The basic definition of a mother is a woman who raises children, though that definition can be altered a few ways. Historically, mothers have been the main caregiver of children – they stay up all night, they clean up after the kids, feed them, change them, etc. One “quality” of a “good” mother is unwavering selflessness. That selflessness extends into a long (18 (+) year) period of giving up everything the woman might have desired before becoming a mother. The child must always come first. Don’t get me wrong: my children are my life – I would give up my life for them. But mothers are allowed to be themselves presently and don’t need to shut off their own dreams. I’ve met too many mothers who felt imprisoned by the ideals surrounding motherhood.
Let me clarify: there is nothing wrong with waiting until your kids are grown or older to pursue a college education. You must follow your heart and do what is best for you and your kids. What is wrong is to assume that YOUR parenting style or expectations on yourself should extend to any and all mothers. What is wrong is that people give these unsolicited opinions based on their own ideals and from different perspectives, often coming from a place of privilege where waiting was an option.
For me, waiting wasn’t an option. For me, attending college did not start as something I was doing for myself. Below, I’ve explained three reasons why not waiting for my kids to grow up was the best option for me.
For a better future: I couldn’t wait to go to college. And I don’t mean that in an excited type of “couldn’t wait,” but that college was the best option for me at the time. College was and is the way that I have slowly brought our family out of poverty and into a more secure environment. Through my college experience I have moved into a higher socioeconomic status due to my level of employability. I couldn’t wait until my children were grown because I needed to be able to provide them with shelter, food, and clothing among other expenses a parent must deal with…immediately.
For my children: I was a first generation college student. My children will not be. Because they have seen me (and soon my husband) succeed in college, it becomes a reality for them and not simply a far off dream. College becomes more accessible to them now and not when they are my age. Furthermore, they have seen me both struggle and succeed. They know it isn’t easy, but they also know it is worth it. I know there are some people out there who don’t think you HAVE to go to college and maybe you don’t. If one of my kids grows up to do any number of jobs that do not require a degree and is 1) financially stable as well as 2) happy, then I will be happy too. However, if my children want to pursue a degree or a career requiring one, I will be right there cheering them on.
For myself: Finally, I continued to pursue a college degree for myself. Let me briefly tell you about my upbringing: I was born in 1979 to a single disabled mother. I never knew my father, though I yearned for a father. I was an average student and at one point was belittled by a teacher who called me stupid. After that, I hated school. I wanted to be liked, appreciated. And I wasn’t. I felt like I lacked value and hated myself. So, when the time came for college, it wasn’t even a part of my plan. What was? Working fast food, retail, and office jobs were just not for me. So, when I finally went to college for real (I briefly tried at 21), and I succeeded in every class, I felt like a new person. I felt free. I felt smart. I gained confidence and with that I gained real, true friendships with likeminded people. I made lasting connections and friendships, like with my friends Andrea, Melissa, Barbara, Catie, and Tim. So yes, I did go to college for myself. But ultimately, that STILL benefits my children.
So, if you are a mom in college who feels guilty for being in college while your children are little, don’t let the critics get to you – “mother knows best” after all.
What is your “Why” for college?