The Life of a Student Mom: Exhaustion and Joy


Victoria Scofield and Sandra Pace sell Oreo cookies for social work club. Samsung nearby.

Colleen Garrison, Copy Editor

    Sandra Pace wakes up at 5:15 a.m., not to the sound of birds or sweet music, but to the alarm on her phone. The ringtone is Morning Flower, a soft melody that is not welcoming so early in the morning. She quickly dismisses it by swiping the snooze button. She repeats this until 5:45 a.m. when she forces herself out of bed.

   Sandra is one of four million college students in the United States who are parents. She has to  juggle family, school, work and internships by maintaining a tight schedule and using the wonderful technology provided by her mobile phone.

   That phone, a bright white Samsung Galaxy Note 3, is the first and last thing she interacts with every day.  It’s her timepiece, calendar, alarm clock, voice recorder, note pad, camera and speech transmitter. The Galaxy defines her location in class:  Sandra always sits near an outlet so she can renew its life. Without it, her family and clients could not spend time speaking with her and she could not function properly as a student and mother.

   Sandra, a senior social work major, lives in Cresco, a small Pocono Mountains town, with her son, aunt and cousins. She is a commuter. She leaves home at 6:15 a.m., drops her son, Ziah, a sixth-grader, off at the bus stop and begins the ride to Dallas. Her trip takes over an hour. “I live very far away and it should take about an hour and fifteen, but I drive fast.”

   During this drive, Sandra calls her sister Allison to tell her that Ziah had not completed his homework again. Then she contacts her cousin Esther to catch up on family gossip and talk about daily frustrations. They joke together, too.     

   “I keep in contact with my family to let them know I am not dead.”

   This talk time is Sandra’s daily relaxation. “My down time is mostly spoken for. I talk to my sister or cousin on the phone when I am driving from place to place. That’s about it.”

   When she arrives on campus for her 8:00 a.m. class and parks in the Science Building lot, Sandra glances at her Galaxy to see how many minutes she has to make it to class on time. She also checks her email to see if class has been cancelled or if the campus is on a compressed schedule.     

   Quite often, she finds out after she has completed most, if not all, of her trip. Sandra sighs when she discovers that class will be held as usual, so she scampers across campus to the fourth floor of Mercy Hall,  phone in one hand and coffee in the other.

   She has six minutes until class commences. “Lucky me, my classes are in Mercy.”

   When she enters the classroom, she looks around quickly to find a seat near an electrical outlet. She plops down, plugs in, and activates the voice recorder app.

   When class is over, she gathers her things and checks her phone again and sees that it is at full power. She also notices the time and realizes that the professor generously granted the class an extra ten minutes. Sandra does some quick research on the internet and takes a slow walk to Banks Student Center. As vice president of the social work club, she is scheduled to sell chocolate covered Oreos as a fundraiser.    

   She arrives at the table to find Victoria Scofield, president of the social work club, waiting there. The two greet each other like best friends and begin setting up.

   “She has a fantastic sense of humor and is extremely hard working.”

   The pair work two hours taking orders for cookies. They have raised $21 so far. The sale will go toward a trip to visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York City that is scheduled for April 22. Sandra spent the evening before hand dipping original, mint, berry and birthday cake flavored Oreos into chocolate sauce, which she then froze.

   Victoria has known Sandra since they both became officers of the social work club because they had a mutual interest in spreading the word about the work of the club.

   “There was one time last year we were both just members of the social work club and the leadership was having a hard time pulling activities and events together, and so the two of us started talking about things we could do if we became the officers of the club. It happened, and now we are finally able to bring those ideas to light,” said Victoria.

   Next stop for Sandra is her job at Volunteers of America where she is a parenting coach. Her personal phone takes a rest because she has a second phone, a black Verizon Galaxy S4  for her job. “Parents are always calling me so I’m always talking to them.” But Sandra loves the work. “The job is very flexible and I like that. It’s along the lines of what I am going to do. I really love it.”

   After work, Sandra returns to campus for a 6:00 p.m. class and repeats the trek.  She parks in the Science lot, walks across campus to Mercy, tromps up the steps and arrives at class. But this time she needs to ask a student to move his seat because her Galaxy needs to feed. He obliges.

   Class ends and Sandra checks the time: 8:29 p.m. No early dismissal, but she is looking forward to the ride home because she can call her family members once again. However, her conversation is interrupted by the ringing of the competing work phone. It’s a client, a parent in need, so she must take the call.

   This is Sandra’s last semester.  “Graduation is the only thing keeping me focused. I think I quit school about 12 times this semester. I have a countdown app on my phone that I look at all the time as a reminder of how many days are left.”

   She loves her children but admits “my phone is a very close second to my kids.”

   But graduation will not be the end of Pace’s academic career. “I am filling out applications to Master’s programs in between everything else. It’s tough because they call to talk to me, but I am busy and the school reps want me to call them back when I am free. I say ‘Are you free at 3 o’clock in the morning?’”

   Sandra has another part time job as well as an internship at NHS Human Services. “I am there from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. I’m there all day.”

   The internship is in Stroudsburg in the therapeutic foster care department. “I love it. I love it.  It is so challenging. I deal with kids with mental health issues.”

   Pace realizes that her personal life has been impacted by all of her responsibilities, but she jokes about it. “I get on average about 16 hours of sleep a week. But who needs sleep anyway? After I get my diploma, I’ll say ‘thank you’ then I’ll zonk.”

   Sandra is proud that she has done well academically. “I have been on the Dean’s List two or three times and my overall GPA is 3.64.”

   Her journey has been difficult but necessary. “If you really want it, you’ll make a way.  And at times it feels impossible, but it can be done. It can be done.”

   And her bright white Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will accompany her all the way.