College Mom: Balancing school and motherhood

Senior Sarah Reed’s morning routine might seem typical to most college students.

Upon waking, she showers, eats breakfast and gathers her belongings for work. But throughout her morning, the giggles, cries and screams in the background indicate she has more to prepare than just herself.

They also indicate she is anything but a typical 23-year-old college student.

Most of Reed’s mornings are a balancing act between getting herself ready and taking care of her 7-month-old son, Elijah.

Tough Transition

Though she finds herself in a comfortable, though admittedly “hectic” day-to-day schedule, the reality of being a mom in college hasn’t always been so easy for Reed.

It wasn’t until the third month of pregnancy Reed found out she was expecting. Her initial fears rested on how she would tell her parents, especially since they weren’t fond of Reed’s boyfriend of four years, Paul Trotter.

After working up the courage to tell her parents, Reed’s fears transitioned toward her relationship with her boyfriend.

“I was worried about if we were going to be able to stay together, how it was going to work, and what we were going to do,” Reed said.

At the time, Reed and Trotter were living in separate homes and were experiencing what they called a “rocky” relationship. They have sinced moved in together and currently live in Janesville.

As her pregnancy progressed, Reed began to focus on the process of giving birth, one that she was understandably unfamiliar with.

“I really didn’t know what to expect being pregnant,” Reed said. “No one really ever tells you.”

Both her pregnancy and labor went smoothly, and on July 30, 2010, Reed and Trotter welcomed their son, Elijah Mason into the world.

Balancing Act

The reality of going from expecting to mother wasn’t so smooth for Reed.

“There were times when I first had him where I cried for three days because I was so tired,” Reed said.

In those trying times, and today, Reed looks toward a very supportive group of friends and family to help her out.

“My mom will take off work to babysit. She watches him three days a week and I really appreciate it a lot,” Reed said. “Without her, I don’t think things would be going as smoothly.”

Even still, balancing school, work, a social life and a family is difficult for Reed.

“It’s really hard to write a paper when you’re tired,” Reed said. “I’m sure every college student has felt the way I feel, but it’s difficult [when] you’ve got a screaming baby, or a crying baby, or a laughing baby next to you.”

Aside from going to school full-time, Reed is also a full-time, unpaid intern for the Edgerton Community Outreach. Here, she completes a variety of tasks, from working with the food pantry to serving as a secretary.

Trotter works full-time for a travel center in Beloit.

“[Paul] helps a lot … he helps me clean up, he helps make food, he helps feed the baby,” Reed said. “It’s amazing how much you don’t realize how much someone helps until something like this happens.”

As difficult as motherhood can be, Reed said her son is her greatest motivation to push through.

“It’s tough … the thing that makes me do it is [Elijah],” Reed said. “I want to graduate, and I want to be able to provide him with the best education, the best home and everything.”

A Stronger Union

Though parenthood has brought many challenges to their relationship, both Reed and Trotter agree it has enhanced their union as well.

“It’s brought us closer, for one, and made us understand each other a lot better,” Trotter said.

The couple has made many changes to their lifestyles, but none that are worth more than Elijah’s happiness, Reed said.

“We don’t go out,” Reed said. “It’s just part of being a parent. You’ve got to be there for your kid … in a way, it’s made us more mature.”
With their family established and Reed working toward her expected graduation in August, the dominant perspective in the household is to take life one day at a time.

However, Reed and Trotter like to imagine the future every once in a while.

“I can’t imagine him being that terrible during the ‘Terrible Twos,’” Trotter said. “But then again, once it comes along I’m sure we’ll be a bit surprised. But right now, he’s just an angel.”

While it hasn’t always been easy, Reed said there is no looking back.

Instead, she only looks forward.

“No matter where we go, we’re always going to be a family,” Reed said. “I love [Paul] and I love my son, so it doesn’t really matter where we go from here.”