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Motherhood at Miami: Shiloh Eklund balances being a full-time student and a mom

Her days start early. Many times, she's awake before the sun rises.

She wakes her sleeping son beside her and begins to get to ready for the day. She helps him put on his backpack before putting on her own. One is filled with kinesiology textbooks, while the other is stuffed with coloring books -- each in accordance with their respective classes for the day.

Every weekday morning, she drives to the front of "Mini University" on College Drive, the daycare center on Miami's campus. She looks at her son, Will, in the rearview mirror, and sees his face is full of hesitation.

"If I have to go to school, you do, too," she says to him. She walks him to his classroom, where he is greeted by all his peers.

She then makes her way toward her 8:30 a.m. class alongside hundreds of other Miami students rushing to their own classes. Although she's tired from staying up late studying the night before, she heads to class full of determination.

To everyone else, Shiloh Eklund looks like a normal college junior: eager to learn and ready to obtain all possible opportunities. Yet, few people know that she has a three-year-old son who depends on her, and is along for the ride with her everyday while she pursues her degree.

Being a mother at 21 was not in her plans, but she wouldn't change her life for anything in the world.

Shiloh manages to balance being a mother and a full-time kinesiology student.

Shiloh became pregnant at the end of her junior year of high school. For awhile, only immediate family members and friends were aware of her pregnancy. Eventually, she announced that she was expecting in a tweet for all her followers to see.

In her iPhone notes she typed the statement "I'm pregnant." She took a screenshot of this message and attached it to a tweet with the caption "juicy gossip!!"

Although her pregnancy was unexpected, she was overwhelmed by support from her friends and family. She most valued the support from her parents, who were willing to walk with her every step of the way.

"There is no way I could have done anything without their support," Shiloh said.

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For Shiloh, going to college was never a question, even when she found out she was pregnant. In her community (the Montgomery area of Cincinnati), everyone gets their degree, and she felt she was no exception. Shiloh applied to Miami and was accepted with enough scholarship and grant dollars that the university was basically paying her to attend.

"When I got pregnant, I thought everything was going to change, but it really didn't because of my support system," Shiloh said. "I was never in fear of not getting my degree."

Shiloh's father helps pay some of her expenses during the school year because she is not able to work as often as she'd like. He owns the home Shiloh currently lives in, and allows her and her roommates to rent it out from him.

Brett Schaff, a junior marketing major at Miami, has been living with Shiloh for two years. She has helped look after Will when he's not with his father or when Shiloh has school related activities at night. Brett thinks of Will as a nephew and is grateful to have he and his mother in her life.

"A lot of times in Oxford you feel like you're only surrounded by twenty-year-olds all the time, but it's cool to come home and find a three year old just enjoying life," said Brett.

Shiloh's father's financial support allows her to have flexibility in the kind of job she takes on. Shiloh teaches fitness classes at Chestnut Field House located in Clawson Hall. Shiloh is able to work somewhere where she truly enjoys coming in for every shift.

"If I didn't have help from my dad or from the scholarships, there is no way I could do it," Shiloh said. "Because my parents are so supportive, I get to do a job that I love to do, and not one that I have to do."

In her classes, she is up-front with her professors and classmates about her situation. If she can't make it to class or a group project meeting, she lets them know about her son and is always met with understanding.

"I don't want to be that person who uses the 'kid card' all the time," Shiloh said. "But if he was sick or I had to stay home, they are always super cool about it."

Shiloh loves being a mother, but admits there are many things she has missed out on. She misses being able to do things like going to the movies, working out at the gym or having wine nights with friends.

"I'm so used to it," Shiloh said. "It's weird because I'll talk to other moms and they ask 'Oh, you can't go to the gym?' But I don't have a husband at home who can just stay at home with my kid."

Shiloh's life requires her to juggle multiple responsibilities while making a multitude of sacrifices. In order to find a balance, she prioritizes to avoid being overwhelmed.

"I think half of me goes into auto-pilot and says 'You know what? I have to do all these things, so we're just gonna do it,"' Shiloh said. "I'm a mom first. If school needs to come in last priority, then maybe I won't study that night. I have had to be okay with lower grades and not spending as much time on school or with friends because I'm taking care of another human."

Next summer, Shiloh will graduate from Miami, completing a task that many young mothers are not able to do. She is grateful for both the opportunity to attend Miami and the impactful learning experience she has had through being a mother.

"I'm really excited to tell Will that if I can do it, he can do it," Shiloh said. "I wouldn't change anything in the world. There are just countless things I have learned and would have never learned without being a mom."