Moms Try to Make it Work at Edgewood

Posted: November 17, 2010 in Students

Chava Cohen

Sarah Strahler, a Wisconsin native, is an Edgewood transfer student, a hoops aerobics instructor, and an English Teaching major.

She also has a four year old daughter.

“She was born when I wasn’t in school.  I started back wen [Cloe Alyse] was two,” Strahler said.  “Balancing a child with class is nearly impossible.  I have two jobs, and I was taking 17 credits.  I dropped one class and am now taking 14 credits.  I definitely turn in things late consistently and skip class to do work for another class.  So far everyone has been pretty understanding about it.  I feel that my teachers have been very responsive to my needs.”

Strahler started attending Cardinal Stritch in Milwaukee but transferred to Edgewood this semester.  “My parents live in Dane County.  I moved back because it is easier living with my parents,” she said.  Her daughter’s father lives in Columbus, Wisconsin and watches her two days a week because Edgewood does not currently offer daycare.

“If Edgewood had a daycare that cost money, I wold not be able to use it.  I don’t even have books this semester.” -Hope Edgren

“It would be amazing if there was free childcare,” Strahler said.  “I feel that would be amazing for the early childhood program where students would get experience  with children.  However, Strahler noted that the cost would be a major issue: “If Edgewood had a daycare that cost money, I wold not be able to use it.  I don’t even have books this semester.  If they had a state assistance program fro single mothers, that would be great.”

For single moms deciding to go back to college, the availability of childcare must be considered.  For Hope Endgren, a junior in the clinical psychology program, finding appropriate childcare was a factor in deciding whether to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison or Edgewood.

Although there is no childcare program available, Edgren is able to send her daughter to an in-home daycare facility.  This option is not without its drawbacks.  If the worker at the daycare unavailable, “she can call me at eight in the morning when I am on my way to drop off my daughter, and I have nowhere to go with her,” said Edgren.  “If Edgewood had some sort of emergency drop-in kind of thing–even if they would expect people who use it to volunteer to staff it–it would be something for help.”

But Edgren feels that the lack of daycare isn’t a challenge only to students in her situation.  “It’s not even only for single moms.  I come from a two-parent house, and my mom had us all really young.  She went back for her bachelors.  I remember her stressing out.  My elementary school didn’t have an after school program,” she said.

Dean of Students Maggie Balistreri-Clarke empathizes with Edgren and Strahler.  “At the last school I was at–Cardinal Stritch–I was instrumental in creating a daycare center there.  I know the steps involved in creating one, and one of the first things I did when I came here was to see if this was a possibility,” she said, “but because of lack of space, it has never been seriously considered here.”

However daycare is not only an issue of space.  “Even if we had the space, we’d really have to look at how to balance the competing needs,” Balistreri-Clarke said.  “Our primary mission is to provide for the students.  Serving children of students is secondary.  There are a lot of services that would be excellent: a swimming pool, a real dance studio, more parking.  I think we have to use our tuition dollars  and limited space very carefully.”

“What is hard is that it feels like we are devaluing our students with children.”   -Maggie Balistreri-Clarke

Balistreri-Clarke recognizes that full-time daycare is an expensive service to provide, and it may not be cost effective.  Other colleges like Madison Area Technical College, benefit from public subsidies, space, and sheer number of students which allow them to offer daycare.  “What is hard is that it feels like we are devaluing our students with children,” she said.

But Balistreri-Clarke is quick to point out that Edgewood staff does help its student moms when it can.  “The kinds of things we are able to do, we do.  The health center has worked with people who wanted to express breast milk.  There are changing stations in the bathrooms.”  She’s even looked into starting support groups, but said, “Part of the difficulty of being a student mom or dad is that these are students that don’t have a lot of free time.”

“I think the fact is that we don’t have a daycare unfortunately sends the message that the needs of [our students’ children] aren’t primary,” Balistreri-Clarke said.  “It’s the not the message we hope to send.”

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