“I have to do it for her” : Being a college student and a parent

For some students, the reality of college does not include study parties, dorm life, or loads of

pizza—instead, there are diaper changes, burp rags and rubber duckies.

Eviaona Durr, a 22-year-old student at UMKC, is a full-time mom and student. Her daughter, Charlie, turned 1 in February.

“She’s a handful sometimes. She just learned ‘no,’” Eviaona laughs. “She’s always telling me ‘no.’”

Five months after Charlie was born, Evianona knew she needed to go back to school. She says Charlie motivated her to do better.

“I have to do it for her,” she explains.

In many ways, Eviaona is thankful she also juggles the role of a parent.

“Going back, I have way better grades than I did before,” she said. “I know that she needs me, so I’ve got to make something of myself and be an example for her.”

Eviaona is scheduled to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May, but she has no intentions of leaving the lecture hall.

“I’m about to start applying for graduate school,” she said. “I want to get my doctorate and become a marriage counselor.”

Eviaona says she always wanted to be a marriage counselor, but after Charlie was born, she became more driven.

“It was more ‘I have to’ now, rather than ‘I can just figure it out as I go,’” she said.

This mentality is useful in the mornings spent preparing Charlie for daycare.

“I gotta get her dressed, get her fed and drop her off,” Eviaona said, describing her busy routine.

Because Eviaona only takes one class online, she has a number of lectures throughout the week. Charlie attends daycare during the day while Eviaona is on campus. At night, she stays with her grandmother or aunt while Eviaona goes to work at her part-time job.

The most challenging part of it all, Eviaona said, is having to choose between her role as a student and a mother.

“Sometimes, I leave her at daycare instead of going to pick her up and bringing her with me because I know that I could be doing my homework,” Eviaona said. “It’s hard sacrificing some of the time I could be spending with her because I know that I have to study.”

Despite her busy lifestyle, Eviaona has managed to form friendships with other student parents at UMKC. The number of students with children is higher than you might think: A study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research says 26 percent of all undergraduate students are the dependent caretaker of their children.

Eviaona said it can be hard to bond with students who don’t have outside responsibilities.

“It’s just school and work for them,” Eviaona said of her classmates, some of whom are the same age as her. “It’s not school, work and the baby, where it’s like 24/7, you’re busy.”

With so many roles to fill, Eviaona has to give up small luxuries, like choosing her own schedule. “If I could take night classes, I would, but I can’t miss out on time with [Charlie],” she said.

UMKC has made steps to help student parents and other nontraditional students reach graduation. Students can receive assistance from PACE, or the Program for Adult College Education. There are also a number of scholarships available solely for nontraditional students such as Eviaona, which can help pay for tuition.

In addition to her own life, Eviaona must deal with her daughter’s schedule, which includes

doctor’s appointments, important milestones and celebrations (like Charlie’s first birthday, which included a trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s).

“It can be stressful when I have to plan on top of knowing that I have six assignments to do, study for a test, or if I’m still thinking about work,” she said.

Eviaona might be coy about her own accomplishments, but she doesn’t hesitate to launch into a story about Charlie’s latest achievement.

“We started [learning about] animals yesterday, because there are animals on her bedspread. I’ll ask her, ‘Where is the zebra?’ and she can point to it,” Eviaona said.

 

skayt7@mail.umkc.edu

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