Alex Heldrich, Reporter
As the clock ticks and it gets later and later in the day, a crowd of older students start to fill the classrooms of Pierce College Puyallup. Among these people are many mothers. They range from single to married, old to young and having one child to many. However, they all have one thing in common: pursuit of a degree. The idea of attending class, doing homework, working and then raising a child on top of all of that may terrify students who aren’t in this position. Mothers at Pierce won’t say that it’s easy, but that it’s definitely possible.
Nursing major Kaylee Olson knows the reality of the life of a student and mother as she has a two year old son at home.
“When I first got pregnant, I was scared to death,” Olson said. “I was young and we were just getting life started so my son was definitely a surprise. I was wanting to get my degree and wanting to be married first, but that didn’t happen.”
During the day, Olson works at the Multicare Health Center and at nights attends class at the Puyallup campus. She spends time with her son in between.
“It’s definitely a juggling act,” Olson said. “There are days where I work and have class so I don’t get to see my son for a whole 24 hours. It’s definitely hard to wrap around, but I think so far I’ve got the balls juggling pretty well.”
Student and mother Samantha Pettit also has a busy schedule between being a stay-at-home mom and getting her associate degree in English.
“I was originally married so I was able to get help, but I’ve been a single mom for a while now, so it’s been pretty difficult navigating that while trying to be in school,” Pettit said.
Having the full schedule of a student mother and work means that those in this position are forced to make sacrifices.
“My fianće watches him during the days so he’s able to see him,” Olson said. “I get pictures of him during the day, but it’s still really hard. Not seeing him learning new things is probably the hardest part. I missed out on the first time he walked and his first words because I was working and it’s just really hard to miss those key learning milestones.”
An average day for Olson involves waking up at 6 a.m., going to work from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., attending class and then going home to spend time with her son and do homework.
“I get to spend time with my son on the weekends since I devote them only to him,” Olson said. “On days that I don’t have class, I try to spend time with him after work.”
As a single mother, Pettit must keep a strict schedule for studying and spending time with her son.
“My son gets up at about 6, if not earlier,” Pettit said. “Then we eat breakfast and do our morning ritual. From 9 a.m. to noon, I’ll put on Mickey Mouse for my son or set him up with some books so at that time I’m devoted to my school work, other than basic needs for my son. And then before and after that, I’m completely devoted to my son.”
Pettit compares her study time with going to work, as it’s a time for her to step away and concentrate on getting homework done. Because of her devotion to school work, she’ll be graduating from Pierce this summer with honors and will then transfer to Pacific Lutheran University.
“It’s hard to have a full course load and also be a stay at home mom while trying to get homework done and then on top of that, I have a few clients that I tutor,” Pettit said. “So it’s not easy, but it’s doable.”
Olson recently started working towards her degree in nursing at Pierce, so she has four more years before she graduates.
“I feel prepared to go to school for four more years, but I also don’t,” Olson said. “I have doubts if I’ll be able to complete my degree, if it’s something for me or if it’s feasible. But you just have to keep doing it. It’s only four years to better our lives and that makes it worth it.”
Currently Olson’s son is learning how to hug and kiss. She said that the best thing in the world is going home to him waiting at the door to give her a kiss.
“He’s just learning so many different things and I’m so amazed at what a child can learn and how he learns,” Olson said. “I just love it.”
Pettit defines her parenting style as very hands-on. She likes him to constantly have books to read and crafts to do so that he’s never idle.
“The struggle for me is trying to find time to do both school and be a hands on parent,” Pettit said. “I have a very rigorous course load, so it was tough trying to do everything at once while being a single parent.”
With the help of her parents, Pettit has been able to dedicate time to school and managed to keep a GPA that got her on the Dean’s list and admission to PLU with multiple scholarships.
“Having my parents watch him at night helped a lot,” Pettit said. “It’s been tough, but with my parent’s help I’ve been able to manage it.”
Both Pettit and Olson strongly encourage mothers to get their degrees.
“To mothers thinking about going back to school, I say go for it,” Pettit said. “It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be tough and sometimes you don’t have the resources to do it. As hard as it’s going to be, it’s so worth it. It’s important to be a good example to your child and show them that even if you didn’t do well in high school or you went off of your path, that you can still go back and make things better for yourself.”
Olson understands the fears and doubts that mothers may have about returning to school.
“It’s hard at first but the outcome is worth it,” Olson said. “The fact that you may not see your child for 24 hours, but at least you’re able to finish your degree and give them the life that they deserve, is worth it to me. I’ve been there. I have doubts of continuing, but I just keep going. You’ve got to think of your little one while you’re doing it and know that you’re bettering them and not just yourself.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost