Student parents forced to balance schoolwork, parenting in isolation

Alloy Zarate, Staff Writer

City College student parents who relied on the services of the Orfalea Early Learning Center are forced to balance schoolwork with caring for their young children since campus was closed on March 16.

“Everyone has 24 hours in a day, but not everyone has the same challenges,” said Aline Ortiz, a nursing student and single mother of a 1-year-old boy.

Beth Rizo, director of Orfalea, tries to check in with parents on a regular basis through Zoom or e-mail, but she said this can be challenging for families who don’t have sufficient internet access. 

“I have really bad internet service at my house,” said Ortiz. “It’s been really hard to even email my professors.”

Melissa Soria, a sociology major and single mother of a 4-year-old boy, said staying home with her son on top of her regular responsibilities has made her struggle with time management.  

During the first week of all online classes, she had to wait until her son went to bed before she could begin her school work.

“I’m not putting a lot of time into my studies since I’m not at school,” she said.

Soria and Ortiz have a support system of mothers who regularly check up on each other with tips on childcare, but the lack of activities for their children makes the situation more stressful. 

“I’m trying not to have him in front of the TV but there’s really nothing else to do,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz and Soria said it’s difficult to do enriching activities indoors without the resources that Orfalea provides and without other kids to interact with.

“The impact for young children is not being able to connect with friends or teachers,” Rizo said. “Not having an understanding of the concept of time and why they can’t go to school.”

A lot of the activities done at Orfalea promote connection and interaction between the children. 

“Our days were filled with children learning to be with others, become empathic and kind, about friendships, conflict resolution and having connection with teachers and adults who cared for them,” Rizo said.

Rizo said she hopes parents have all the information and resources they need to be successful but doesn’t want to overload them with information.

She worries about whether the children are able to get fresh air and sunshine every day.

“Parents have a tremendous responsibility of balancing their work-school life, having children home all the time and figuring out a daily routine,” Rizo said.