Commentary: A double major in journalism and motherhood

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I had to go back to school. I’d been graduated from high school for a couple of years at that point and was comfortable in my routine. Staying up late waiting tables at McGinnis Landing, a savings account that consisted of extra change from my shifts and sleeping until noon. When I found out I was pregnant I realized comfortable didn’t mean happy.

The realization that I would spend the rest of my life doing something that didn’t bring me joy while telling my son to follow his dreams scared me.

I started by selling myself short. I’ve known since I was in elementary school that I wanted to be a writer, a journalist. But I thought the program would be too demanding, too unfair to my son.

I spent a year doing online courses while he napped. I never had a moment to myself. But I kept googling “St. Thomas journalism.” I kept driving by the St. Thomas University sign outside CBC Fredericton and wishing that I was part of that.

Alishya Weiland is a mother and a St. Thomas University journalism student. (Young Joo Jun/AQ)

So, I transferred. I put my son in daycare to start following my dream. I don’t think this would be possible at every university.

I started writing this at 3 a.m., when my son was awake with a cough and we both couldn’t sleep because of it. I will spend tomorrow on a caffeine high and four hours of sleep. When I pick him up in the evening he will have had so much fun at daycare that he won’t want to come home, and it will break my heart.

Being a mom and a student is hard and without the support of my university, I think it would be impossible.

Everybody I have encountered at STU has been supportive of my decision to balance both. I would go as far as saying they’re accommodating of it.

Alishya Weiland said balancing school and motherhood is hard, but her professors and peers have been supportive. (Submitted by Alishya Weiland/AQ)

I send emails when I need a day of rest after being up all night with my son. No professor has ever told me that’s unacceptable. They excuse my absence and tell me to get the rest I need.

Near the end of last semester, I was chatting with one of my professors and they offered me a week extension on my research paper – an extension that I desperately needed but was too proud to ask for. They understood how hard it is to maintain the school and home balance during exam season and didn’t want to see me struggle.

My peers have never scoffed at me for not being scolded while checking my phone during a lecture to make sure the daycare hasn’t called. They send me notes that I miss and listen to me complain about my workload.

Both professors and students ask about my son with genuine curiosity. They also reap the benefits of me always having snacks on hand.

Alishya Weiland decided to go back to school after finding out she was pregnant with her son, Miles. (Submitted by Alishya Weiland/AQ)

I am hauntingly aware of the opportunities I miss out on to keep a balanced life. I don’t have time to fill my resume with volunteer hours. I can’t take unpaid internships and Sunday night deadlines are my worst nightmare.

I am also aware of the support I have from the faculty and my peers. With the support of the STU community, I can handle all the sleepless nights and stressful days. Finishing my degree doesn’t seem daunting.

I know not every mom in our community feels the way that I do, but I wish they did. I encourage all parents to be more open about what they need from their professors to succeed. Show one of your peers a baby photo and ask them about their life. Maybe they’ll surprise you.

But no matter what, just know, I am rooting for you.

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