off track with my busy schedule. People always ask me, “Oh gee, it must be hard for you? Having a daughter? Right? With school and everything?” and for some strange reason I never know how to quite respond to that.
See, I knew for me school was always very important. It was the only place that offered a quiet sanctuary away from my madness of a household as a child. In fact, school was the only thing I was really good at, because the whole sports thing never really fully worked out well for me. Lets not even begin to discuss my lack of musical talent. Therefore, going to college and obtaining my degree has always been my goal. I knew that getting my degree would allow me to change the future.
When I had my daughter I knew would still continue to get my degree; I never planned on taking a break. But, I came across many challenges that made the process almost unbearable, such as being told by a Dean, “I don’t think that you would be a successful student here at The University of Cincinnati,” after being placed on academic suspension due to my grades falling. When in reality, as a new parent I just needed the support to get me on the right path so I could adjust.
Therefore, I set out to prove everyone wrong. I got involved on campus, I applied for awards, I went to conferences, and I wanted to pour my heart and soul out proving how worthy of a student I could be. I busted my behind to pull my grades up and get into the School of Social Work. Every goal I set out, I accomplished. I obtained my Associates degree, which for some isn’t much of anything, but for me it was a milestone. I was doing everything “right.”
Now I’m in my last semester of my junior year, majoring in social work and minoring in political science, and I begin to question the way we view things in society. Whenever I go to events on campus or talk to co-workers and tell them about my busy life and mention how I have a daughter, I always get two responses: 1. “Are you sure you can commit to this because you have a daughter?” or 2., my favorite, “Do you ever spend time with your daughter?”
I’m just wondering when will the time come when women can be supported for going to school or work and having a family? I’m shunned by stay-at-home mothers who think that I’m “too busy” and that “day care centers are an awful thing for young children.” Those in the workforce who are afraid that I can’t balance work and being a mother also look down on me.
The ability to have a family and balance a work schedule or school schedule is a beautiful thing. For so long I was allowing patriarchal society to make me feel as if I was not being successful. Patriarchal society has taught us that the only way we are seen as important or valuable to this world is if we work hard and get to the top. Patriarchal society has taught us that, as women, you should stay at home with your child. Let us not forget that if you are a minority and decide to stay at home and raise your child then you are deemed “lazy,” “why don’t you work?” I allowed this mentality of achieving outward success to run my life. I felt that if I wasn’t overly-involved in school or receiving awards and obtaining higher titles or positions, then I wasn’t succeeding.
When in reality, the best position I have is “Mom.” Everyday I am leader; I don’t need outside awards or achievements to prove that. All I need is support and a clear path that will allow me to share my leadership skills with the world, and WILL allows me to do that.
WILL has been the most supportive and inclusive organization I’ve found on campus. I was never asked if I would be able to balance my family and school life. They saw my passion for activism and cleared the way for me to lay my footprints.
There should never be any complication when it comes to balancing work, school, and having a family. Schools and workplaces should allow and support those who have families, as well as those who some day may want to have a family. It’s not that some young mothers are choosing to not go to college and further their education, it just may be that they don’t have the support from higher institutions that they need to flourish.
Algeria Wilson is a Junior and first-year WILLer with a major in Social Work and a minor in Political Science.