Arts & Life, Features

Student parents at CSULB balance school, work and children amid the pandemic

The Isabel Patterson Child Development Center at Long Beach State is usually open this time of the year, filled with the sounds of children’s laughter as they learn and play with their peers. The staff would be busy watching students’ children as they attended class or worked.

Currently, the center is closed, deemed unsafe for operations to continue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For parents like Geneva Casellas and Joelle Bobadilla, the once reliable childcare forced them to find alternative means as they navigate distance learning.

A mother holds her baby boy in front of a wall with plants
Geneva Casellas and her son, Mateo. Photo courtesy by Geneva Casellas.

Casellas, a third-year business finance major, depended on the center for childcare while she attended her classes and worked.

“ …It was extremely difficult having classes where I had to now be present [at] Zoom meetings along with [my son’s] daycare being closed,” Casellas said. “So that meant he had to be present during my classes, and with a toddler that’s not very easy.”

When the center was open, the 19-year-old relied on their services heavily, dropping her son off there Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Now, as a temporary alternative, Casellas works out a schedule with her child’s father so that they can both spend time with their son as well as get their classwork done.

Now that the semester has started again and Casellas is working part-time, balancing her daily responsibilities as well as taking care of her son, Mateo, can be challenging.

Additionally, Casellas is trying to help her son, who is 2-years-old, learn fundamental skills, such as the alphabet and counting, a service that the center once provided.

“He’s a very smart kid and I’m blessed that he doesn’t really have any difficulties with anything,” Casellas said. “His dad is also helping a lot with that too. He’s not in school so we aren’t really guided as to where school age children still have teachers.”

For parents that have children who are old enough to go to school, distanced learning hasn’t been ideal.

A father, mother and daughter pose for a photo in the Grand Canyon
Luis, Antonella, and Joelle Bobadilla stop to take a selfie during a family outing. Photo courtesy by Joelle Bobadilla.

Joelle Bobadilla, a fourth-year child development and family studies major, helps her 5-year-old daughter Antonella with her online classes while keeping up with her 16-unit course load.

Her daughter, a kindergarten student, has to be present for online classes just like Bobadilla. They both have had to make adjustments to make sure that happens.

“I’ll try to wake up earlier, anywhere from 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., do my stuff that I need to do,” Bobadilla said. “I wake her up at 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m, make sure she gets her breakfast and everything and then logged in at 10 a.m. every Monday through Friday.”

Prior to the pandemic, her daughter would attend the center full time. There she would get the necessary meals, learning and social interaction she needed daily.

Now that everyone is at home, Bobadilla has noticed that it has taken a toll on her daughter since she hasn’t gotten the social interaction she was used to.

The 26-year-old has struggled with her mental health as well.

“I’ve been trying to take it day by day,” Bobadilla said “What’s been difficult for me…is I feel as soon as I somewhat get balance and understand a schedule something gets added to it. I have to quickly re-adjust.

According to Bobadilla, while this situation isn’t ideal for many parents, even those in the best of situations don’t fully get a break.

For her, the Pregnant and Parenting Students Association and other parent support groups help her cope with everything going on.

Even though the center isn’t open, Beach Parents, a support group for student parents, is still a resource for them.

Abby Bradecich, the faculty advisor for PPSA and co-facilitator for Beach Parents, still recommends resources to students on and off campus to help them deal with this situation.

“[We] provided individual therapy, group therapy, and referrals and Beach Parents support spaces for student-parents,” said Bradecich, via email.

Resources for students that need it will be available through Beach Parents through the spring semester as well.

Despite all the difficulties, Casellas and Bobadilla have found positives during this time.

“This is almost the first time, in a while, we had an extended break as a family,” Bobadilla said. “I think it helps us prioritize and recognize the importance of…making memories together.”

A mother sits on a bench holding her son
Geneva Casellas, a third-year business finance major, with her son two-year-old son Mateo. Photo courtesy by Geneva Casellas.

For Casellas, her son would usually be at the center all day if this was a normal semester.

“I really enjoy the fact that he is home a lot more, so I’ve been able to spend more quality time with him,” said Casellas.

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    Wow!!! beautiful read ❤

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