Student parenting brings struggle and reward to everyday life

Student parenting brings struggle and reward to everyday life

February 04
03:12 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighbywater

On certain days, the person sitting next to 24-year-old anthropology senior Sadie Murray during class isn’t a fellow student or T.A. Instead, her seatmate sits on a blanket, trying to hold his body weight up as he chews on toys and inspects the curious faces around him.

Murray’s 1-year-old son Oliver is experiencing life at UNT right alongside her.

Although Oliver doesn’t always venture out to campus, Murray commutes to the university as a non-traditional student: a mom.

Overcoming obstacles

Murray found out she was pregnant with Oliver in spring 2014. Because the pregnancy was unplanned, she said she struggled to reconcile the news with her dreams of graduating.

“Now, he’s the brightest light in my life,” Murray said. “I have to be honest with myself and own up to my failures or hardships because what I’m doing now goes toward mine and Oliver’s future. The journey has not been easy by any means.”

Murray said she went through a phase where her grades slipped and she lost some direction. She ultimately persevered, but though things changed for the better when she had Oliver in February 2015, she just kept running into problems.

Sadie Murray's son Oliver watches as she feeds their dogs. He will celebrate his first birthday on Feb. 9. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

Sadie Murray’s son Oliver watches as she feeds their dogs. He will celebrate his first birthday on Feb. 9. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

Murray has the help of her family to watch Oliver, but said every day is unexpected. A major roadblock standing in her way, she said, are professors.

“I didn’t stop going to school when I was pregnant or when Oliver was born,” Murray said. “Some professors were very understanding, but others were less willing to help me. It stings, but you can’t help but understand.”

Some professors require Murray to bring in Oliver’s doctor’s note if she misses class to care for him. But Murray said on a college student and mother’s budget, she can’t afford to pay the $30 copay every time her son is feeling under the weather.

Some professors are willing to let Murray Skype in for lecture, while others let her bring Oliver to class when babysitting options fall through. Murray said her son has battled a midterm alongside her and experienced hour-long lectures—at less than a year old—due to the generosity of her teachers.

Human developmental and family studies professor Arminta Jacobson said she allows student parents to bring their children to class on certain conditions. The children can’t be a distraction for other students and must be able to entertain themselves.

“It’s important for student parents to feel as though they have a safe place to bring their children when there are no other options,” Jacobson said. “I feel that these scholar parents are great role models for other students who don’t have kids, so why not give them the opportunity to show their skills and talents.”

Parenting on campus

The need for an all-ages daycare or cheaper form of childcare is often discussed among UNT parents. For integrated studies senior Abigail Vilamil, the childcare resources in Denton are either too expensive or won’t accept her 5-month-old son Jonathan.

Vilamil commutes two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays to come to school. Her fiancé also has to take off work in order to watch Jonathan when she is in class.

Sadie Murray, 23,  plays a game with her son Oliver, who said he loves to push buttons. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

Sadie Murray, 24, plays a game with her son Oliver, who Murray said loves to push buttons. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

“When I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I looked into was if there were any daycares on campus since I knew I still wanted to come to UNT,” Vilamil said. “I just think since they have daycare drop-offs in gyms and stores, why can’t they provide students with an affordable option?”

A few childcare aides are offered by the university and operate through the Camp Fire Child Care Network to integrate a referral service, allowing students, faculty and staff to locate a childcare provider based on individual criteria.

The Child Development Laboratory, run by the College of Education, is a preschool program focusing on early childhood development, but it only takes in children three to five years old.

“Since UNT is so big, you’d think they would have a couple more options,” Vilamil said. “As parents, we spend so much money on our kids that when you add in the tuition and expensive daycare, it just gets to be overwhelming.”

4_StudentParents2WEB

Sadie Murray plays with her son Oliver in her home. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

The shortage of lactation rooms around campus is also a major problem for on-campus mothers. There are seven single-use rooms on campus, each containing a chair, an outlet and a changing table for breastfeeding moms. There are no sinks.

Additionally, the rooms are not always easy to get to. Murray said although she has a long break between her classes and sometimes leaves early, a lot of other moms are already waiting in line when she gets there.

“When I don’t have anywhere else to go, I know the bathroom in the BLB has an outlet,” Murray said. “So I just have to stand there at the sink and pump for about 10 minutes while people come in and out. It’s interesting to see peoples’ reactions. But no matter what, I’ve got to do it.”

Many student moms have to carry their equipment to class and pump at certain times of the day. The process of breastfeeding is also tiresome, so not having the available resources can take a toll on mothers.

Murray said she is learning and growing alongside Oliver as she teaches him things and plans to pursue her master’s degree after she graduates.

“It’s really hard to be away from your baby,” Murray said. “In the beginning, it’s a very emotional process of being away, and even as your child gets older, it doesn’t get any easier. When you aren’t given what you need to provide for your child, it’s just harder on you.”

Featured Image: Sadie Murray breastfeeds her son Oliver in her childhood home, where she lives with her mother and grandmother. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

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