Single mothers find balance on campus
According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, 9.9 million single mothers with children younger than 18 live in the United States.
Lauren Agostinelli, a senior studying communication, has been a single mother for three years since her divorce. She was having a baby boy who is now three years old.
She started her first semester at BYU-Idaho in January of 2011.
“I knew that if I didn’t go back to school right away I never would and it felt right,” Agostinelli said.
Before coming to BYU-I, she attended another college in northern Idaho and said it was very common and normal to be a single parent.
Here at BYU-I, she hadn’t met many in her same situation and said she felt out of place and non-traditional. “I didn’t want to make my situation public in fear of being judged,” Agostinelli said.
Agostinelli has been at BYU-I for five semesters and said it wasn’t until last semester that she started to learn to be comfortable with her situation.
She found that it helped to talk and be open with her teachers.
“For them to listen meant the world to me,” Agostinelli said.
In her classes she has learned about diversity and said it taught her that it was OK to be different.
“I didn’t want to define myself as a single mother,” Agostinelli said.
She juggles school, work and family on a daily basis.
Agostinelli is the first in her family to put a child in daycare.
“Sometimes I feel like a horrible parent having to leave him at daycare,” she said.
She leaves him in daycare during classes, but she said she would never leave him there just to get homework done.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 34.9 percent of kids were enrolled in some form of non-relative child care, or daycare, as of Spring 2005.
She said random people would offer to help her with her son when she needed it.
“When we pray, the Lord answers through other people,” Agostinelli said.
She has been able to keep an academic scholarship, which has helped her financially. She also works in the Human Resources Office one day a week.
“I feel at peace that things will work out. I stay positive and happy and don’t use my trials as an excuse,” Agostinelli said.
Agostinelli is one of many single mothers on campus.
DeLynn Carling, a senior studying English, has been a single mother for four years after her husband passed away in January of 2009. They were married for almost 24 years.
Carling met her husband after a semester and a half of attending Weber State University and quit school to raise a family in 1984. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer in September of 2007 and said she had a feeling that he wasn’t going to make it.
According to the American Cancer Society, 7.6 million people die from cancer each year. This puts cancer as the second leading cause of death in the U.S.
At age 47, she went back to school to get her degree.
“I needed to be able to support my five boys and myself,” Carling said.
After her husband’s passing, she had a meeting with her sons to address changes in their lifestyle.
With her going back to school, she needed help with daily tasks. She now had to handle work and school. To help her at home, each son takes a night to cook, does the dishes, and has chores to maintain.
“They’ve learned to step up and take responsibility,” Carling said.
She said the university has gospel principles that helped her fulfill both her role as a mother and as a student.
“The family is considered important. They make it easy to meet the needs of my family and get an education,” Carling said.
She works part time as a TA for the English Department. She will graduate in December.
“I love school. It’s been enjoyable. It’s been therapy for me, giving me something to do,” Carling said.
Even with the demands of school, she still performs the duties of a mother.
“Emergencies happen. I was in the middle of Brother d’Evegnee’s postmodern literature class when my phone vibrated. I saw it was the junior high calling so I excused myself to answer the call. My son had fallen and hurt his arm. Brother d’Evegnee was very understanding about me needing to leave and take care of my son,” Carling said.
She takes no personal credit for her accomplishments. She said she has been able to get through everything with the gospel and the Atonement.
Both single mothers said they have struggled with time management. But with the help of professors, friends, and the Lord, they make it through each day.
“I feel like I’m a role model for my boys, showing them I can do hard things,” Carling said.