A Mom and a Graduate
Updated: Feb 16
Well...it's been a while since I've checked in with y'all! The truth is, I had too much on my plate and I just had to take a beat to make sure that I was in the right headspace to buckle down and finish what, I started without having to check in somewhere. I'm now happy to report that I'm in a really good place... and I'm DEGREED. I've been really intentional about taking the last two months to just take it all in, and I feel like I have a lot to say to any mom that is out there thinking about making the "selfish" decision to take on furthering her education in the midst of her motherhood journey! Buckle up sis, I have the real for you...
It's really important to understand that you need to be clear and sure about your decision before you commit to anything. We all get little jolts of motivation, but are you really ready to put in the work? Are you ready for a journey that includes guilt... and lots of it? (we'll talk more about that later). Are you ready to be exhausted and still show up for your kids and spouse without excuses? Are you really ready to get right up to what you think is your breaking point just to push yourself a little further...every week? These are just some of the questions that you need to ask yourself, but what it really comes down to is your WHY. Why is this something you want to do and will that "why" sustain you through 4 years of constantly feeling like it would be easier to quit? I'll share a little bit about my why and how it helped me say yes to all of those questions, and how it got me to the finish line.
My why wasn't my kids...(gasp)! My why wasn't my husband...jaw drop)! Get this...my why was ME! This is why you will often hear me refer to my decision to go back to school as selfish...and it was, 100%...and the kicker? I don't feel bad about it, not one bit. My why was rooted in the fact that Whitney, that girl from over 14 years ago (before she started answering to mommy and Mrs. Grimes), had big ambition. She dreamed so big and knew unequivocally that she was capable of making waves in the world. She was passionate and believed in herself more than anything. I had an obligation to THAT girl! I never got to a place where I doubted those things about myself, but I did allow myself to creep into a place of comfortability...what a scary place. My husband is great, and would love for me to stay home while he provides for me and the kids, he's traditional that way. While there is nothing wrong with that, I just knew in my heart that I would be selling myself short giving up all that ambition for a sideline view of watching my husband's successes, and likely grow resentful. I had to have a heart to heart with myself. In that chat, I talked about what I wanted for myself, if it was "OK" to still want those things now that I was a wife and a mother, and if so, how I could make that happen. At the end of the day, the outcomes of that heart to heart were the reasons I wanted to go to school at this point in my life:
I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't wrong about what I was capable of
I wanted to do it for my future self, so that when my babies are grown and starting their lives that I'm not stuck questioning my value or purpose in life
I wanted to challenge myself and try something new
I wanted to finish what I started because I don't like leaving things undone
I wanted to do it to be a better spouse, so that Andy and I both know that every day that I wake up next to him, is a day I'm choosing to be there, choosing to love him, and not because I'm stuck and not because I have no other options
I wanted to do it so I wasn't a hypocrite, so that when I say education is important, I've exemplified that myself, and it's not just lip service
I wanted to do it for security, because life is unpredictable and I want to know that if God forbid anything ever happened to Andy, I would be capable of providing my children a full and happy life on my own
With my "why" in tow I made the tough decision that come hell or high water, I was going to start this journey and NO MATTER WHAT...I was going to finish it. If you're a mom considering going back to school I strongly suggest that you too have this heart to heart with yourself, and be honest. Your answers will look different from mine, but the important take away is to know if you are simply temporarily motivated or do you have a "why" that will truly drive you past the ups and downs that come with choosing yourself in the midst of a journey that many deem successful only when you sacrifice yourself down to the last cell of who who are.
Pursuing a college degree at any age comes with challenges, but being a student while also being a wife and mother comes with a special set of them. While covering them all would be a book, not a blog, I would like to cover some specific challenges that I think apply to most moms. One of those challenges being lack of community. I met a total of TWO other moms in my entire college journey. To be fair, I wasn't really there to make friends. I just went to class and straight home, so there could have been others, but likely not many. This meant I didn't really have anyone to relate to my situation that I could vent to, or simply just level with. Most of my classmates started college straight out of high school, and when they would find out my age or that I was married with kids, they responded with wide eyed looks like I'd told them I was from another planet. Not in a bad way, but similar to the way you might respond to someone telling you they don't own a cell phone in 2022. I'd be lying if I said I didn't train myself to take these reactions as compliments that they didn't detect me as the old lady in a sea of 20 something's.
Another challenge was the GUILT! My goodness. This was probably the toughest one for me personally, and it almost broke me several times. The funny thing is that I expected the guilt, but I vastly underestimated to what extreme, and it came from places I hadn't considered. I knew there would be things I had to miss, or times I would have to say no to late night snuggles in lieu of homework that had a pressing deadline, but what I failed to see coming was the guilt from other adults...other mothers. Some of the doozies were, "Oh, I could never be away from my kids like that" or "Wow, that must be a lot on your husband" The latter was particularly infuriating because my husband worked a full time job while earning his two degrees, while I stayed at home, and no one said "wow, that must be a lot on your wife," but here I was taking two to three days a week for myself and being crucified for it. What a double standard. I had to remind myself over an over that I deserved this opportunity, and that my husband was in full support of it, that the guilt was temporary, my sadness and the sadness of my kids was temporary, but that the outcome was going to have positive lasting effects for us all.
The last challenge is support. People will commit to something completely willy nilly to be "supportive" in the moment (I'm sure with the best intentions) but in the end, their wants and needs are always going to come first, which results in mid semester freak outs or you having to miss class unexpectedly. I really encourage you to not build your class schedule around people that aren't reliable. Now, I know it may be hard to admit to yourself that your brother, sister, friend, mom, dad or whoever isn't going to come through for you, but I'm telling you to build your schedule around something that you and your spouse can make work between the two of you, and if that isn't an option, then use one other person that you KNOW you can count on for the entire semester. Be clear about how important it is to you and how serious it is that they don't say they can do it if they can't. Trying to find emergency/ different childcare for your littles at the last minute because people are cancelling adds SO MUCH unnecessary stress to an already high stress situation. Don't say I didn't warn you on this one!
Advice You Didn't Ask For
If you can force yourself to remember your "why" and it can carry you through those 4 years, or 2 if you're going for your graduate degree, I promise you the end result will be so worth it. The peace of mind that was on the other side of all the challenges was something I never could have even dreamed. The confidence that I carry with me knowing...I've got ME if the you know what should hit the fan, is something you can't put a price on, but they do hahaha!
I really think it's important for women to find this peace and confidence...especially if you're a wife and mother. I am a better wife because I can contribute to my household in ways I couldn't have before. I'm a better wife because I can love without fear of what might happen if he leaves (which was never anything I worried about consciously, but now that I don't worry about it subconsciously---I'm aware that it was a fear I had). This fear had nothing to do with Andy, because he has never EVER done anything but be there for me and our kiddos, but it was a form of insecurity I held for myself, and now it's gone, and it feels so good. I'm a better mother because I am an example of what I expect from my kids. I'm a better mother because I'm smarter than I was going in. I'm a better mother because I showed my daughter that it's okay to be a woman AND a mom, but most importantly I'm a better wife and mother because I don't resent my family for keeping me from the things I want to achieve.
Instead I have taken the power into my own hands to say that I define what motherhood looks like for ME. God made ME their mother, and that means him and I alone decide what that should look like. It means I am QUALIFIED to make the decision about what is best for me and what the best way for me to mother these children is. That means that the "oh, I could never be away from my children that much" moms are just not on the same journey as me...AND THAT'S OKAY! I'm not their kids mother, my kids made it through just fine and we're all better for it. They were all so proud of me on the day of my graduation. It made every night that I cried myself to sleep not knowing if I was making the right choice worth it. I will continue to make choices that I feel led to make after lots of prayer, and with the support of my family. I encourage you to do the same. Step out on faith and trust in God and your "why"...and don't apologize for it because baby...they ain't you!
Just my thoughts,