Student mothers face extra stress

By Julie Santiago

Mothers at East Los Angeles College are finding the transition to online classes challenging amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many mothers find themselves taking on more duties now that their children are also staying home because of nationwide school closures. 

Rocio Sanchez, full-time sociology major at ELAC and mother of two, said she used to be able to drop off her children and focus on schoolwork while they were away.

With no tutoring services available for them, Sanchez is now spending much of her time helping teach her children on top of juggling her own classes and home life.

One of the biggest obstacles Sanchez faces is managing newly disrupted schedules at home. Sanchez said she also helps her two elderly parents who live with her, one of which is a dialysis patient and requires treatment three times per week at a hospital. “There’s a constant worry with my father because he is in and out of the hospital,” Sanchez said.

Chicano Studies Professor Angela Acosta and mother of three met Sanchez when they were both involved in a pilot program for the Latina Completion and Transfer Academy in 2018.

“I have been so impressed, because Rocio is a true leader,” Acosta said. “She has a very strong voice, and she’s very passionate, but life has not been easy for her. The transition is a big challenge for single mothers with Children.”

Professor Acosta said she also faces some challenges as a mother with the online transition that range from; learning the teaching software Zoom, solving technical difficulties, not knowing if her students have devices and learning how to better engage students in online lessons.

Another challenge Acosta has to face is not having certain school services for her autistic son. “I have a son who has autism and we don’t have any services –we had to stop a few,” Acosta said. She said her duties as a mother now include;  keeping her children engaged with their school work and also trying to manage any fear they may have about the pandemic.

“We have age appropriate conversations about what it means to stay at home. Why we’re staying at home. Why they have to do school online,” Acosta said.

Theater major, costume design student at ELAC and mother of three, Priscilla Lujan said she also worries about how she will balance school, kids, the house and taking care of her elderly mother.

Lujan said she now has to contend with not having enough devices at home for online classes. “We are all sharing one laptop and a seven-inch tablet. It’s hard!”

Both Lujan and Sanchez qualified for the ELAC Laptop grant. Although, Lujan said she is having technical difficulties with her Chromebook. She said she wishes her professors would ease up on assigning a lot of homework.

“Personally, I struggle learning online and require to be physically in a classroom setting. I’m not saying make it easy, but just have it balanced since the majority of the student population isn’t familiar with online only,” Lujan said.

Both Lujan and Sanchez said they struggle with learning and are a part of the Diversabilities Support Program & Services (DSP&S) at ELAC. Many student services like DSP&S, Math Tutoring, and the Transfer Center have moved to online-only for the remainder of the semester.

DSP&S announced on the ELAC website that disability specialists will be available for phone or video chat appointments through Cranium, a school software similar to Canvas.

Lujan said she was looking forward to her family seeing her graduate on stage this spring before the pandemic, but she is now unsure about it happening.

An email sent by Julie Benavides, Chief Student Services Officer at ELAC, said graduation has not been cancelled and that the ELAC’s interim president is still proceeding with plans for the event. Benavides said they will send updates if anything changes.

Child Development major at ELAC Stephanie Moran said she was looking forward to her 9-year-old daughter watching her graduate this spring, but now she is not sure if she will be able to pass her statistics class.

Moran works part-time at an after-school program and currently has to report online. Moran said she is also in DSP&S and relied heavily on the help she received from tutoring. “It’s very hard to juggle this new life and scary to live it.

With the stress of teaching, working and school life, it can be very stressful. I have a very hard time understanding the lecture as it was in person, but at least it would allow me to have access to my professor and in-class questions,” Moran said.

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