Being a Single Mother in College: The Importance of Balancecsudhbulletin October 5, 2021 0 COMMENTS
Yadira Murillo (right) hopes to further her education and receive her Master’s to become an Art Therapist.
By Serena Sanchez, Staff Writer
The days where she has zero work obligations, and no class assignments to complete, are the most optimal for quality family time for single mother, Yadira Murillo, a Child Development major at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), and her two children.
After Murillo returns from picking up her daughter from high school and her son from his after-school program, where he usually finishes his homework, the trio can simply focus on spending the remainder of the day with each other. Whether they are watching their favorite movies–which inherently involve Adam Sandler–or anything on Disney+, accompanied by candy and popcorn or eating Dominos while playing board games, they take advantage of any time they have together.
To spend quality time with her loved ones, even as a full-time student, she also makes time for both children separately, to give them both the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with their mom.
Quality time with her son involves taking him to the park to play soccer, going on the swings, and watching him go up and down the slides, which is often followed by getting ice cream at La Michoacana, stopping by their favorite taco stand, talking about video games he likes, and going to the book club he is in at school.
In terms of quality time with her daughter, she takes a different route.
“If I’m able to, I’ll take my daughter to get manicures, and if not, we would get milkshakes and just bond over deep conversations,” Murillo said. “I give her advice about boys and tell her stories about things I went through with her dad.”
When she first graduated high school, she immediately went to college. But after getting pregnant in her sophomore year, she realized living on campus with an infant was close to impossible and decided to begin working instead of continuing her education.
According to Murillo, after her first child, she felt like higher education was slowly slipping away and became a place she no longer felt she belonged. “My life would be forever changed,” Murillo expressed.
Murillo left Mount St. Mary’s and began working instead, “I worked because, in my mind, I didn’t belong in that world anymore. I worked because I had to find a place where I could fit in.”
She was able to keep up with her job because her firstborn slept most of the night and her daughter’s father watched her when Murillo went to work. With time, she was getting used to the routine of being a mother and working; diaper changing came easily from her experience helping her younger nieces and nephews. Later, when she became pregnant with her son, she had much more support from her family, which helped immensely.
When her daughter was almost two years old, she worked at Payless for more than ten years until they shut down the store she was working at. As unfortunate as this must have been, Murillo took this as a sign to spend more time at home with her children, something she was unable to do as often she would have liked because of the awful schedule she had at the shoe store. For years, holidays were nonexistent, vacations were short, and weekends were spent at work. She also knew she wanted to return and stop putting her dream of pursuing her educational journey on hold.
“I guess I didn’t want to have that anymore, I wanted to spend more time with [my children]. And I’ve always loved learning, so then I was like, well, let me go back to school and do something better for myself, and to be able to provide better for them,” said Murillo.
Murillo, now 36-years-old and in her last year at CSUDH, after transferring two years ago, has struggled with and worked her way to seeking a balance between getting an education, raising two children, making time for herself, and finding a job that can work with her busy schedule. Her ways of going about it, while not major, do help, and it begins with organization.
“I think it’s important to always make sure to take time for myself whenever possible,” she said. “I have two different planners, one that’s strictly for school, and the other one is for everything else. And I make lists all the time.”
Amidst her already busy schedule, Murillo is involved in two CSUDH extracurricular activities. One being the Child Development Association, which meets once every two weeks and is solely virtual for the time being. This organization consists of workshops, networking, and volunteering to bring those interested closer to careers that support children’s lives.
JumpStart, a national organization that helps to improve early schooling in neglected communities, is the other campus activity she has joined, which is a bit less manageable than the former, but still doable. Although they meet three times a week and it is a one-year commitment requiring 300 hours of volunteer work, it works with her children’s high school and elementary schedules.
“I really wanted to do it [300 volunteer hours] because my whole passion for going into Child Development…I think children deserve a lot better than what they get already in education, I think there’s so much more,” Murillo said. “And I wanted to make a difference for some kids.”
Mentally, this balance can be quite taxing on the single, student mother. Dwindling motivation and the creeping depressive moments never fail to make themselves known, but Murillo has a healthy way of coping with them.
“I have a counselor I talk to on a regular basis and I have started journaling and getting all my thoughts out, which usually result in crying sessions, but I feel better after,” she said.
Taking some time out of every week is Murillo’s secret to self-care and balancing the complexities daily life may bring. She tries, every Friday morning, to do something she normally would not do for herself, like manicures, coffee with friends, or even just going out to eat. Making time for herself is the key to making this situation work for everyone.
“Because, you know,” Murillo explained, “It’s important to have balance and not just be stuck at home—I try to have a social life whenever possible.”
Being that both of Murillo’s children are older, the only childcare she still uses is her son’s after-school program at his elementary school. But for single mothers who are balancing a stack of books on one arm and a child on the other, there are resources at CSUDH that take a load off. One of them being the ASI Children’s Development Center (ASI CDC).
Located in Parking Lot 1 on campus, the Children’s Development Center is open as of Aug. 23, Monday to Thursday from 7:30 am-5:30 pm and Fridays 7:30 am-3:00 pm.
This on-campus resource provides childcare services for children two to five years of age to all CSUDH students, faculty, alumni, and the surrounding community. To utilize this service, families are put on the waitlist and are contacted as soon as a spot opens up.
“Our center is a state preschool where we provide developmentally appropriate
environments for children to learn through play and intentional teaching,” said Deyanira Sanchez, the ASI CDC’s Interim Program Director.
While the majority of families who seek out the ASI CDC are single mothers on their educational journeys, all parents, and those who need support financially, are welcome to their childcare.
“We offer a state-subsidized program or The Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS). If they qualify, they can get low to free subsidized care,” Sanchez said. “We also offer meals to children enrolled in our center through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) program. We offer parent educational workshops for all our families throughout the year.”
As of now, the Children’s Center is currently open for enrollment, and those interested can take a look at their website, or call (310) 243-1015.
Although Murillo is no longer able to take advantage of this childcare service, as her two children are much older, she still comes face-to-face with discouragement, as many single mothers experience.
Motivation often fades as quickly as it comes when taking on too much at once, like many single mothers, and single parents in general, do. This, unfortunately, welcomes feelings of dejection.
For Murillo, being hard and putting too much pressure on herself comes naturally, especially when it comes to stressing about schoolwork, and just about everything else. But bettering herself, giving her kids the life they deserve, and the support of her friends keep her going.
“I want to be somebody that they can be proud of, and I want to be able to provide something more for them…also, for myself, because I know I can do better,” said Murillo. “I’m fortunate to have supportive friends and family that encourage me.”
Despite how exhausting being a single mother striving for a degree, amidst juggling everything else, truly is, Murillo keeps her sights on the outcome. Emphasizing positivity and perseverance to her children, her goal is to be a model for them, one they can look up to. Raising them while at school, while it can be challenging, only makes her stronger, and they see that.
“Reflection is important and you have to decide if you’re happy with the life you have now or if you want better,” said Murillo. “I chose to make sacrifices to be able to provide a better life for the three of us. I am fortunate to have children that I am proud of that support me through it all.”