North Texas Daily

Finding a balance between school and parenting

Finding a balance between school and parenting

March 22
18:41 2017

Nadia Rosales sat in the corner of Naranja Cafe while her daughter, Penelope, tried to slurp the tapioca balls in her boba tea. She could not get them, so she asked her mother to do it. Rosales sipped, took a tapioca ball out of her mouth and gave it to Penelope, who plopped it into her own mouth like a baby bird.

Dellandra Adams eats Chick-Fil-A outside the Language Building during her only break of the day. She finished her sandwich, fries and drink in fifteen minutes before rushing to her class. Later she would go home to her baby boy, then come back to school the next day and repeat the process. This is her life as a single mom.

Rosales and Adams are UNT students balancing parenting and academics. Rosales, a sociology senior, had her daughter in 2013. Adams, a social work junior, had her baby last year. Both have faced the difficulties of having a child, but they would not change it if they could.

“I feel like I’m occupying space in two different worlds that don’t meet all the time,” Rosales said. “I’m an outsider in parenting groups because I’m so young and I’m an outsider as a student because I can’t do a lot of the things that are part of college culture.”

Rosales found out she was pregnant during her senior year of high school. She received her diploma at nine months pregnant, attended college orientation one week before her due date and began university when her baby was one month. Now, Penelope is 3 years old and Rosales is graduating this May.

Rosales, a Denton native, applied to several universities across the nation in hopes of leaving. She was accepted into most of them, including her dream school in New York. Then she found out she was pregnant. Both Rosales’ and the father’s family live in Denton, so she decided to stay and pursue an education here.

The past few years have also taught Rosales about herself. Before her pregnancy, she did not want kids nor did she think she was good with them. But now she transfers tapioca balls from her mouth to her daughter’s just to see the joy on her little face. She even has a new appreciation for Denton, the place she intended to never look back on.

“It’s forced me to be more present,” Rosales said. “I’ve always been anxious about the future. This has been a grounding experience, and it’s really helped me slow down.”

In her first year of parenting, she had trouble making friends because she was always either in classes or at home with her baby. She developed postpartum depression and coped with it by focusing on her daughter rather than herself. She did not escape from that mindset until the past few months.

“I didn’t know how I could possibly be raising a child when I’m this horrible human being,” Rosales said. “I lost my sense of self and that created a false dichotomy where I’m bad and she’s good.”

She believes that parents should put their children first, but she has learned that parents also need to look after themselves. It took breaking down to realize she needed to take care of herself, and although it is an ongoing journey, she has made progress.

“Where I am now is a much healthier place than where I was before I got pregnant and where I would be if I had not gotten pregnant,” Rosales said.

On the flip side, Adams said her pregnancy was horrible and she felt sick every day. Despite this, she remained enrolled in school to ensure that she graduated on time. She took online courses while pregnant because she knew she would not make it to class every day. Like Rosales, she never considered taking a semester off. And although school has always been her main priority, her 1-year-old son now holds that spot.

“When my baby is happy, I’m happy,” Adams said. “He’s motivated me to continue my education.”

Adams is a foster care alumni and therefore has free tuition, which has helped her stay afloat throughout her college and parenting career. But she also has no family. She said it’s just her and her baby, who is the most important part of her life and all the family she needs. The most she would say about the father is that they went their separate ways.

Adams also believes in the importance of parents prioritizing themselves. She has ‘self-care Sundays,” where she stays in her house all day and relaxes with her son. She turns off her phone, binge-watches shows and gives herself a spa treatment. It is her favorite time of the week.

Her financial situation, however, is more complicated than her Sunday routine. She used to work at a nursing home but was laid off four months ago. She has been living off her past paychecks and hopes to find a new job soon.

Rosales also struggles with money, using her job earnings and financial aid to pay for Penelope’s private school. The father is also a student at UNT and works as well. They are no longer a couple, but she said they are working to maintain a “friendly co-parenting relationship” for their daughter.

Since both of Penelope’s parents have been in school all her life, being a student is the norm. Rosales said when they drive past campus, Penelope says, “This is your school and I’m gonna go here one day.”

Moments like these make Rosales proud of her accomplishments and her daughter.

Adams has experienced a similar type of personal growth. Parenting has taught her to focus on the things that she enjoys, such as yoga and cooking, with her baby at her side. And regardless of how people perceive her, she has found that not caring about trivialities is liberating.

“Being a mom has made me a much better person,” Adams said. “I take the time to appreciate the small things and it puts in perspective what really matters.”

What really matters to Rosales is being a good mother, but sometimes she feels like she cannot be that and a good student. She often gets overwhelmed at the thought and feels the pressure of parenting weighing her down.

“Sometimes I feel like the time I devote to school and work prevents me from being a good mom and that makes me feel really guilty,” Rosales said. “But I just have to remember that I’m in school to give her a good life.”

If there’s anything she wants to do for her daughter, it’s to be a good role model. She hopes overcoming this challenge will give her daughter the confidence to have similar successes.

“I want her to know that this was hard but it was worth it,” Rosales said. “She can do anything she wants, regardless of what life throws at her or what other people think of her.”

Featured Image: Nadia Rosales poses with her daughter Penelope Roberts. Courtesy | Leigh Ann Barba

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Bianca Mujica

Bianca Mujica

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1 Comment

  1. Prof Cadena
    Prof Cadena March 24, 22:16

    Great stories. I would like to hear the point of view of the daughters (children) who are students now and whose parents went to school while they were babies.

    Reply to this comment

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