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Mother Tongue | Other Mothers' Voices

Essays by teens who are both parents and high school students

July 11, 2016, 9:15 pm
Mother Tongue is at its best as a forum for many parents’ voices. I am excited to share the thoughts and perspectives of seven young moms on issues of parenting, health, time management, discovering goals, planning for the future and summoning the courage to make it through rough days. While their vantage points are particular to teen mothers, these essays’ topics and insights are relevant to parents across the spectrum of age.

Each writer is a student of my 11th/12th grade Capital High School Mother Tongue English class for teen parents—a key program of the Mother Tongue Project, which combines high standards and relevancy-based English language arts instruction with a library-building component and a one-to-one mentorship program that pairs current teen moms with former teen parents who have earned a college degree. 

The project—and these essays—would not be possible without the stalwart, enthusiastic support of the Santa Fe Public Schools Office of Student Support Services and its director, Christine Eisenberg, and the responsive, forward-thinking administration of Capital High School, particularly Channell Wilson Segura and Mariah Runyon, as well as our generous donors. Thank you for your belief in these students and the capacity for success of smart, engaged teen parents with things to say. 

I hope you enjoy reading the reflective, articulate voices of these Mother Tongue writers. They are important voices in their families and in our community.

- Lauren Whitehurst,
  Mother Tongue blogger and director of the Mother Tongue Project




Bonding without Breastfeeding

By Destiny Vigil

Destiny Vigil: “I’m glad I went through this experience because it has made me a better mother.”
MTP
Why couldn't I breastfeed? I asked myself this question all the time. Only recently have I realized that I wasn't equipped with the knowledge or the support to be successful at breastfeeding my child. At first, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. I wanted to, and I tried for a while, but it was harder than I thought it would be, and my determination wasn't there. 

My experience with breastfeeding wasn't the most beautiful thing, as people say it is supposed to be. I knew since I was six months pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed my daughter. The moment I had her, I put her on my breast, and she began to suckle. Everything seemed to be going perfectly. Soon, however, I realized she was eating too often and wasn't getting enough milk. I began to get frustrated, and the hospital nurses offered me formula. Well, I wouldn't say “offer”: They forcefully encouraged me to give my daughter formula. I wouldn't budge. I wanted my daughter to get the best food she possibly could. I knew that the best would come from me, so I kept trying. 

She was restless, always crying and so gassy. I would bring her to my breast, and she was so hungry she couldn't latch correctly. She fussed and moved her head forward and away from my breast. She was so uncomfortable and couldn't relax when she was feeding. I felt like there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was doing something wrong. I thought that I wasn't enough for my daughter. I felt useless because I couldn't make my body work. I thought to myself, “Why was I blessed with a child if I can't even nourish her?”

When we got released from the hospital, breastfeeding was an even bigger nightmare. The baby slept most of the time during our first evening at home, but I dreaded the moment when she woke from her sleep. I knew she would be hungry, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to feed her. So when she woke up screaming her head off because she was hungry, I sent my mom to the store to get formula. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, mommy’s milk is always best for the child, and the AAP recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. In my case, difficulties arose, and I couldn't breastfeed my child, so I chose formula. 

When I switched to formula, however, my daughter was still super fussy and gassy. Her poops were explosive, messy and fluorescent yellow. To be completely honest, it was disgusting. I spoke with her doctor, and we determined that she is lactose intolerant. Well, what do you know? That explains why she was so uncomfortable even when I was breastfeeding. After further discussion with her doctor, I put her on soy-based formula. My daughter’s doctor reassured me that formula would be just fine, and that it was okay that I hadn’t been successful at breastfeeding. As soon as he said this, I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. Mothering was a breeze after that—relatively. I could finally enjoy feeding her. Even though I wasn’t breastfeeding, my daughter and I still bonded during those early days. I held her, kissed her, sang to her, and we spent a lot of time staring at each other.

Looking back, I know that I didn't have either the support or the knowledge I needed to have in order to breastfeed successfully. It would have helped if my family had been on board and taken responsibility for some of the everyday chores I do at home. It also would have helped if I had known what a proper latch looks like and that it takes six weeks to build up a good milk supply. After having my daughter and returning to school, I learned more about breastfeeding in my parenting class. I realized there were actual strategies that could have made it easier for me to stick with breastfeeding. For example, according to The Baby Book, by William Sears, it would have helped to increase my milk supply if I had pumped. I also learned that it is rare for a mother not to be able to make enough milk to feed her baby.

I'm glad I went through this experience because it has made me a better mother. It helped me discover my child's food sensitivities and be attentive to her nutrition. It also helped us bond in other ways. When she was a newborn, I was the only one who fed her. I rubbed her head and tickled her nose. I sang her to sleep. I felt as if she could feel everything I was feeling and see everything I was going through. This wasn’t always positive for me, but when she looked into my eyes, I understood that everything was okay and that she loved me. I have second-guessed myself a lot in the past seven months, but I know that I have a close, bonded relationship with my baby.


Teen Parents and Obesity

By Cynthia Alvarez

The American Pregnancy Association recommends the average woman gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. I gained 70 when I was pregnant with my son, and I’ve had a hard time losing weight since then. When I moved in with my boyfriend’s family at four weeks pregnant, I got used to their eating habits, which was a huge mistake. Now, as a teen mother struggling to find time to be healthy, I feel humiliated and miserable for being overweight. It has been one of the hardest experiences in my life. 

Cynthia Alvarez: “As a teen mom, full-time student and girlfriend, I’m so busy that I feel like I have no time to eat well and exercise.”
Nicole Moulton for MTP
Obesity rates are rising in the United States. This is alarming because of associated health risks, such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease and gallstones. Also, the health of a child’s parents influences the child’s health, according to the American Obesity Treatment Association. As a mom, I worry about my weight and choices affecting my son. Obesity can run in families, and several members of my family struggle with weight and related health issues. My grandmother and my mother suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes, for example. 

Until I got pregnant, I was always the skinny kid. But research shows that gaining too much during pregnancy can cause moms to be overweight. A 2009 study found that women gaining more than the recommended pregnancy weight were likely to keep on extra pounds. Researcher Victor J Stevens said that women who gained too much “had a lot of difficulty losing that weight, and on average retained 40 percent of it a year later.” A 2014 study “confirms that pregnancy is a risk factor when women become overweight and obese, as many women do not lose the weight gained during pregnancy. The study cites low income and young age as risk factors, too. 

If I had a message for other teen parents, it would be to take care of yourselves when you’re pregnant and don’t gain weight you don’t need to gain. It’s been four years since I had my son, and I still haven’t lost weight. It’s really hard to get in shape since I’m busy with work, parenting and school. After reading some of the research, I know that I’m not the only one having this problem. This is reassuring, because it makes me feel better about myself: I know nothing is wrong with me, and I’m not alone. 

In fact, there’s a study about US teen moms being more likely to be obese. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published this study, which states that “giving birth as a teen is associated with subsequent overweight/obese status later in life.” Being overweight may be common for young moms, but I still want to lose weight and be healthier. 

As a teen mom, full-time student and girlfriend, I’m so busy that I feel like I have no time to eat well and exercise. This has been my struggle all along. How do people manage their time in order to be healthy? 

Calorie intake and unhealthy food are big contributors to gaining weight, but it takes more money and time to eat healthy. Fresh foods are often more expensive, because processed foods contain preservatives that make it easier to transport and store them. It can be hard to find healthy food that’s affordable, but it is possible. In his article “7 Foods to Buy when You’re Broke,” Aaron Crowe, a dietician and nutritionist, suggests cheap, healthy foods like beans, potatoes, green vegetables and brown rice. I eat some of these sometimes, but it takes more time to cook healthy meals than eat prepared foods.

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise “promotes general health and increases mental well-being.” According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Endurance increases, as does your flexibility and muscle strength. Exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in some people. Your risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and diabetes decreases with regular physical activity.” I know from my own experience that exercise has benefits. As a person who’s overweight, I experience severe back pain, and when I exercise, it makes my back feel better. In my Mother Tongue English class, we sometimes do a yoga pose called “downward dog” that helps relieve my stress. This can be a great thing to do at home. 

I struggle finding time to exercise. I wake up early to get my son and me ready for school. After school, I take a bank-teller class until 6 pm. When I get home, I clean for 30 minutes and cook dinner. We finish around 9 pm. It’s late to be eating dinner, but that’s all my schedule can handle. I get my son ready for bed and then try to do homework. 

I agree with the recommendations to eat healthy and exercise, but I’m always busy and don’t even have much family time with my boyfriend and son. I have to make choices. Maybe it’s a matter of finding a way to eat healthy, even if all the exercise I get is from walking up and down stairs at school. Making one little change at a time might help.

Being overweight has been a bad experience, and I don’t wish anyone to go through it as I have. I want my family to have a healthy lifestyle, so I am trying to adopt better habits and model being healthy for my son. It has to start with me taking one step, then the next. I recently chose my courses for Santa Fe Community College this fall, and I enrolled in a fitness class.


Time-less Parenting

By Anna Iris Bustillos

I feel exhausted balancing being a mother, girlfriend, daughter and high school senior. Every day I drive out of school, overwhelmed. My body feels tired and heavy. I have a headache and hold tension in my neck, so I stretch, holding the steering wheel and putting an ear on each shoulder. I take a deep breath and notice the comforting smell of my car. It's the smell of my boyfriend after a long day at work. It's the smell of my daughter, Yarisdi, whom I’m driving to pick up. I’m on my way to struggle finding time for everything.

How can I budget my time around all of this? I’d like to use a planner better so I don't always feel so rushed to make time for everyone and everything. Marquette University’s counseling center uses a time-management guide for students by the National Resource Center on ADHD. “Time Management: Learning to Use a Day Planner” suggests carrying a planner all the time, referring to it regularly, using it as a calendar for everything and keeping in it a daily to-do list. I should check it at least three times a day: in the morning to plan, in the middle of the day to refresh my memory and at night to think about the next day. 

There’s a difference between just having a planner and actually knowing how to use it. I like using colored pens to color-code my planner, and it feels good when I reward myself for completing tasks I’ve written down. Getting better at using my planner will help me map out how to correctly use my time.

Anna Iris Bustillos: “I need to organize everything first to create a calmer environment for my daughter, my boyfriend and myself." 
MTP

But when is the correct time for everything? When do I do home time, school time, relationship time and me time? A time-management article from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension says people should learn how they spend time before they plan it. When you know when during the day you have more and less energy, you organize your schedule effectively. For example, the article recommends doing challenging tasks when you have the most energy, blocking out and protecting time for high priorities, and committing to things you really want to do. Setting priorities helps you manage time better because you learn what's urgent and what isn't. These suggestions make me realize I can learn to manage my time better. I balance a lot, so I appreciate strategies that lessen stress.
When I’m less stressed, I have more energy and patience so I interact with my family in positive ways. Cleaning is one way I reduce stress, and experts recommend this. Dr. Eva Selhub, an internal specialist, is quoted in Shape magazine as saying, “Clutter is stressful for the brain,” and that organization can improve brain function and relationships. I agree! 

If I am stressed because my home and my brain are a mess, I need to organize everything first to create a calmer environment for my daughter, my boyfriend and myself. It affects our relationships. “For couples, clutter can create tension and conflict,” Selhub says, talking about everything from losing time looking for missing things to feeling embarrassed about a messy home. Clutter affects people's abilities to focus, and it definitely distracts me. I don't have much time to spend with my daughter and boyfriend, and we enjoy each other more when our home is clean.
In addition to taking care of my family, I am a student. I have a duty to my family and myself to get a good education to give us a better future. I put off schoolwork or do it while I’m doing something else, however, and procrastination and multitasking make things harder. In their UGA article, Sue Chapman and Michael Rupured suggest breaking overwhelming tasks into easier-to-finish segments. Also, multitasking costs more time than it saves. “Multitasking may lead to difficulty in concentrating and maintaining focus when needed,” they say. 

I have to focus on one thing at a time instead of trying to parent, clean and do schoolwork all at once. Marquette’s “Time Management Guide" suggests sequencing to-do lists “in order of decreasing priority.” I turn in homework faster if I apply this to a list of assignments, labeling them from most to least important. I feel like I might prioritize school more in my life if I use my planner to prioritize things I need to do as a student. I can't always do this because I’m a parent.

Since my daughter was born, I feel like I’m always out of time, especially for myself. It’s hard. “Often, the greatest barrier to healthy habits is a lack of time,” Selhub says in Shape. For me to manage all the roles in my life, I have to organize my time, home, family and even my thoughts. I need to take care of myself in order to take care of everyone else the way I want to. 

Chapman and Rupured write, “The care and attention you give yourself is an important investment of time. Scheduling time to relax, or do nothing, can help you rejuvenate both physically and mentally, enabling you to accomplish tasks more quickly and easily.” 

For me, this time comes when I am alone in my car, even when I’m tired. I'm on my way to pick up Yarisdi. I roll down the window and drive up the mountain road to her babysitter’s house. I drive fast and then slow, just because I feel like it and I’m alone, which doesn't happen much anymore. I turn up the music and sing out loud. Later, I’ll sing to my daughter, but right now I’m planning time to sing just for me.



Surviving Difficult Stages as a Single Teen Mom

By Marisol Chavez Miramontes

 

Trying to find the motivation to do everything I need to do in order graduate in 2017 sounds easy, but being a single teen mother, I've found this tougher than anything I've done in my life—besides labor, of course. Everything from getting up in the morning to make it to school on time, to getting my priorities organized, to finding strategies to keep going when I feel defeated are things I find myself struggling with. It has been a difficult year, but I found some helpful resources that have given me strategies and encouraging messages.

I can't remember a day when I have enjoyed getting up in the morning, especially after a long night of work and homework. My fascinating Mother Tongue Project mentor, Ziggy Prothro, was a teen mom, too, and she gave me a lot of helpful advice about how to get up in the morning, get motivated and get to school. “One day it will all be over and you will be rewarded,” she said. “You may not see it now, but education gives you the ability to do YOU and not what somebody wants you to do.” In all honesty, I can say I totally agree with her, because it's true! I can't imagine the joy I will feel the day I graduate. I cannot wait to be able to say I got up early every morning—to say that it dragged, but I did it! I already know what it feels like to do what somebody else wants you to do, and I am certain I don't want that to be my entire life.

How did you get your priorities organized? I asked Ziggy. “First of all,” she told me, “do not take to heart all the judgment you get from the people around you, because it's your life and your future.” As a teen mom, I've always gotten a lot of judgment from others, but I never really thought about how much it affected my daily life. It is a huge setback to hear people saying negative comments about you. “Despite that, we have to know what's important and what you're working towards,” said Ziggy. Hearing a former teen mom voice these affirming reminders helped me think about what my priorities are and what I want them to be. 

Marisol Chavez Miramontes: “If you’ve been defeated at one point, that does not mean you will be in the future." 
MTP
It takes courage to face judgment and keep moving forward when I feel defeated. A book called Dreams to Reality by Laura Haskins-Bookser helped me face the world with a little more courage. When I read this book, I was looking for answers about what to do when I feel defeated. One quote stood out to me: “When people are confused about what to do, they often do nothing,” Haskins-Bookser writes. I questioned myself over and over again for a period of days: “Am I confused about what I want to do with my life?” I came to the conclusion that, no, I am definitely not confused. But if not that, then why do I feel like life’s punching bag at times?

In addition to the sentence that helped me ask myself important questions, Haskins-Bookser also wrote what has become my holy-grail quote. I love it because it gives me encouragement to keep pushing through life. “No matter how many times you screw things up, no matter how many times you have disappointed people, you need to know one powerful thing: Your future life is not a reflection of your past,” she writes. This quote boosted up my self-esteem in every way when I first read it. I saw it as saying, “If you've been defeated at one point, that does not mean you will be in the future.”

I was going to cite a recent Santa Fe New Mexican article about a teen mom who became a lawyer for this essay. Positive examples by other young moms can be motivating. However, I changed my mind. Instead, I talked with my father, who was also a teen parent and, for three years, a single dad of two. He is and forever will be my biggest inspiration. I asked him many questions about how he gets up every morning in such a great mood. How does he organize his priorities? Finally I asked, “What do you do when you feel defeated?”

He stared at me for a few moments before answering. Then he said, “The day I felt the most defeated was when your mother passed. I didn't think I could go on, and I took a few days of solitude. But then, I looked at you and your brother, and I found the strength to keep going. You, my children, are my biggest motivation and the reason why I get up every morning. You are my main priorities and the reasons why I prioritize my responsibilities. Everything I do is for you, my children.” My father’s words are so important to me. It’s not only because they’re from my father, but also because I am sure all parents feel the same way about their children, and he articulated that for me—as both a daughter and a mother.

I learned a lot from writing this essay. My mentor, Ziggy, gave me ambition to strive for more. The book Dreams to Reality gave me courage to keep moving forward without hesitation. Last but not least, my father showed me that the love we have for our children can help us overcome any obstacle to achieve our goals. This drives me to want to teach my daughter that she can truly do anything she sets her mind to, and that I can, too. 
 


When Being a Parent Changes Your Plan

By Brenda Enriquez                                                                                       

I wanted to be a United States Marine before getting pregnant. Now that I have my son, how do I serve our country without leaving my baby behind? I can accomplish my dreams with support from my family, but I’m not sure I could juggle being a teen mom and a member of the military. 

Brenda Enriquez: “I know that going to college and law school is a big time investment, especially since I will also be mothering a young child.”
MTP
Statistics show that 214,098 women serve in the U.S. military—under 15 percent of enlisted personnel. The percentage of women in the U.S. Marine Corps is only 6.8 percent. Even fewer are single parents: 7.8 percent of all military members and 4.7 percent of the USMC. In fact, the Department of Defense does not even enlist in military service “unmarried individuals with custody of any dependents under the age of 18.” Being a Marine is not an option for me.

My only plan for the future had been to join the USMC, however, so I have felt lost since having my son. Then, in January, my NM GRADS parenting class went on a field trip to the New Mexico State Legislature. That was the day I realized that maybe there was another way to serve my country. 

The Legislature was exciting. People were busy, walking from place to place, helping legislators, getting information and learning about laws people wanted to introduce. Maybe government would be a good choice for me. I realized that I wanted to dress professionally, like everyone I observed, and learn more about how laws and government work. 

With a teacher’s help, I found out about a governor’s office internship available for high school students. I was excited to apply! Unfortunately, just as everything was coming together, it turned out the state hadn’t funded this program, so it wasn’t available. Still, it stimulated my interest in learning more about law and governance.

Being undocumented and having DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), I see my immigration lawyer constantly. This has also supported my interest in pursuing law. How wonderful would it be to one day be able to help someone undocumented, like myself, become a legal U.S. citizen? I know that going to college and law school is a big time investment, especially since I will also be mothering a young child. Fortunately, I found examples of other teen moms who accomplished this. 

Jennifer Romero is an attorney for Pegasus Legal Services for Children. I asked her how she knew that she wanted to be a lawyer. “My parents sued me for custody of my daughter,” she said. “I fought them in court. They had an attorney throughout the case. I had an attorney in the beginning, but quickly realized I couldn’t afford an attorney at $250-an-hour, so I had to represent myself for most of the case.” 

Her response shocked me. I was amazed that she went up against an attorney without a clue of what she was doing! How often are cases lost because one can’t afford an attorney? Romero decided that she could do it, and, after she finished law school, that she wanted to help other people in the position she’d been in. She now works for a non-profit law firm that helps children. 

Lysette Romero-Cordova, a staff attorney at the New Mexico Court of Appeals, was also a teen mom and had to learn how to balance parenting with college and law school. “When I went to law school, I was able to get my daughter into the daycare at UNM, which was wonderful,” she said. “If she wasn't there, she was with me—in classes, at the library, at home while I was studying. It was hard, but we managed.” 

I can relate to her because having a spot at Little Paws Early Head Start Center has made it much easier for me to keep going to school. I’m able to spend time with my son between classes since he’s right on Capital High School’s campus. This may not be the case when I go to college, but it’s encouraging to know that it worked for Romero-Cordova. 

Either way, I’ll have to keep reminding myself to take things step by step, like Romero-Cordova said she did: “At one point, I had three jobs and went to law school full-time. I swear, I nearly lost my mind; but we took one day at a time.” 

Being interested in law and interviewing lawyers who were teen moms made me realize that I can do a lot more with my life, for myself and my son. I learned there are other ways to serve my country and benefit my family: I can keep pursuing my education and, eventually, become a lawyer. It may take me awhile to get through college and law school, but it helps me to feel like I have a plan. Maybe some day I will get to work in the state Legislature. For now, though, I’m focused on graduating from high school this summer. As I finish my classes and look into college, I will keep in mind the stories of other teen moms who made this dream happen for them.


My Birth, My Goal, My Achievement

By Odalys Garcia

Odalys Garcia: "Since I was in middle school, I have known I wanted to be a nurse because I want to take care of people and help them to be healthy." 
MTP
In the silent hospital room, the only voice I could hear speaking to me was my nurse’s. “You are doing excellent,” she said. “You can do this!” From the moment I arrived at the hospital in labor and got comfortable in my room, my nurse, Charlene, was my favorite person. She supported me through my entire labor, and her patience, encouragement and skill not only helped me birth my son, but also helped me define my career goal. My experience becoming a mom made me want to become a nurse midwife.
    
As my contractions became frequent and more painful, Charlene gave me ice lollipops, ice and other cold foods so that I could feel better. When my contractions became more intense, Charlene gave me the exercise ball, helped me get in the shower and massaged my lower back. She came to check on me every five to 10 minutes, even though she was busy with other patients, too. 

When I felt almost ready to push, one side of my cervix was having a hard time fully dilating. Charlene did everything she could to help me dilate faster. What I most loved about her was that she was so patient with me. Finally, when I was ready to push, she stood by my side the whole time. “You are doing great, honey!” she said. “You know you can do it!” These words gave me the courage to keep pushing and be patient with myself. When I was so mad because my labor would not end, I would direct my anger at Charlene, but she was still so calm and nice with me.
     
The thing is, even though she was such an important person in the delivery of my son and in informing my career goals, Charlene is not a midwife. As a labor and delivery nurse, she demonstrated to me that not all nurses are mean and grumpy. She modeled how I want to be able to encourage other women through their labors. 

Since I was in middle school, I have known I wanted to be a nurse because I want to take care of people and help them to be healthy. After working with Charlene and Trisha Maxon, who was my midwife and introduced me to the specific designation of certified nurse midwife, I realized that is what I want to do. 

To accomplish this goal, I will need more school than I would to be a registered nurse. According to American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), a certified nurse midwife, or CNM, must first earn a Bachelor’s of Science degree. The ACNM says, “Majoring in nursing is probably the most efficient route for a career in midwifery in the U.S.” For this, I really want to attend the University of New Mexico (UNM), earn my bachelor’s degree in nursing, and then enroll in their nurse-midwifery graduate program. UNM’s nurse-midwifery concentration requires 55 credit hours and more than 1,000 hours of clinical experience. This is a lot of school, and it will be hard to balance my student life with my life as a mom. But I also know that, with enough support from my boyfriend and our families, I will be able to achieve my goal of becoming a nurse midwife.
      
I recently read an essay by Katherine Robins called “Birth of a Midwife,” which made me reflect back on my labor. Robins wrote about supporting a teenage patient in her labor and delivery, and she remembered saying almost the exact words that Charlene used to encourage me when I was in labor: “She is working very hard and she is making a lot of progress. She is so strong. See how well she is handling these contractions?” Just like Robins said this to her patient’s family, Charlene said it to my family when I was giving birth. Reading this story made me think a lot about my own experience. It reminded me how important a good midwife or nurse can be to a young woman birthing her first child. 
    
Every woman’s labor is a different journey—happy, sad, emotional, horrible, miraculous. My labor and delivery made me think straight ahead to my future and to what I want to become. Meeting Trisha Maxon and Charlene was transformative for me: They delivered me into my first experiences as a mother and showed me the power of nursing and midwifery. They will always be role models for how I want to be as a nurse midwife, encouraging and caring for other young moms as they step into their futures.



Teen Mom Milestones
By Jazmin Ordonez

My 2-year-old son saw me receive my diploma from Capital High School this spring. He will be there when I begin classes at Santa Fe Community College this fall, and he will be there when I graduate from college. I am committed to him sharing these milestones with me because I want to be a good role model—and because the best part of my day is when I pick him up from Little Paws Early Head Start Center on the campus of Capital High School. 

Every day after my 6th period class this year, Santiago ran to me with a huge smile on his face screaming, “Mommy!” When I pick him up, he hugs me like he hasn’t seen me in days. I hug him back, holding him tight and kissing him, knowing that I have to drop him off at my auntie’s house to go to work soon. It is difficult to manage being a single mother, full-time employee, and full-time student.

My time with Santiago is very valuable because it is limited. I only get to spend 10 minutes with him while I drive to my auntie’s house, and in those 10 minutes my 2-year-old talks to me so much and looks at me when I glance at him through the rear-view mirror. It breaks my heart when I drop him off at my auntie’s because he starts crying and runs to me. He does not want me to leave him again. However, as a single mother, I am responsible for all our expenses, so I have to go.

I work as a housekeeper at Christus St. Vincent Hospital five days a week, from 4:30 pm to 12:30 am. During school, I wake up early to get Santiago and me ready on time. Working and going to school are priorities for me because I want to give my son and myself a better future. Santiago and I both get help from my family, and I know that they love him so much, but I still feel like I have all of the responsibility on my own. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “Parents are estimated to spend $245,340 to raise a child born in 2013.” This makes me feel overwhelmed because it’s a huge number! I have to budget my expenses in a smart way by not spending on pointless things. I manage our money by paying all of my bills first and then buying my son whatever he needs. I buy groceries at the end so that I do not overspend on food. If I have money left over, I save it in the bank in case I need it later.


Jazmin Ordonez: “Despite how exhausting it can be, I love being a single parent.” 
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I may need some of my savings to go to college. College is expensive, especially when I have a baby depending only on me. Full-time tuition and fees for SFCC this year will be $1,356, according to Scott Whitaker, SFCC’s director of financial aid. Books and supplies can add up to nearly $1,200 per year. There are some resources that can help, though.

I qualify for the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship, which pays some tuition for New Mexico high school graduates at in-state colleges or universities if they enroll right away. The Lottery Scholarship  requires students to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average (GPA) and complete 12 credit hours per semester at a community college or 15 at a four-year university. This would be a full-time school schedule like how I’m in school now, except that I would have more difficult homework and more of it.

I submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and will learn how much I qualify for this summer. Work-study and loans usually require at least a half-time class load, or 6 hours a semester, and a 2.0 GPA. So, I don’t have to take 12 credits a semester, but students get more federal money the more classes they take up to the full-time maximum, Whitaker says. Also, the more classes I take, the sooner I graduate. Maintaining my class load and grades with work and parenting will be difficult for me, and I will have to prioritize my time wisely. It helps me to think that I am only going to be struggling for a short time: If I finish college, Santiago and I will have more opportunities. 

Now, I finish work late and I’m tired, but I still manage to do some homework. When I get home, my son is already sleeping. I just lie down with him, staring at him and wondering how his day went. What did he eat? Did he learn something new? I get sad because I feel like I'm missing out on so much with him. But then, I think to myself that I'm doing everything right. I'm getting my education and I'm working for both of us. Hopefully, he will understand this when he's older, even if he doesn't get to see me as much because I'm busy going to school and working. 

Despite how exhausting it can be, I love being a single parent. It wasn't my choice, but it just means that I have my son all to myself and don't have to share him with anyone. Yes, it's very difficult, and, yes, sometimes I feel like giving up on my education and just working. But when I just take a minute and look at my son’s little face, it makes me stronger. He is so smart, and I want him to have a bright future and to be proud of me as he grows up.

 

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