Teen mom to single parent to college graduate: A journey worth making
Returning to college with children is never an easy decision. As a parent, our main job is to nurture someone else’s well-being. Finding time to even take a bath alone without little ones knocking on the door is impossible. Finding the time and confidence to return to school as an adult seemed intangible.
I had, over the years, often thought of what life would be like if after high school I had gone away to college. Would I be in a different industry? Would I live in another city? What would my life be like? Of course I wondered if I would have made more money, but because I was a teen parent my life had gone in a different direction and crying about it was useless. So thoughts of college would just fade away and life continued.
By the time I was in my early thirties, I had a family and my responsibilities had multiplied. I would often jokingly tell my coworkers at the end of the day that I was going to what I referred to as “my real full time job”, that of a parent. This is when the hardest yet most rewarding part of my day began. Time was never on my side, and at this point in addition to all of these responsibilities, I was a single parent.
Whether it was that I was ready, or that the opportunity had arisen at the right time, when the chance to finally go back to school came I took it head on. For one, I simply could not be competitive any longer in my industry without a degree, and secondly, I wasn’t sure anymore that the industry I was in was actually what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was hungry for new ideas and experiences. Being passed by for promotions because I didn’t have credentials, and, quite frankly, I just wasn’t experienced. While I have never really believed that a piece of paper defined a person, at this point in my life, I knew it would make things easier. I was ready to work smarter, and not just harder.
My seven-year journey started as a race to finish my BA before my oldest graduated high school. I chose to attend a private women’s college because I was sold on the fact that I was not alone. College in many ways was what exactly as I had expected. There was a great deal of homework, and the readings were endless. For many years, my friends and I would joke that those school text books were the only form of reading that I did. My “real job”, that demanded me to have excellent time management, problem solving skills, and attention to detail….. was suffering. The race that I was in had become somewhat of an obstacle course.
There were, in those early days, many nights where home-cooked meals were replaced with pizza or other forms of fast food. The laundry baskets that I prided myself in always being empty suddenly were always full and overflowing. The hardest part was getting home, only to kiss sleeping angels whose lights had been dimmed, and missing more than one baseball game. But…the time that my family had together became more precious and priceless.
During my time at The Women’s College at University of Denver I learned so much more than philosophy, or how to research. I learned to share ideas, thoughts and most importantly, to question. I had living examples all around me of other women who, like me, were at various points in their own race. Some were in a rush, some were just enjoying a class at a time, but they all were all really enjoying it. I never was alone in my thoughts or feelings of juggling.
We live by example, and while I still am a nurturer, I have also learned to nurture myself. I have entered other races and acquired a Master’s degree this last spring, and in 2012 will begin my PhD.
Returning to college as a “nontraditional” student is not an easy undertaking. Whether it is for career advancement, financial gain, or personal growth the prize is more than a piece of paper, it is a great journey. Work, family, and school all seem to find their time and place. The intangible is waiting.