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Mothers share their experiences and challenges as also wives and full-time BYUH students

A woman wearing a blue and white T-shirt, smiles and holds her baby in her arms with green bushes in the background.
Mele Moea’i smiles at her daughter, who she said motivates  her to become her best self and excel in her studies.

Lily Simpson said she always wanted to follow Heavenly Father’s commandment to procreate and receive the eternal blessing of a family.

Simpson, a junior from Australia majoring in Pacific Island studies, said despite the intense journey of being simultaneously a parent and student, these responsibilities should not restrain anyone to build a family while pursuing an education.

“If I’ve never been a mother, I would never know how strong I am.”

Learning to ask for help 

Through her journey of motherhood, Simpson shared her daughter, Tolo, taught her more about herself than any other experiences in her life or with the people she met.

Since the first day she became a mother, Simpson said she was surprised at her ability and strength to work through this new journey without the physical support of her family.

With the help of her mother through daily calls, she shared she received the necessary guidance and help she needed as a new mother. “Despite there were days I thought I could not make it, I am proud of myself. Although we [she and her husband] received guidance through calls, we did everything ourselves to provide, care and educate our child together.”

A mother wearing a T-shirt and jeans, holds her baby daughter up in the air with the ocean and rocky shores of Laie Point in the background.

Mele Moea‘i, a sophomore from Taylorsville, Utah, majoring in social work, had her first baby four days after finals week of Fall Semester. Moea‘i said her mother wasn’t able to be here for the birth, which she said was upsetting for the both of them. “That’s an experience that you want your mom to be right there with you. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was there, and we’re very close. She was a huge help. Just having a mother figure in the room, besides doctors who are mothers, someone that you have a personal connection to – it was a tremendous help.”

As a mother and full-time student, Moea‘i advised others in similar situations to not be prideful and ask for help. “I think it’s easy, especially as women in general, with or without children, to feel this pressing need to be independent. And independence is a good thing, but every virtue can be a vice if used to the extreme.”

Moea‘i added the first month was rough for her because she didn’t want to ask her husband for help with their baby at night. She said the reason for this was he was working, and she didn’t want him to be too tired for work the next day. Her husband reminded her that marriage and parenting are meant to be a partnership and joint effort, Moea‘i added.

“At first, I was like, ‘Oh, wow. You don’t care if you don’t get enough sleep, then? Because I want you to get enough sleep. If one of us is well rested, then I guess that’s good.’ But after that, we both kind of shared the love. … There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.”

Being a mother first

Besides her academic journey, Tsatsaa Ganzorigt, a senior from Mongolia majoring in exercise & sport science, said her children taught her why sacrifices are worth it. She explained, “Everything I do for them, everything I work hard for, became no longer a burden but a blessing.”

Ganzorigt said she feels a lot of gratitude toward Heavenly Father for her children. “I love them more than anything in the world.”

Ganzorigt was already a mother of two before attending BYU–Hawaii and was expecting her third and fourth child while enrolled as a student. “As a mother of two, life was already hard when we were in Mongolia. I had to watch over my children for the entire day, take care of them, and make sure they had a great time. It was hard to find a relaxing time for myself.”

Since she became a student, Ganzorigt said life has been even harder than it used to be.

In addition to her responsibilities as a mother, wife and woman of the house, she explained she must include her studies as part of her priorities. “By the end of the day, I am just really exhausted.”

As a result, said Ganzorigt, regardless of the circumstances, her children motivate her to succeed in every aspect of her life so she can offer them the future they deserve.

Moea‘i added being a mother is a stronger motivation for her to complete her education. “Because it’s not just my future anymore. It’s also hers [her daughter’s]. And what I do now will affect where we are five years from now, 10 years from now. So, it makes me more aware of how hard I need to work.”

Simpson said the lack of time to complete important tasks such as cleaning the house, laundry or assignments before the due date, can lead mothers to develop emotional and physical stress and anxiety.

According to her, all mothers must always remember that “before being a student, a friend or an employee, you are first a mother. Prioritize always your duties as mothers and your children’s needs before anything else.”

Planning and organizing 

Simpson said weekly planning is the key for organization. She shared to avoid any stress or conflict, “My husband and I plan our weeks every Sunday as it helps us be prepared and start our weeks on a good basis.”

During their weekly planning, Simpson said they review their work, school and family schedule along with the house care. She explained their planning also gives them an overview of availability to know who is going to take care of Tolo, their daughter.

“At the end of each day, our weekly planning is always a satisfaction, especially when you give your best to avoid any waste of time and complete all the tasks planned,” said Simpson.

Ganzorigt said the purpose of planning is to enable an efficient use of time and avoid the stress that comes from procrastination or lack of preparation.

She explained once she and her husband have individually made their schedules, they come together and discuss their plan for the week. “As a family, working as a team is crucial to enable each member to rely on each other,” Ganzorigt added.

As she starts working every day at 5 a.m., Ganzorigt shared her planning gives her the time to rest, clean the house, do laundry, cook and spend some quality time with her children before studying.

“If you make time for anything you want to get done with, take the time to do so. Once you revised your accomplishment about your day, you will be surprised on how much you have accomplished.”

Simpson said despite their weekly planning, unfortunately, she and her husband sometimes face time conflicts with their classes.

Eventually, these time conflicts, said Simpson, lead to frustration as she has no other choice than taking her daughter with her to class. “When I take Tolo [her daughter] to class, it is sometimes hard because she disrupts the class and the focus turns more on her than on the teacher.”

Although her teachers let her bring Tolo to class, she feels sorry for her baby. “Tolo is adjusting herself to an environment that is not even hers. She should be playing outside or playing with other children, not being in class with me.”

Despite the unexpected events that can occur, Ganzorigt said the most important part of planning is to be prepared and flexible to adjust any plans to your family’s needs.

The don’t-talk-about-school-or-work rule 

Simpson said, ever since she had Tolo, she challenged herself to complete her assignments at least a day before the due date.

She shared to avoid any rush when unexpected events occur, especially with Tolo, she completes her assignments earlier so her focus can entirely be on her daughter’s needs.

Moea‘i added Google Calendar helps her a lot in mapping out all her homework assignments and tasks for the week, so she’s not cramming it all into one day before the due date.

As part of their family’s quality time, Simpson said every night they have their “date nights.” She shared, according to their wants, they either go for a walk, play games or watch movies together.

“The only rule we have is that we do not talk about work, school or anything else. This time is only for the three of us,” shared Simpson.

With a newborn, Moea‘i said she and her husband do sometimes find themselves “with baby more than with each other,” and some days, the only time they have for each other is when they’re going to bed.

“But we’ve made it a goal to have time with each other, even if it’s just for a maximum of 10 minutes, discussing what we’ve liked about the day, or even just running to Foodland and getting ice cream for like five minutes. It’s just the small little moments that really help you feel connected to your partner still.”

Ganzorigt said to not be distracted, she always studies when her children are napping as studying becomes challenging when they are around.

Once they are awake, Ganzorigt said she and her husband take the time to play with them. She shared, “Family time is my favorite moment of the day. It helps me learn new things every day such as things my children or husband like or don’t.”

Moea‘i said she and her husband recently went to Laie Point and as she looked out across the ocean, she said she felt so small. “I think I’m small and insignificant, but to this little girl, me and her dad are her entire support and her world. So, I guess it makes me feel a little bit bigger.”
A woman wearing a blue and white flower-print top, stands in front of a tree.

Author’s Note (Mahana Tepa):

Being a mother myself, I know the significant responsibility a parent has to take to ensure their children’s needs are met first before anything else. 

I remember when I could not find a babysitter for my 1-year-old daughter, I brought her to class with me, but one of my teachers asked me not to bring her anymore. I believe this was understandable because my baby was not in an environment with other children like she should be.

Since I was unable to find a babysitter, I had to drop the class and retake it later, even though my teacher asked me not to. In this situation, I did not need to make a choice because my daughter’s needs will always come first—even before my education. That’s who I am. I am a mother.