Female students juggle children, new ‘hood


Sixty percent of all marriages established between the age of 20 and 25 end in divorce, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

However, against the formidable odds, almost all women attending college expressed a desire for marriage and motherhood, Charles King said in a study from Allen University on the validity of “the maternal instinct.”

Ninety-eight percent of all collegiate women from both urban and rural areas expressed a strong desire to get married, citing that this urge stemmed from a “desire for companionship” or a “desire for security,” according to the study.

“I think that most college women want to get married because they have a vision of the life they are striving for, and getting married and having a family is part of that life,” said Pamela Bell, director of the child development center at UNF.

Marriage, children by the numbers

The average age for women to get married in the U.S. is 27 years old and the average age for men is 29 years old, according to the center for health statistics.

Although the women in King’s study expressed a strong inclination toward marriage, their outlook on motherhood was filled with less fervor.

Only 23 percent of urban and 22 percent of rural college women indicated a strong desire for children after marriage, King said in his study. These women attributed this yearning to their “love for children,” their longing to “experience motherhood” or the presumption that bearing children is a “woman’s religious duty.”

While the number of women whose answers were fueled by their love of children was low, the number of women who wanted children out of necessity was significantly higher.

Craving a concrete bond, 58 percent of urban women indicated they wanted children as a means of security, King said in his study.

Reasons for motherhood

The most common answers women checked were that “children will hold a husband and wife together,” that “children will keep interest in the home” and that “children are useful to take care of a parent in old age,” King said in his study.

“A wedding ties you to a person, but a child cements you to that person,” Bell said. “People won’t be so quick to consider divorce if children are involved.” Although the presence of children may slow or prevent a divorce, a young child is not capable of understanding divorce, Bell said.

One study, from the Journal of Marriage and the Family, found that if a mother was a child of parental divorce then her odds of divorce increase to 59 percent. When both the mother and the father experienced parental divorce, their chances of divorce nearly tripled to 189 percent.

“People don’t realize how emotionally hard divorce is on children,” Bell said.

More collegiate, rural women expressed this necessity for children, with 64 percent saying they wanted children as a means of security.

“In the rural area, people are more family oriented and usually stay closer together,” Bell said. “As opposed to urban women, who might not be as close to their families and might have less of a support network.”

Some women in King’s study did not want children. Fifteen percent of urban college women and 11 percent of rural college women said they “do not like children” or they are “afraid to risk childbirth due to chance of impairing health,” King said in his study.

Four percent of urban college women and 3 percent of rural women were undecided as to whether they wanted children.

However, some students are dealing with all the emotions of marriage and motherhood as they work their way through school.

College-aged mothers in Jacksonville

Kathryn Higgs is a freshman at Florida State College in Jacksonville, and her boyfriend attends Jacksonville University. The couple plans to work together to get through school while managing the stress of being new parents, Higgs said.

“Even though I’m pregnant, I don’t want to get married right now,” she said. “I want to wait to get married until my daughter is older.”

Attending school, raising a newborn, working and adding marriage to it all would be too much for the average college student, Higgs said.

However, she said she has a plan and a special support system, in her and her boyfriend’s families, to aid her in conquering college and the new world of parenting.

Other student mothers agree that a support system is vital.

“My mother and husband helped me take care of my son,” said Donna Cobis, current secretary of the department of criminology and criminal justice and former UNF student-mother. “There is no way I could have completed my master’s in English without their help.”

Time management

A major concern for these multi-tasking parents is balancing the time between school and parenting.

“The hardest thing is trying to find time to study,” Tina Beining, a UNF elementary education junior said. “My 5-year-old just wants to play all the time, and my older son always needs a ride somewhere. It’s difficult to go to school with a family because there are so many people depending on you; it’s hard to find time to do your school work.”

Getting good grades and cherishing school when you’re young is easier to do when you don’t have children and a family, Beining said.

College changes preconceived parental roles, requiring both parents to share the responsibilities of motherhood, Bell said. A lot of times women are too hard on themselves when it comes to who has to watch the child.

“I’m sure I’ll feel like I have to be the main one watching her sometimes, but I have a great support network around me,” Higgs said.

One of the major difficulties of coupling school with motherhood is the stress involved with balancing the financial, household and schooling responsibilities, said Sheila Spivey, director of the Women’s Center. The key is a strong support system.