Students balance parenting and online classes during pandemic

By: Natalie Sanchez

The world quickly caved in on many East Los Angeles College students who balance their time between coursework and children due to pandemic. 

Maria Fernanda Rodriguez, 24, like many parents, copes with the little free time she can get. Between cooking breakfast, and logging in to her zoom sessions, lunchtime quickly approaches and she is back in the kitchen to make a meal.

Rodriguez held her one-year-old as she picked up his toys from the floor early one morning, while her 7-year-old son Juan Pablo, called his mom from the other room, frustrated that his class zoom meeting lost connection. 

Her youngest son has an unpredictable schedule. “When I finally have time to do homework, I’m exhausted.” “It’s been impossible to get a routine scheduled. With COVID-19 cases rising, child care is not an option,” Rodriguez said. 

Balancing classes and taking care of little ones is a challenge many have already faced before COVID-19. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, four million college students in the U.S.A have children. Many of them are first generation college students.

COVID-19 harshly affected the mothers who already have a heavy load of work. There is no break between switching from class, to work, or to simply tidy up the living room. The stress levels are high. 

With deadlines to meet and a household to maintain, Angela Olvera, 20, adapted to the new norm. With six courses to complete, five at Cal State Los Angeles and one at ELAC, she alternates her day to satisfy her 3-year-old sister’s needs. 

“My mom works at night, so during the day she sleeps,” Olvera said. Olvera attends zoom sessions as early as 8:00am and on certain days her last class ends at 7:15pm. “I work weekends. On the day the assignment is posted, I don’t wait. I do it,” Olvera said. 

During the week, both Olvera and her oldest sister leave their doors open during class. Olvera said, “The little one likes to wander back and forth between our rooms.”

An overwhelming schedule of chaos exposed lack of resources for parents. “ I want to send my child back to school, but when it’s safe to do so and no COVID-19,” Rodriguez said. During the first few weeks of virtual learning, Juan Pablo had connectivity issues. Rodriguez had to go to her son’s elementary school multiple times. Issue after issue kept happening. 

“It was difficult. It continues to be difficult. I have no set time. Every day is different. One day my one-year-old is sleeping three hours straight and the next day he decides not to nap at all,” Rodriguez said.

Little human interaction and all on screen communication seems to be the future that COVID-19 is leading to. Constant challenges can become overwhelming, Olvera said, “My sister and I discussed class schedules for next semester. We know we have to develop some type of structure. We need to think ahead.” 

With new COVID-19 cases arising and data constantly changing, college students with children may think twice before sending their children back. 

For now, online resources can help. The American Psychological Association has multiple resources that can help parents navigate through tough times. 

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