Today's Early Mama Spotlight Q+A comes from a young college student named Cecilia. You might relate to her story: She's a single mom who moved back in with her parents to finish college, and was originally on the adoption path before deciding how important it was to raise this baby girl herself.
1. How old were you when you had your baby?
2. Was this planned? Unexpected?
It was not planned, but my life was pretty chaotic when I got pregnant and I had not been making sane choices about birth control, so I can't say it was unexpected. If that's vague enough for you.
3. How did your friends and family react to the news?
Most people in my life were initially shocked and upset. I was having a tough time at that point in my life, and a baby seemed like the last thing I needed. When the reality of my pregnancy hit me, I considered adoption. It seemed like the "rational" thing to do. Our culture tells us that having a baby young will ruin your life and I believed it. I had a social worker and had even met a couple of families, but it never felt right. I used to bawl myself to sleep — I was so torn up over my decision and I felt a lot of pressure from the adoption agency to make a final decision.
Then one day I just knew what to do. I realized that the heart wants what it wants, and mine wanted to raise my daughter.
4. And I see you're a single mom. Is your ex involved at all?
5. What's been the most challenging part of your "early mama" experience?
For me, it's the money. I have very little saved, a pretty low earnings potential, and a pile of student debt. I am one thrifty mama — I buy less, buy used, and make what I can — but that can only go so far. It's been challenging to ask for help — from family, from the government, from educational institutions. But I think of it as an investment. I will be of greater benefit to society if I'm a public school teacher than if I'm a nanny, and likewise my daughter will be of greater benefit to society if she has a good education.
It's also challenging to have so little time to make art (I'm an actress), but that is the parent's lament, young and old.
6. What are some of the biggest advantages to you, starting a family so young?
I would have to agree with your recent posts about the career advantage of starting a family young. When I'm feeling overtired and bedraggled as a parent, I walk into a college classroom and most are in sweatpants, exhausted from a night of partying or studying. By the time I have to iron business casual every morning, my daughter will be too old to pull the iron down on her head. When I really need to invest time in my career, I'll have a little more space to do so.
7. In addition to being a single mom, you're also a student mom. Do you have any advice for new moms traveling a similar path?
Find an institution that is intellectually challenging yet supportive of your other huge commitment. Once you get there, find an advocate — a professor or administrator — who will go to the mat for you. If you don't like your advisor, switch. You need people in high places on your side.
Also make sure to arrange enough childcare so that you have time to do homework as well as attend class. I learned that the hard way last semester. This semester, my daughter will be in daycare four full days a week so that I can get my homework done during the day. That way when I'm home with her, I can really be home.
8. What are you studying in school? Any long-term professional goals?
I'm studying Psychology and Education, and I might graduate with a license to teach elementary school. I love teaching, but I don't think I'm in it for the long haul. I think a short career as a teacher (5 to 10 years) could inform future work in education policy or research. I'd like to have a job where I get to write.
I'm also really excited about Adventure Playgrounds, and I'd love to build some in the U.S.
So I have some professional goals, some plans, but I know that school can be spontaneously inspiring. I'm trying to be open to that as well.
9. Have you been dating at all?
I'm starting to date a little, but I have a hard time relating to the 20-something bar scene. The truth is that I'm not looking to add another person to my family right now. My relationship with my daughter is the most important thing to me, and I don't have a lot of spare energy or time for a new relationship.
10. If you could go back and tell your pregnant self one thing, what would it be?
Breathe. Trust yourself. You will make the right decisions. Also, take it easy! Stop working so hard and sleep while you can.
You can read more from Cecilia on her blog Baby Blue Elephant.