It is 6:30 a.m. and Nadiya Taitague is ready to get her children up. She will leave the house 30 minutes later. Feeding the family pets, preparing breakfast, getting the kids cleaned and dressed, and making sure everything is in order; this is only a small portion of Taitague’s busy morning. By seven a.m., Taitague takes her children to school. Two hours later, she is about to start her own school day.
Taitague is a 33-year-old mother of three and an environmental science major at Point Loma Nazarene University. She commutes from Menifee, California near Riverside. Her husband, a police officer, often comes home from his shift as she is leaving the house. “It’s almost single parentings,” she said.
Taitague is a transfer student and a veteran. She arrived at Point Loma for the first time in 2008, but she soon left for military service. “I came back two springs ago,” she said. “During the first two weeks, I unenrolled because I couldn’t balance,” she continued. “The amount of study time required here is much higher than community college.”
A 2014 study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that “4.8 million college students were parents of dependent children in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available.” That makes for 26 percent of all college undergraduates. Seventy-one percent of them are women.
Eleven p.m., Taitague can finally go to sleep. She has spent part of her evening up studying with her oldest daughter, who is 16, and for whom she is trying to set an example. On weekends, Taitague works as a real estate agent. “There were times I thought that maybe I should have done online classes. But I like classes here,” she said. “Still, school becomes the extra because children are the priority. If I am not home, the oldest takes the littles to sleep. Last semester, sometimes I wouldn’t see them for two days in a row.”
To those parents who have just gone back to school, she says, “Stick to your schedule. Set aside that studying time. Stay on track. It’s easy to fall out. It’s tempting to get mommy time, but you have to stay on track.”
The picture Nadiya Taitague depicted is not much different from the one presented by another parent, senior biology major Bryson Menke. At 5:30 a.m., he packs his food for the day and then commutes from Temecula, California. However, he has a wife at home who helps him take care of the children and the everyday chores. “I wish my days were shorter,” said Menke, who, at least three times a week, stays on campus until 6 p.m. “I could spend more time at home with my kids.”
Both Taitague and Menke agree that professors at PLNU are generally understanding of the situation parents face. “The one thing I wished on occasions…I wished there was a way to listen to lectures online. If you skip class, you have to get notes from other students, but I often can’t get in touch with them because I commute,” said Taitague.
What pushes parents to go back to school is the prospect of better career opportunities and, overall, self-improvement. Menke hopes to one day be a doctor, while Taitague wants to work in a lab. “I always had a passion for microbiology, but I will still keep my job [as a real estate agent]. I am going to apply for what I can.”