For the past 4.5 years I have been a college student, 3 of those years I have also been a Mother. It all started when Brigham Young University-Idaho held a fireside about their Pathways program. Going back to school was never at the top of my to-do list. After high school I went to a trade school and got licensed in California and Utah as an Esthetician. (You know, performing facials and waxing, chemical peels, etc). I am passionate about skin care and was excited to be an esthetician because it meant I could also take clients from my home and be a stay-at-home Mom at the same time. (Which I proudly do currently in my not-so free time). However, never having that college diploma and accomplishment was something I yearned for as time went on.
I decided to enroll in the year long Pathway program and then graduated and was accepted to BYU-Idaho as one of their online students. Since then I have taken about 2-5 classes at a time. Online schooling is not the same as independent study. There are weekly due dates, tests, and group projects. For the most part, each one of my classes have required anywhere from around 5 hours-10 hours of work a week. In the beginning it was easy because I was working part-time and was just married. We then moved to Shanghai, which was perfect because I could still "attend" the school while half-way across the world. A year ago I received my associates degree in General Studies, and I am more than halfway to my Bachelors degree in Marriage and Family Studies. (46 credits away from graduation, to be exact. But who's counting?!)
There have been times (more than I care to admit) that I sit down and think, is this worth it? The time I took math final in the hospital the day after my daughter was born, the time I had to do a report on earthquakes while on vacation in Japan. (Woe is me, I know.) the countless exams and group projects that I have had to do with other online students. The fact that it is going to take me twice as long to get my degree because I am also attempting raising a family. The absolute hardest part is the whole work/life balance. Of course, this is something all working parents go through. The difference is that I am stuck on my laptop as my daughter asks for milk, a cuddle, a diaper change, a snack, etc. Assignments that should take a half hour end up taking 2 hours because in the meantime, laundry needs to be done, dinner needs to be cooked, and my daughter needs tending to.
My friend asked me the other day, "so, why are you doing it? Why are you putting in so much effort? Are you going to work full time when you graduate?" The answer, is no. Well not initially. I hope to be able to be a stay-at home mom when my children are young, but I would also love to use my degree and work in its field when they are old enough for school. I know adding more to our family will only make it harder for me to complete assignments as time goes on. (We are pregnant with our second). Why not achieve this now?
Don't get me wrong. Being a student is not all stressful and imperfect. I get grades and feedback from my professors. I love getting good grades for all of my efforts. Since Samantha isn't old enough to give me unsolicited praise for all my hard work as a Mom (is that ever going to happen?) It is nice to get an A at something and feel proud of my GPA. The things I have learned, as cheesy as it sounds have really helped me in my life. For instance, I just took a money management class that explained in detail the stock market, budgets, bank accounts, and taxes. Since my degree focuses on Marriage and Family studies, the classes I have taken have always helped me apply my knowledge right into my home. Then there was the time I took a "Family stress and Coping" course during our move back to the United States from China. I have never followed instruction from a textbook so much in my life. This stuff is so applicable! One of the biggest things I have appreciated is the fact that when Samantha goes to school and needs help with her own homework, I won't have to send her to her educated Father.
I look forward to the day where I can walk across that stage and receive my diploma with my children watching me with (hopefully) admiration. I know they may be too young to appreciate my efforts at this moment. Samantha is a little jealous of all the time I spend with my computer, but one day I know she will look up at me and say, "wow, Mom. You got a degree while raising us? You are a freaking rockstar." And it will show her that SHE is also capable of doing hard things.
Last week I passed a statistics test that was so hard I literally thought I was going to lose my mind. As I clicked submit and prayed harder than I probably ever have, I saw a surprisingly high score and fell to my knees. When I looked up from relief there was my husband with confetti cannons and balloons that said, "You rock." (He's a gem, I tell ya!) After hours of studying, trying to understand this foreign stats language, and taking practice tests, I had my reward. I will pass the class that will be guaranteed the hardest of my entire degree. I like to think that it is all smooth sailing from here until I graduate but I still have my internship and practicum to complete, so I don't want to get too confident.
If you are a parent who is also yearning to learn and progress I encourage you to find opportunities that are available. Community colleges offer night courses, online courses are available and there is even certificates that may be better and more obtainable option to some. I know I haven't graduated yet, but in hopefully 7 semesters I will, and I can happily say that it will be a proud moment. I am already proud of the person I have developed into since almost 5 years of schooling. I hope to continue to learn, so I can teach my child they are worthy of an education one day, also.
If you are interested in hearing more about the Pathways program to get started on YOUR degree click below!