Yen Bui’s day frequently begins at 1 a.m., which is when her 3-month-old son James Bui Downs wakes up, usually crying over being hungry.
She spends the night trying to nap as her son naps then proceeds to go to classes in the afternoon.
Once her husband returns from his morning classes, Bui spends the rest of the day completing chores with him and doing her school work while watching the baby.
Bui, a sophomore accounting major from Hanoi, Vietnam, and her husband Chad Downs, a junior marketing major from Santa Rose Beach, Fla., are students trying to adapt to their new life as parents.
One of the biggest adaptations for Bui has just been to manage her sleeping schedule.
“If he sleeps from 1-5 a.m. and gets four hours of sleep, that is like heaven because when he sleeps, I do too,” Bui said.
For Michael Merritt, a senior criminal justice major from Blakely, Ga., who has a 1-month-old daughter, Veronica Merritt, time-management has been his biggest challenge.
“There is no more just goofing around at one in the morning anymore,” Merritt said.
He adds that getting married and having kids definitely changes one’s priorities.
“School was a number one priority,” Merritt said. “It is still important but now I’m trying to finish school and get my career started. Money gets tight.”
Merritt also adds that his wife, Alisha Merritt, a senior graphic design major who has taken a semester off to take care of the baby, is eager to come back and finish her last semester at Troy.
Planning everything from finding a house to a decent daycare, all within a limited budget can be taxing he said.
However, he acknowledges that with support from families and friends, they have been able to manage everything.
“One time when Alisha was pregnant, one of her friends from the art department walked up to her and gave $60 in gifts,” Merritt said.
“One of her professors gave her a Troy collegiate set with a hat, blanket and spit-up cloth. We’ve had more kindness from friends than we have ever seen.”
“We have six months’ worth of diapers and wipes given by family and friends,” Downs said.
“We appreciate their help and couldn’t ask for more,” he said.
Downs also said that government subsidies from the Women, Infants and Children program has helped in providing food for the baby.
Merritt says that because his wife has been the primary caregiver, his schedule has changed only in that he comes back home to a baby to take care of.
“They want me to rest as much as I can even though I fight it because I want to help out and play with the baby,” he said. “When I get home, if there is cooking to be done, I do the cooking. Alisha is the cleaner. We just do what we can.”
According to Downs, one of the challenges as a parent is keeping pace with his son’s behavior changes. “He screams now instead of crying when he gets hungry,” he said. “It’s a new form of communication every week.”
However, all the parents describe a positive change brought about by their children in their lives.
“I have become more responsible because I am responsible for him now,” Bui said. “I did not know that I could be this strong.
When there are hard days, I think about my parents who raised two daughters, baking cakes every night and delivering them the next morning. Thinking about them gives me a lot of perspective.”
“He has taught me about time management and he keeps me out of trouble,” Downs said.
“I have definitely become more mature and my mind set has changed to become more vigilant of ‘real world problems’ for lack of a better term,” Merritt said.
And what pushes these students even when things get hard at times?
“There are nights when he maybe just throws up and I haven’t slept and I’m tired,” Bui said. “And I look at him and he smiles as if he is saying, ‘It’s okay, Mom,’ I don’t even get mad.”
“There is nothing better than going in there, picking her up, holding her and playing with her and she just laughs,” Merritt said. “It’s the best thing.”
“I am looking forward to seeing how she grows up,” he said. “It’s a completely different life that you get to witness.” Merritt hopes that it will be easier to take care of his daughter when she grows up because she will be able to tell him what is wrong with her, if need be.
Bui agrees with Merritt but notes that once her son starts running around, he could be more accident-prone and thus will require more attention.
Merritt, Bui and Downs are all doing their best to adjust to their new lifestyles as caregivers and guardians and when the going gets tough, the tough remember one motto: Make it work.