Managing Motherhood While in School

Undeterred by life's roadblocks, this young mother refused to let early parenthood derail her education

Shani Snead-Sanders lovingly holds her son, Jordan

“I had just finished my sophomore year in high school when I found out I was pregnant. Of course, that’s the time when you’re getting ready for college and those grades [in junior year] are the most important. I stayed in school up until a week before my due date, taking midterms, and then I took three weeks off.

Before I got pregnant, I was always a good student but I think just knowing I was pregnant and still wanting to do more with my life—I put it in overdrive. Surprisingly, that was the only year I was on the Dean’s list for academic excellence and I did pretty good for myself.

After I had [my son] Jordan I maintained my good grades. Junior year was my best year in high school but my family, they were still really worried about how I was going to turn out; if I was going to be able to finish school, how much drive I had and if I was going to be able to take care of the baby and go to college. Some were doubtful that I’d be able to do it. My mom had me young also—at around the same age actually—but our lives turned out completely different.

At the time I was living with my mother and she paid the babysitter for a little while. My father helped out a lot and my grandmother was amazing. She’d make food for the week for me and send it back over to my house with me. The same thing with my dad; he’d buy the groceries and help out with baby food. Anything that my son needed they were there until I could get back on my feet. And even when I was, they still contributed a lot. Jordan’s dad, he wasn’t mentally mature enough to take on the responsibility. He was very wishy-washy. He might bring diapers or come by and visit every once in a blue, but not what was expected of him.

I started working part time as soon as I got out of high school. At first it was only on weekends and my mom acted excited about it. After that I was working a little more, then all of a sudden she’s like, ‘I’m not paying the babysitter anymore,’ so I said, ‘Okay, that’s fine,’ and I took on the responsibility. She wanted me to get on welfare and things of that nature. I was on WIC for a little while but I refused to get on welfare. I wanted to be a completely different person. I wanted to have a life where I didn’t have to live paycheck-to-paycheck or struggle. I didn’t want to be angry or spiteful toward my child. I wanted to give him more—to give myself more—not to be the average statistic, a girl who had a child at a young age, is living off the system and didn’t graduate college. That couldn’t be me and still can’t be me.

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