Written by Shu
Being a full-time student with a part-time job is challenging. On top of that, I just had my first baby in October 2016. Fortunately, I am surviving as a student mom with the tremendous support from the GCSW I have received.
First of all, my professors and colleagues have demonstrated a huge amount of understanding and support regarding the big change in my life. Those who had their kids when they were students showed me particular care and empathy. They gave me a lot of their best parenting tips as working moms, from making a pumping schedule to selecting daycare. These tips are very helpful for me, an international student who is not familiar with the local system. My professors also gave some flexibility for my coursework schedule, so I can have the baby in the middle of the semester without having too much stress about assignments and grades.
Second, the university and college gave me some flexible maternity leave. Although it was unpaid, I was allowed to choose the length and the start and ending dates, based on my unique needs. After I returned to work in November 2016, my teaching assistant position also gave me flexible work hours with no location restriction. I had the opportunity to work whenever and wherever I wanted. It saved me a lot of travel time and allowed me to spend more time with my baby. This time is very important for my baby and myself as we develop our bond.
Third, the university and college facilities are student mom friendly. On the second floor in the GCSW building, a lactation room is available for nursing and pumping purposes. As a teaching assistant, I also had some semi-private office space on the third floor to use as needed. In addition, UH daycare is by far the best daycare we have visited. The classrooms and playground are huge, beautiful, and clean. The teachers and staff are educated, experienced, and friendly. The price is competitive among other daycares with the same level of quality. It also offers student discounts and financial aid.
Some strategies have helped me to make my new student mom journey smooth. The most important thing is early and clear communication. When I was pregnant, I discussed my academic and employment plans with the PhD program. The program was able to provide the most support after knowing my and my family’s needs better.
Time management is another important skill for student moms. I reprioritized everything in my life after being pregnant, and again, after my baby was born. I had to make the decision to give up some things I like and used to do. For example, I was no longer able to attend the face-to-face student ambassador meeting. However, there are always alternatives. With help from technology, I can join the meetings online using Zoom software.
Being a mom has brought me so much joy but it is not easy being a student mother. Sometimes, I miss my son while I am at school or work. I feel fortunate to be in an environment that has supported my motherhood journey every step of the way while keeping me on track in my professional goals.