Commentary: Being a mom and student during a pandemic

In her commentary, St. Thomas University student Morgan Bell explains what it's like being a mom and a student during COVID-19. (Submitted: Laura Roy Photography)

As I roll over in bed, an eager toddler climbs on top of me and yells  “mommy it’s wake up time!” 

I moan as I use all my effort to drag my body out of bed. My eleven-month-old golden retriever whimpers by the back door, begging to go outside. After putting him on his leash, I turn on the TV and go straight to Paw Patrol. My three-year-old daughter, Hazel, continues to babble about how it’s “wake up time.” She’s always overly excited for her day to begin. I start making breakfast while the TV occupies her.

I feel guilty when I use the TV for parenting, but the moment I turn it off, Hazel’s like a monkey wrapped around my back, craving my undivided attention. The TV helps me get important things done, like making breakfast. 

My daughter must have food the moment she wakes up or else, in her own words, “mommy I’ll starve.” You will never see her without a snack in hand. She may or may not get that from her mother. 

Morgan Bell, left, poses with daughter Hazel, centre, and boyfriend Mike Lord. (Submitted: Laura Roy Photography)

As the toaster pops, my dog barks from outside. I look at the clock and realize that time is rushing by. 

I grab her pre-packed lunch from the fridge and check her backpack to make sure she has everything she’ll need for daycare. As the 20-minute drive begins, we jam out to songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” or her new favourite “Fire Truck.” Once I’ve dropped her off, out comes mommy’s music

I sit at the kitchen table, coffee in hand, getting ready for my first class of the day – it’s almost 10 a.m. I sigh as I look around and see a cluttered kitchen in need of cleaning. I know I won’t finish much homework until I tackle the house chores.

This is how my mornings begin. This is the life of a full-time mother and full-time student.

My morning may sound exhausting, and trust me the mornings are not even the most exhausting part, but I wouldn’t change my life for anything. I love being a mother and I absolutely love my sassy, care-free and strong-willed daughter.

I didn’t think about getting a post-secondary education when I graduated from high school in 2015. I was too focused on “living it up.” But when I became pregnant at 19, everything changed. 

My partner and I were nervous about the future and terrified to soon have a massive responsibility. But we have grown and turned into better versions of our old selves since having our daughter.  At the time, we didn’t realize we’d change and if we did, then all the nervousness we felt would’ve disappeared.

My boyfriend got a degree as an equipment operator while I was pregnant. He’s now working constantly but seems to be enjoying what he does. I chose after my maternity leave at a daycare to go to St. Thomas University and pursue my dream job of being a journalist. We now have our own place in Hanwell and couldn’t be happier as a family.

Morgan Bell, left, poses with her daughter Hazel. (Submitted: Laura Roy Photography)

My life from the outside may seem filled with joy and love, but don’t let that fool you. There are days where I lock myself in the bathroom and just lie on the floor for a good cry. There have been times where I was on the verge of dropping out of school. I have a hard time holding down a job while being a full-time student and mother. I wish I didn’t have to have a job, but I need the extra income. Mom guilt tends to arrive when I don’t have the time to focus on my daughter and am too busy with school, which is at least once a week.

When COVID-19 hit, I kept my daughter home all summer. But when daycare started again in the fall, I let her go. I used to work at her daycare and I know how well kept they are, so I haven’t been worried. The only thing I’m worried about is if there’s a second wave and daycares shut back down, I don’t know how I’ll finish my classes because I barely managed to last March. It was difficult with her being home. I tried hard to keep her daycare schedule going and plan fun activities but that slowly faded as months went on.

I tend to get more work done when I go to a coffee shop in the mornings so I try going at least three times a week. I just take it one day at a time with Hazel.

I’m well into my third year and I am no regular student. I’ve never been to a college party, I never did any of those first-year activities and I found I never really made strong connections with other students. I don’t have the time for any of those things, but there are days where I feel like I’m missing out and wish I did have the time.

Our evenings are rushed, we get home around 5 p.m. I make supper while she plays and then we spend a little time together after dinner when my boyfriend gets home. She’s usually in bed by 8 p.m. and from then until 10 p.m. I try to finish up classwork.

Although I get second thoughts about my decision to go to school, I know in April of 2022, it’ll all be worth it. On the days where I feel like dropping out, I think of my daughter and what her future will look like with having a successful mother who’s working a job that she loves. I want to be her answer to “who’s your role model?” And I know I can’t be that without toughing it out and getting this degree.