CU works to ease stress with family housing, daycare
It is hard to imagine being a parent at the age of 20.
It would seem nearly impossible to find free time between studying for exams and writing papers, let alone being a full-time parent. This, however, is the life endured by CU students Lisa Allison and Jaime Wilson.
Lisa, a junior majoring in English literature, has a 2-year-old daughter named Laina Marie Allison.
“I can’t relate to the 20-year-old who has no responsibility and can do whatever he (or) she wants, and I can’t relate to the 32-year-old mom who is married with a 2-year-old,” Lisa said. “Sometimes I feel like I live in this gray area where I don’t fit in anywhere unless I am with Jamie.”
Jamie Wilson is Lisa’s best friend, and is also a single mother and full-time student.
Lisa moved to Boulder from Racine, Wis., as a transfer student after deferring her admission her senior year in high school so she could spend the first year of her daughter’s life around family.
A typical day for Lisa begins with waking up Laina and getting her ready for school before Laina is dropped off at the daycare center, where she stays until 5 p.m.
In the meantime, Lisa prepares herself for classes, which she has on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. She has an hour break between each class that she spends getting a cup of coffee or studying.
Lisa is able to relax for two hours before she picks up Laina at 5 p.m. During this time, she likes to meet with Jamie.
“We like to hang out during this time because we don’t have to deal with the kids fighting over toys or distracting us from real conversation,” Lisa said.
When Lisa picks her daughter up from day care, she heads home to clean her apartment and make dinner. Lisa and Jamie often trade off making dinner for each other.
“Lisa and I take turns, thank god,” Jamie said. “Top Ramen isn’t really an option for us because we’re actually trying to nourish our children.”
After dinner, Lisa and Jamie head to the playground with their daughters before bath time at 8 p.m. and bedtime at 9 p.m.
Though tired and exhausted, the day is not over for Lisa; she spends the next hour trying to motivate herself to study and settle down from the day.
She studies for the next three to five hours, depending on her workload. Lisa said she looks forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays because she has time to get work done and relax.
Lisa said the hardest part of her day is waking up in the morning and having to start all over again. Running on little sleep and getting Laina ready for school is difficult.
“I struggle to make (Laina’s) breakfast and get her dressed, which lately has been the biggest battle,” Lisa said. “I usually have to bribe her somehow to get her jacket on, which is kind of amusing.”
Lisa met Jaime, a junior MCD biology major, this year. Jamie is also a full-time student and has a 2-year-old daughter named Riley.
Jamie’s schedule is very similar to Lisa’s, except Jamie wakes up at 7 a.m. to get Riley and herself prepared for the day and then drives 20 minutes to drop her daughter off at daycare.
When Jamie gets back, she walks to campus from family housing. After she finishes her day at school, she picks Riley up at 5 p.m. to spend an hour of playtime at what her daughter calls “the rocket park.” Then she comes home to prepare dinner and get Riley in bed by 8:30 p.m. Jamie takes some time to breathe before she begins studying.
“I am able to start studying around 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. and usually fall asleep doing so around midnight,” Jamie said. “Then six hours later the whole day starts again.”
The most straining part of Jamie’s day is getting up in the mornings.
“It makes it easier to get up when my daughter runs into my bedroom smiling in her Blue’s Clues (pajamas) and crazy curly hair all over the place,” she said.
Jamie said her parents are supportive in every way and are always willing to help if needed. But when it comes to financial support, Jamie said she likes to stay as independent as possible.
“I feel like this is my child and my responsibility, but it is nice to know that they are always there for me if I do need help,” she said.
Both mothers said they often feel judged by society, but they are able to accept their differences and enjoy life.
Jamie was fortunate to go to a small high school where she was well-known. She was able to graduate nine months pregnant on the honor roll without feeling uncomfortable. But she is still the victim of prejudice from time to time.
“I feel like other people do judge me sometimes, but I truly believe it’s because they don’t understand,” she said. “Lisa and I are not your typical young moms, so it’s kinda like people have to reconsider their preconceived notions of young, single moms. Yes, we are moms, but we’re also 20, we’re also in college and we are still a lot of fun to be around.”
While many students complain about having too much homework or having to go to work, Lisa and Jamie are able to take on their additional responsibilities along with the struggles of the common student. They are able to persevere judgments and live confidently.
“I think my life has been a journey of unexpected surprises that make my path harder but also more beautiful,” Jamie said. “Most importantly, I think the main difference between us and other typical college students is that we don’t question life as much as we simply embrace it. Every day we have a reason to get up; every day we get to relive being a child.”
CU makes parenting easy
Kambiz Khalili, director of Auxiliary and Dining Services, was unable to give an exact number of single parents enrolled at CU. But there are currently between 750 and 800 students living in Family Housing, and roughly 20 to 30 students are under the age of 23.
CU offers 853 family housing apartments to students, post-docs, faculty and staff. Khalili said the number of people living in family housing is fairly high compared nationally to other universities.
The family housing program at CSU is similar to CU’s, but CSU only has 300 student family apartments.
“I know one reason student families choose to come to CU is because it offers a lot of family apartments and a variety of amenities,” Khalili said.
The cost of living in family housing is very affordable. The rates depend on the area and whether the apartment is furnished. A one-bedroom unfurnished apartment is $716 a month, and a two-bedroom apartment runs $827 per month including all utilities, cable TV, high-speed Internet and local phone services.
The CU Children’s Center offers daycare for children of students, faculty and staff. The center is open five days a week, 10 hours a day with flexible times to address work and class schedules.
Daycare is provided at a reduced rate for students. The recreation center also has a “drop-in” childcare program for parents to use while excercising.
The housing department plans many free events for families. There was a party, a parade with a magic show and a masquerade ball for the whole family on Halloween.