Woman faces challenges of college, motherhood

Online Poster

By Caroline Kim

A typical college student worries about getting good grades, making money and going out on the weekends. But Marion Lynch, a 29-year-old junior in psychology, also worries about making breakfast for her two daughters and spending time with them.

Her social life centers on her daughters’ lives – PTA meetings, Girl Scouts and karate. But Lynch is also a full-time student, juggling her family and education. Through raising 4-year-old Hailey and 6-year-old Jessica, Lynch said she has grown as a person.

“I guess anybody who has a full-time job and is a student is about the same (as me), except your job doesn’t wake you up at three in the morning with nightmares,” Lynch said.

Lynch is attending her second semester at the University after receiving a two-year degree at Parkland College in accounting.

“I took a class on child psychology and felt like I was an expert,” she said. “Some of it is review because I’ve already been through this with the girls and hearing about it in class, I’m like ‘Oh yeah, I already did that.'”

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    Ruchi Bhanot, graduate student and teaching assistant for Lynch’s Human Development and Family Services class, said Lynch brings a different, holistic perspective to the class.

    “She can see the development happening because she has children already,” Bhanot said.

    Lynch dropped out of high school when she was 15 years old and worked in retail management for 10 years.

    At the age of 20, right after she took her general education development test, the equivalent of a high school diploma, she married Alex Lynch.

    “I was kind of under the impression that I didn’t need college because I was a manager and making decent money – $32,000 a year,” Lynch said.

    Then Jessica was born when Lynch was 22-years-old, and Hailey was born soon after.

    “Then I got divorced,” Lynch said.

    She finalized her divorce from Alex in 2002 and moved from Chicago to the Champaign-Urbana area.

    “I got divorced and lost my job all at the same time,” Lynch recalled. “I could’ve found another job that paid the same or even more, but I was never home.”

    As the store manager at a Factory Card Outlet store, she was working 50- to 60-hour weeks, which left her mom babysitting the girls all the time.

    “I had been saying for a while that I should go back to school, and I should do this, and I should do that,” Lynch said. “It was kind of God’s way of kicking me in the ass and making me go to school.”

    Lynch added that, at first, attending school and raising the girls was hard because they were only 1 and 3 years old.

    “But the older they get, the easier it gets because they can be occupied for a longer period of time,” Lynch said.

    Her mom, who had been living in Chicago, moved to a home near Lynch’s about six months after.

    “My mom was kind of like my salvation,” Lynch said.

    She said she tried working for a while as she studied, but it was not easy.

    “I was making $980 a week and spending $920 a month for day care,” Lynch said. “My grades went to the floor.”

    By not working, however, she received child care resources from the government.

    Now, Alex and Lynch are back together and have been living together for the past 18 months. Alex said he helps take care of their daughters and cleans the house so that Lynch does not have to come home and clean, too.

    “It’s just some things to alleviate the pressure off of her,” Alex said.

    On a typical day, Lynch gets up at 6:30 a.m. and prepares the girls for the day, making sure Jessica has breakfast before school.

    Then she usually has a couple hours to study, clean the house or prepare dinner before class. During the day, Lynch tries to do her homework between classes before she leaves campus because she has a lot to do at home, too, she said.

    After getting home, Lynch talks to Jessica about her day, helps her with homework and prepares dinner. Afterward, the family watches television, and the girls take baths and are read bedtime stories.

    Then, Lynch waits until Alex goes to bed at 10 p.m. to start her homework.

    “It’s just easier when the house is quiet,” Lynch said.

    She said her biggest challenge was financial before she started living with Alex again. She said that because she didn’t work, she was broke.

    “Financial aid can only go so far,” Lynch said.

    But Bhanot said that being a mother and a student poses problems when maternal responsibilities overlap with classes.

    Lynch recently had to ask her friend, Kerry Demanes, to baby-sit Hailey because Lynch had an exam and could not find a babysitter.

    Despite the hectic schedule, Lynch said her daughters like that she attends school.

    “I’ve been beating them over the head, ‘You’re going to go to college, you’re going to go to college,'” Lynch said. “Especially my first grader, (Jessica), she definitely wants to go to college. She wants to go to U of I. She wants to be an Illini cheerleader. She’s got it mapped out.”

    Alex said Lynch is doing a great job handling school and the kids while still being very active in their lives with PTA and Girl Scouts.

    “Having those responsibilities says a lot about the integrity of the person,” Alex said. “It’s given her an appreciation for time and education.”

    In the future, Lynch said she is not sure whether she will attend graduate school. Right now, she said she is focusing on finishing her bachelor’s degree.

    Looking back at her life, however, Lynch said she has no regrets.

    “I think everybody’s life experiences build a person,” Lynch said. “I don’t think I’d be the same person if I had done things differently. I’m pretty satisfied with the person that I am.”