Dear mama going to school,

I see you. I'm exactly where you are right now. I know the doubt and inner conflict. The feeling like you are a part-time student, part-time mom, but never a full-time anything because your roles are divided. Well, it's not true. You are not divided. You are multi-faceted.

Every time someone asked me this past semester how school was going, I replied with, "It's going" because I didn't know what else to say. How could I possibly explain it was more than the book work, more than the research, the assignments, the deadlines, the word counts and source lists?


It was also motherhood. It was nursing a baby while taking a quiz. Coloring with a toddler at the kitchen table while catching up on required reading. Staying up past midnight after everyone had gone to sleep to meet a deadline. Sometimes sacrificing family time on the weekend because there simply wasn't enough time during the week to do everything.

I have been questioned by some on this new journey of student/mother but also encouraged by many others. Encouraged to involve my children and not feel like I have to "hide" my school work from them or wait for them to sleep until I can work on things. Encouraged that it is good for them to see that mom isn't just mom, she is also a student. That she can do many things at the same time.

The baby may not remember me being in school and taking care of him but my toddler will. On the days he goes to preschool and I ask him, "How was school?" he says, "Good, how was your school, mom?" He also tells me he wants to go to college because I told him that's the school I'm going to. He recently told me that when he grows up he wants to be a daddy and a race car driver. And I encouraged him. Because you get to be more than one thing. We all do.

So, dear mama in school, I know the hardest part isn't the sleep deprivation or lack of time or energy. It's the mom guilt. The lie that if you are a mother you shouldn't be doing anything else and that if you are that your children are somehow not getting everything they need from you. But that isn't true. Because unlike anybody else, you know exactly what your children need. And that is why you go to school. Because you have big dreams not just for you but for them too.

It's okay to be a mother and a student.

It's okay to have playtime and homework time.

It's okay to feed babies and read books.

It's okay to work hard at being a mother and work hard at being in school.

It's okay if you can't meet the expectations of society, or other mothers or even your own.

Because every day you meet the expectations of your children. You are there for them and you are their mother no matter what else you do. Your children know that you are still their mom regardless of how your roles may change and shift. And, maybe you needed to know that too.

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Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:

Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking. Late Wednesday night news broke that Rivera was missing and presumed drowned after her 4-year-old son, Josey, was found floating alone on a rented boat on Lake Piru in Ventura County, California.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Ventura County Sheriff's Department Capt. Eric Buschow said the mother and her preschooler were swimming near the boat Wednesday afternoon. Josey got back into the rented boat after the swim but his mother did not. The preschooler was later found by other boaters, sleeping alone in the boat. Rescuers were able to figure out who he was because Rivera's wallet and identification were on the boat.


Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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