You have seen women like me on campus. With our cap sleeve dresses or workout gear on, comfy shoes and hair either in a messy bun or down in beach waves. We look more like mommy bloggers on Instagram versus the “just out of high school” college students. We look lost sometimes, we look sort of out of place but we are exactly where we belong.
We are moms. And we are going back to school. Perhaps it’s no surprise that 4.8 million college students are parents- 71 percent are mothers- according to a 2014 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
I am in my mid-30s, and I am one of them. I am old enough to be some of your mothers. So what is a middle-aged woman doing back in school?
Well, I am here for some of the same reason as many of you: to learn as much possible so that I can land a job in my field.
Since I was 8 years old, I have wanted to be a journalist. And I headed towards that path. I attended Cal State Long Beach and earned my bachelor’s in communication, landed an internship at KABC-TV, Los Angeles and my first job was working for a newspaper in Arizona. But after all of that hard work, I took a long break.
It’s been 13 years since I first stepped foot into a classroom. After being a stay-at-home mommy for 10 years, it was time to go back.
Meme showing a Mom who is excited to go back to school (Photo courtesy of memecrunch.com)
A lot has changed in my field due to advances in technology, so I needed to update my skills and a community college right down the street was a great way to get the experience I needed while being close to home.
At Saddleback College, over 37 percent of students are ages 25 and up, with 25 to 64 year-olds making up 35 percent.
Saddleback College offers resources for student parents including the Re-Entry center, an on-campus daycare and day and night classes are offered, making it easier for moms to choose classes that work for their schedules.
Moms go back to school for a variety of reasons, many of which are for financial reasons, often it is simply not a choice but a necessity. It could be due to a spouse who gets laid off or the student mom just may need more of an income to get by. It could be due to a divorce or a strained marriage/relationship, thus forcing them to provide for themselves and their children. Others are victims of domestic violence, abuse and control and yearn for their own identity and career. Some stay-at-home moms, just want to contribute, want something of their own or to grow and learn. Others want to update their skills or advance in their career or even change careers.
One group of student mothers struggles more than others. Two million them are single, many of whom don’t recieve support from a spouse or partner. Single mothers re-entering the workforce aren’t graduating college at the same rate as the mothers who have support, according to recent studies by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
I am lucky to have the support of my parents and husband. I have four small children. Yes. That is not a typo: four. They range in age from 10 years to 9 months old and they are all beautiful and amazing, of course. With three boys and one girl, plus myself and my husband, we have a very full house.
Making the decision to go back to school is a big commitment. Attempting to study while in the loud house is difficult. Many more fast food dinners. More TV watching than I would like. Less fun than we are used to having. I was always available at the drop of the hat, but now my children must learn patience. And they have been. It’s hard, but they are very proud of their Mama.
What’s it like at home? Loud. There is a lot of chaos. The kids need diaper changes, food, hugs and kisses. They need Band-Aids when they get hurt, advice on how to deal with that bully at school, help with homework, doctor appointments, sports practices and games, help with school, lunches, carpool, plays.
Moms are tired. We are exhausted. Somehow we have to fit in time to clean the house, make dinner and study. It is not easy.
But, still as hard as it is, kids are not a burden, they are our whole lives. We would do anything for them. They do require a lot of time, love and patience. And help is needed so moms can attend class, study and do homework. If babysitting is too expensive, moms can reach out to grandparents, friends, family for support.
To make the decision to go back to school is a big commitment. But we are moms. We are warriors. We are resilient. The point is to be an example to your children. To show them that they can follow their dreams and goals. To show them perseverance. And to show yourself that you are capable of so much more than you realize. You can do hard things, with obstacles all around you. You have school, someday you will have a job. It will all be worth it. All the long nights, reports, studying and writing papers.
So be kind to the moms and dads sitting next to you in class. Most likely, they had to make dinner, help with homework, attend their kids’ school sports, take their kids to appointments, deal with tantrums and diapers, all while going to school and doing all that they have to do at home. They are tired, overwhelmed and hope all of this time away from their children will pay off.