“‘For I know the plans that I have for you’, says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you future and a hope.” –
With every dream comes the fear of the unknown. And when you have another life depending on you, those fears are doubled. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m not smart enough. I’m not cut out for that. I won’t have a babysitter. The truth is, there will always be a million reasons not to pursue your dreams. When your child looks up to you, depends on you, and trusts you to show him or her how to “do” life, giving up is not an option. For me, my child is all the reason I need to get up and to get it right. You only get one shot, so you have make it count!
What made me apply?
After finishing undergrad, I started working at a bank. I was going to settle down close to my hometown. I had already started looking at homes for my son and I, and I had found the perfect school for him to start kindergarten. I was doing pretty well, and I was discovering career opportunities to progress within the banking industry. One day I woke up and realized that I was SETTLING. I realized that the time would pass either way, and that I should at least be using the time wisely. I decided that I would rather struggle for a few years while pursuing my dreams, than to struggle for the rest of my life in an unfulfilling job. I applied to only one law school because I knew I had family in that city. I was accepted, and had to uproot my entire life in one week to make the transition. Literally, ONE WEEK. But if I could go back and do it again, I would not change anything. This swift transition exemplified the well-known statement: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
How I make it work in law school. . .
I make it work, first and foremost, by keeping God first. I cannot even take credit for how far I have come. People often ask me how I do it, and I have to tell the truth. It is all HIM.
As for the things that I can control, I exercise strict time management. I believe that everything in life is a tradeoff; so sometimes I miss out on sleep and I have to wait until Christmas break just to watch the latest season of Scandal. Which is okay. It will all be worth it. When I am in student mode, I am in full force. It helps to treat the study of law like a full time job (For one, because it actually is). While my son is at school, I try to devote the full 8 hours to my studies and to my on-campus activities as well. But when I’m in mommy mode, which is the remainder of the day and weekends, I am all mommy. I am checking homework, cooking dinner, doing laundry, and shuffling around between practices. I also make time for quality time like family movie nights so that Ethan, my son, never feels neglected. Sometimes the two overlap, and that’s okay too. I am not ashamed to bring books to football practices, and I have had to ask permission from my professors for Ethan to sit in class with me. Whatever works for you– do that. There is no handbook, and there is no cookie-cutter fix that will fit each and every single parent.
A few other things that I live by are extracurricular activities and bedtime. Extracurriculars keep Ethan engaged and entertained while giving me a little “me-time”. More importantly, he is not wasting brain cells by watching TV and playing video games all day. This gives me time to do whatever else I need to do. Extracurricular activities are more than just fun for him and a break for me, they also serve as another form of discipline and a way to teach him teamwork. Bedtime is a win-win situation. For starters, it is healthy for children to get plenty of sleep every night. There are also social benefits. For example, Ethan’s teachers can easily recognize when he did not get enough sleep the night before because he tends to be grouchy and moody. Aside from that– I need it! I need that time at night to just be… a person. Whether I need to watch Insecure, have a two-hour girl talk, try a twist out on my hair, or just sit there and stare at the wall– I have a little time to do so.
In addition to being a full time mommy and student, I am also the Treasurer of the Ernestine Sapp Chapter of the Black Law Students Association; co-founder of #GOALS (a mentoring program partnered with several inner-city high schools); a traveling, competing member of the Jones Board of Advocates; a member of the SBA philanthropy committee, Jones Public Interest Law Foundation, and the Women’s Legal Society.
The number one resource I recommend to single parents, is FAMILY. I recommend applying to a school in a city where you have family. (I know everyone wants to attend a top school, but at the end of the day- a JD is a JD.) There is nothing like family, and it provides extra peace of mind. However, if that is not an option, don’t sweat it. Leave that part to God. Aside from family, God has also placed many loving people in my path that love and care for my son as if he is their own. Also, look into afterschool programs offered by YMCAs, churches, and other things of that nature. Some of these recreational organizations and facilities offer special rates for single parents. There are also plenty of foundations that offer scholarships and grants to single parents. Word of advice- Just dive in! Once you dive in, you’d be amazed at the opportunities that just start jumping out at you.
Shaquila Jackson is a second-year law student at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. In addition to being the mother of 6 year old Ethan, Shaquila serves on the executive board of BLSA and participates in numerous other organizations and committees, and is also a co-founder of Project #GOALS