Katie Forbes is an accomplished senior at Arizona State University. She’s a skilled communicator and passionate learner, who dreams of a career in HR management.
But at only 20 years old, she found out she was pregnant. With her world turned upside down, she was devastated: “Am I strong enough for the challenge of motherhood and the struggles the future will hold?”
Even though Katie feared pregnancy would derail her dreams, she soon discovered her ambition for her future only grew with the addition of her son.
This December, Katie will graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management alongside her infant son and a robust community cheering her on from the stands.
I had the opportunity to go deep with Katie about everything from social stigmas to time management to community support tips. Here’s the expanded interview.
#1: How does the cultural perception of parenting and pregnant students need to change?
People need to be more accepting of parenting students. Parenting students are assumed to be doing too much and not fully committing to student life or parent life. When talking about an unplanned pregnancy, choosing to parent is often seen as an irresponsible decision. There is a lot of judgment surrounding parenting students. Instead of waiting for a parenting student to fail, people should commend them for wanting to get a higher education and finish school.
It isn’t easy having to leave your child to study, and it isn’t easy watching your child when you have assignments due! Parenting students are working hard to create a better life for themselves and their children, which is something to be proud of and excited about!
Instead of waiting for a parenting student to fail, people should commend them for wanting to get a higher education and finish school.
#2. How do you juggle school and motherhood?
I have a wonderful schedule this semester. Four out of my five classes are online. I write papers during nap time, watch video lectures while playing games with my son, and submit my assignments at night once the baby has gone to sleep. During my on-campus class, my mom watches my son for two hours. This allows me to concentrate in class and navigate campus without a stroller and baby.
The key to being a successful parent and student is time management. Every second has to be spent either doing homework or being a mama. My planner is my best friend. It helps me keep track of due dates, doctor appointments, exams, and more.
I’m the same woman I was before—just now with a little sidekick!
#3. How can friends and family better support pregnant and parenting students?
Look to support a pregnant or parenting student in specific ways. I am often overwhelmed by a monstrous to-do list. There are bottles to wash, laundry to fold, papers to write, and a little person to care for! Being specific about what you can do to help is better than a vague “Let me know if you need anything.”
Being specific about what you can do to help is better than a vague “Let me know if you need anything.”
I need many things, and it’s hard to know what to ask for or how to ask without feeling like a burden. Offering to bring me coffee and play with the baby for two hours while I work on homework is amazing. Or send a quick text saying, “What night this week is good for me to bring you dinner and clean your kitchen?” It helps to be very clear about what you can do and when, so I don’t feel guilty asking for help.
#4: How can the academic community empower pregnant and parenting students to succeed?
For professors and classmates, sometimes a pregnant student just needs a little helping hand. A professor could offer flexible deadlines or the option of attending class remotely. In the early and late stages of pregnancy, making it across campus to class can be exhausting.
Students can offer to take notes for their pregnant/parenting classmates if they have to miss class for doctor’s appointments or because of morning sickness. Even just smiling and sitting next to them can offer a friendly face in the classroom, which makes going to class visibly pregnant much less intimidating.
To follow Katie’s motherhood journey, check out her Instagram @whenlifegetsbumpy
#5: How do you maintain your sense of self, health, and wholeness through this busy season?
It is important for me to remember that I am not just someone’s mom. I’m the same woman I was before, with the same passions, interests, and aspirations that I had before—just now with a little sidekick!
#6. How do you recommend pregnant and parenting students navigate communication with their professors?
I have found the most effective way to communicate with professors is in person, then follow up with them via email (sample below). By talking to them in person, your professor has a face to match to your name and they may find it easier to connect with you. By sending a follow-up email, you are reminding the professor of your agreement / what accommodations you need. This also allows you to document your correspondence should an issue with Title IX arise.
Sample email Katie sent to one professor about rescheduling the final exam.
Tammy Abernethy shares the secret to providing empowering support to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
Mom and college graduate Katie Forbes teaches us how to empower pregnant and parenting students to achieve their academic dreams.
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