Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mommy-Wise Monday Vol 4: Student VS. Mom

I've decided to write about being a student-mom. Oh yeah, and I realize it's not Monday... again. I will get better at this, I promise.

Most of my closest friends, throughout my mom/student career have just sighed and said "I don't know how you do it."  One friend who is not a mom, but a student, said it to me the very same week that a friend who is a mom, but not a student.  I really began to think about this - for me, it's just been my life for 3 years, but it really does boggle people's minds.  In further conversations, I've felt the need to de-bunk some of the perceptions of my day to day life and habits.  To be honest, some days, I don't know how I do it (note the italics and bold font), and some days, I certainly do not do either very well.

Sometimes I feel like I lack credibility in both worlds.  To a journalist, which is what I was studying to become, credibility is everything. If you aren't credible, nobody reads what you write, and if they do, they don't take it seriously.  I want to be taken seriously, but very often, when I tell someone at school that I'm a mother of two, I get a look that says "Oh, so you're not really serious about this."  It's just as bad when I meet another mom at church or the park and tell her I'm a student.  Same look.  Even friends of mine skirt the issue of career choice for me - because evidently, by having children so early in life, I've made my bed.

So, here's a look at my life:

When Patrick was conceived, I had mixed emotions about everything.  Our "don't really care if we get pregnant" moment had larger ramifications than we thought it would.  I had just finished my second year of university, had just begun my first internship at a newspaper, and I was loving it.  I loved that I was doing what I thought I was meant to do - talk to people about what they did and turn it into an artfully written piece of history.  Heck, I thought I was going to be the next G.K. Chesterton.  But I also had the desire to be a great mother. Inside me was this little being that threw my hormones and my body completely out of whack, and so between interviewing and writing, I found myself in the dingy office bathroom, crouched over the toilet and using my lunch-breaks to take naps in my car.

I survived the internship and the first semester of my third year with great support from the faculty of my program.  I went to my advisor,(who is also a mom), and basically said, "I'm pregnant, but I want to finish this degree," and the first thing she said was not, "How could you be so irresponsible as to get pregnant before finishing school?!" It was instead, "Congratulations!" Then we set about making some plans for the best way to go about finishing the degree.  This wonderful woman gave me the benefit of the doubt - took me seriously as a student -- and a mom -- and gave me hope. Later, she even gave me maternity clothes. Talk about supportive.

I had Patrick in February, and decided not to pursue school until the following January.  Joseph, however, said "Why don't you take a class in September?"  So I took a class twice a week while he stayed home mornings to take care of Patrick.  He even let me take time to go to the gym while I was at school.

The following January, some amazing friends came through for me to watch Patrick during my classes, because we really couldn't afford for Joseph to stay home from work anymore.  Also during that time, my father passed away, and we had to take some time to plan a funeral and give support to my mom.  It was during this time that the faculty of my program came through for me again, easing my course-load just a little bit so that I could have space and time to grieve and help my family.

On the day my dad died in 2011, I suspected I was pregnant again, and it sounds terrible given what I'd just heard about my dad, but my thoughts immediately drifted to my degree.  "Oh God," I prayed, "How on earth can I make this happen!?"  Curled up in fetal position on my bed, with my world crashing down, I cried and cried and prayed.

Lets fast-forward to now.  I'm about to graduate.  There was a point in the spring of last year when I seriously questioned finishing, but an amazing sociology professor said to me, "You are student and a mother -- two very difficult things. Do not beat yourself up about marks. They are just numbers.  You have a very important job as a mom, and sometimes that might mean that your school-work isn't what it would be if you were a single student with more time and space in your head."  At that point, I took the pressure off myself.  So, some might call it a "C's get degrees" approach, but I call it sanity.

I do a good job, but I'm not expecting the 4.0 GPA that I maintained until Patrick came along. Most people don't have a 4.0 without two kids.  I hate when I hear other students say "I'm sooo tired - I was up till 2 a.m. talking with my boyfriend on the phone."  I want to turn around and say,

"You mean, you were up till 2 by choice? Oh boohoo, poor you. At least you weren't jolted from sleep at 2 a.m. by a hungry baby who proceeded to clamp down on your boobs and chow down for an hour while you try to get your other kid to go back to sleep, only to be awoken again at 5 a.m. by that same kid who can't sleep without his bunny, and again a 6, because now it's time to get up and make breakfast."

However, I bite my tongue. Hard.

So here's how I do it, for those who are curious.

I have help, first of all - and asking for it has been a serious blow to my dream of being an "independent woman." I'd say that's pretty much out the window.  My husband does more housework and childcare than a lot of dads who also run their own business, and to be honest, sometimes his work (and our main income) suffers a little bit because I need to get assignments done.

I have a messy house.  Except when I have company of course, because maintaining the image of good housewife is important to me, even if it's not true at all.

I don't do what I'd like to with my kids.  They have an awesome day-home that they go to in the mornings where they get to do crafts and read books and learn songs from other people, not me.

I compartmentalize.  I work on schoolwork only certain hours of the day, either while the kids are at the dayhome or when they're sleeping.  That way, I'm 77% there for them.  The other 23% is for the housework and husband.

I have little to no social life.  I'm part of a moms group, and for most of the weeks this year, the time there to be with other moms socially was the only social outing I had.

Okay, so it sounds completely depressing! I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to get this way.  Thankfully. Mercifully. I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  There is hope!

Here's the encouraging send-off for other student-moms or moms who are going back to school: Somehow, with a lot of support from good people, prayer and survival mechanisms, it has been possible.  However, I'm  not going to say that being a mom hasn't changed my perspective.  I don't know if I want to be a journalist.  I might still want to be the next Chesterton (but who wouldn't, he was brilliant.) I know for sure that being a mom (working, student, or stay-at-home) is awesome - more than I'd imagined it to be.

1 comment:

  1. A great message about a young mom who has set a goal for herself but acknowledges that to do this she needed help and has received it through the love and support of family, friends and kind professors. Way to go!


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