Student Moms Juggle Schoolwork, Parenting


The carriage Gina M. Ocon '98-'00 steers is too wide to fit into the narrow aisle of the shuttle bus that stops in front of Mather House at 8:20 a.m. on its way to the Science Center every morning.

Weighed down by a bookbag packed so tightly that she is forced to wedge her statistics textbook under her arm, Ocon's five-foot, two-inch frame firmly grasps the carriage's top and with one quick tug manages to detach it from the body.

On good days, a sympathetic Mather House resident may notice Ocon struggling and hoist the carriage onto the shuttle for her. But on nights when she is the only passenger on the bus to Peabody Terrace, Ocon has been known to ask the shuttle bus driver to leave his seat behind the wheel and help her.

Muttering underneath his breath that helping Ocon isn't part of his job, the driver disassembles the carriage while Ocon, 22, cradles her almost 18-month old daughter, Bailey M. Maggiore.

"It was cold and snowing. I just told him that there was no way I was walking my daughter home in that kind of weather," Ocon says, recalling one particularly frigid November evening.


A few weeks ago Ocon gave up her battle with the morning shuttle. She now walks the 15-minute route that takes her from her two-bed-room apartment to the Bigelow Cooperative Day Care Center, one block short of Radcliffe Yard, by 9 a.m. every weekday morning.

On the other side of campus, in an apartment building less than a five-minute walk from the Science Center, Anna N. Payanzo, '00 wakes up as early as 6 a.m. some mornings to nurse her son Dylan T. Payanzo, who is just shy of his first birthday. If Dylan has a good night--a rare occasion--Payanzo might be able to sleep until 8 a.m.

That task taken care of, Payanzo squeezes in a few extra hours of sleep before heading off to her first class, leaving Dylan, the son she has affectionately nicknamed Blue Bear, to have breakfast with his grandmother, Jane S. Payanzo.

Such is the routine that Payanzo has followed since last December when she moved off-campus, delivered Dylan and took her finals--all within a month. By February, Payanzo was shopping classes and preparing for second semester, like any other first-year.

Life isn't easy for these undergraduates. There are nights when midterms are approaching and an ear infection keeps Bailey awake and crying and Ocon exhausted. There are times when Payanzo can't even bring herself to leave the house; she wants to do everything possible to ease the pain Dylan feels when he's teething.

But then again, Ocon can't stop smiling when an overall-clad, smiling toddler sporting red patent leather shoes hugs her at the end of the day. And Payanzo has taken her role as a parent quite seriously. She won't even use baby-talk around Dylan for fear that she will stifle his intellectual development.

Neither Ocon nor Payanzo has chosen an easy path to a Harvard degree, but both are optimistic that they can succeed where few thought they could.


A quick stop by her mailbox--where she complains about the number of bills that arrive weekly--is the only pause Ocon takes in an evening full of scheduled activities.

Dinner must be on the stove by 6 p.m., Bailey must be in bed by 8 p.m. and Ocon has until 11 p.m. to wade her way through Karl Marx or Adam Smith for her sophomore social studies tutorial.

"I need to get six or seven hours of sleep each night because I have to stay healthy for Bailey," Ocon says.

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