After working hard and saving up to put herself through law school, Briana Williams was determined not to let anything stop her from taking her exams and graduating — not even going into labor.
The 24-year-old graduated on schedule last month and celebrated her difficult journey in an inspirational Instagram post. The post has since gone viral, and not just because Williams and her daughter are adorable in their matching caps and gowns.
Williams’ story of succeeding against all odds is a remarkable one.
In April 2017, the Harvard Law student went into labor with her first child during her final exam period, but with just one year left to go, Williams was intent on continuing her studies.
Omg! Found video footage from my having to take my final exam in labor! pic.twitter.com/XGM4Gh4iuQ— Briana D. Williams (@BrianaESQ) June 4, 2018
“I immediately requested an epidural so that my contractions wouldn’t interfere with my Family Law grade,” she said in a on Instagram. “And, with tears in my eyes, I finished it.”
Over the next year, Williams said she struggled to balance school with life as a single mom.
“To say that my last year of law school, with a newborn, and as a single mom was a challenge would be an understatement,” the fresh graduate shared in her post. “I struggled with reliable child care. It was not atypical to see me rushing through Wasserstein [Hall] to the Dean of Students’ office with Evelyn in her carriage, asking DOS can they keep her for a few until class was over. If not, she’d just have to come with me to class. Evie attended classes often.”
In a separate Instagram post, Williams said she does not receive child support and tried not to rely on babysitters for her daughter throughout her final year of law school because hiring child care is expensive, especially for a single mother.
“I refused to allow anyone to assume that my daughter could hold me back in any way when she is such a fundamental piece of my success and courage,” Williams told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I knew that if I persisted, I could help other similarly situated women.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 1 in 4 mothers in the US are raising children on their own. More than 65% of women who have children under the age of 6 also work, according to the National Women’s Law Center. And child care can be both costly and key to women’s successful careers. The National Women’s Law Center reported that full-time child care in the US can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 a year — and for many that is prohibitively expensive.
But child care is crucial, not just for children’s well-being but also for their mothers’ success in the workforce. According to one study, single mothers of young children who received help to pay for child care were 39% more likely to remain employed after two years, compared to single mothers who did not receive help to pay for child care.
But single or not, affordable high-quality child care can be hard to come by.
Around one-quarter of families in the US spend more than 10% of their incomes on child care — including those living below the poverty line who can least afford it.
Williams might not fall into that category, but she did have to fight to achieve her dreams, and she hopes that the path will be a little easier for those who follow her.
“At first, I was the anomaly of my [marginalized] community. Then, as a single mother, I became a statistic. Next, I pray that for the sake of my baby, I will be an example,” Williams said on Instagram. “Evelyn- they said that because of you I wouldn’t be able to do this. Just know that I did this BECAUSE OF YOU. Thank you for giving me the strength and courage to be invincible. Let’s keep beating all their odds, baby.”
Global Citizen campaigns in support of women’s empowerment and access to education for all. You can take action here to help ensure that every girl has a chance to go to school.