November 30, 2011

College and Parenthood

I'd like to say, just for the record, that being a parent at the same time as being a student is hard.

Really, REALLY hard.

No matter how much I complain about the falling standards in academia, the fact remains that being a student takes time.  And time is the one thing that parenthood completely takes away from you.

M asked me what I wanted for Channukah or Christmas.  I told him I wanted a week,  Somewhere right around... now.  A week where I could work on my final projects and presentations, a week where I could catch up on all the reading I've missed over the semester, a week where I could just sort of not be a mom for a bit.

Which is, of course, impossible.  You never get to stop being a mom.  You never actually WANT to stop being a mom.  Just as I know M never wants to stop being a dad, even for a minute,

Do you understand a word of this?
M definitely has it harder than me.  He's working full time, he's in twice as many classes, and his classes are just plain harder.  I look at his homework and the only thing I understand on it is the date.  The math for advanced concrete structural dynamics?  Is that even what the subject is called?  It's impossible.

And somehow, M has to find the time to do his homework.  To take his online classes.  To study before his tests.  Somehow, he has to find the energy to be up and out of the house at five in the morning, work all day, and be at class at five o'clock that evening.  And then stay on campus until late at night working on homework for the next class.  Some weeks, M goes from Sunday night until Friday night without seeing his children awake once.

And me?  My school work is completely different.

I have to find time to do fieldwork, interviewing grocery store owners about the changing demographics of their clients.  Visiting markets and roadside trucks full of fruit to gauge the availability and price of produce for the residents of Chicago neighborhoods.  Touring abandoned warehouses that are being reinvented as breweries and bakeries.  And I can't do that with my kids.

Then I have to go home, and make sense of that information.  Turn it into cohesive papers, presentations, notes...

It's still a lot of work.  It's still incredibly difficult.  And I have to do it while I'm outnumbered by small people who desperately want my attention.  Who want nothing more in their lives than to spend their day playing with me.

And I, of course, want nothing more than to play with them.

I want to spend my days taking them to playgrounds, to museums, to playdates.  Instead, I put on cartoons so I can sit at my computer and manipulate powerpoint presentations.

M and I are students, we can't afford the sort of childcare that would let us do all the studying we require.  We can't afford the time to have things like a clean and tidy home, we just plain don't have the time.  And still, we try our damndest to make sure that we still get to spend time as a family.

Days like this are a huge educational sacrifice.
Whole days, where we abandon our homework in favor of taking our kids somewhere fun, somewhere that we can share a new and exciting experience with them.

Or even just to a restaurant to get ice cream.

Because children take more time than anything else.  And any time you take away from them feels like time that you have absolutely lost.  Time that you can never get back.  Time that you have somehow wasted.

It's not time wasted, it's time invested.  And we know that.  We know that once we're finally done with school, once M has his Master's in Engineering and FINALLY have my Bachelor's degree, we'll be able to have a better life.  One where we can actually take family time.  One where we get sick days, and decent insurance, and a whole two weeks to go on a real vacation.  A life where we can afford to give our kids the sort of life that we knew growing up.

That's why we're in school.  That's what we tell ourselves every day.  "This is a means to an end.  This will be over soon.  And our lives will be so much better."

Last night, M had his first final of the semester.  He thinks it went pretty well.

Next week, we'll finally be on break.  We'll have a few blessed weeks in which we live like "normal" people.  People who aren't trying to live two lives at once.
Where I would always rather be.

And next semester we'll do it again.

And over the summer, I'll do it again.

And then?  Then we'll be done.

And our lives will be so much better for having put in all that hard work.  For losing all that time with our children.

We'll be able to give our children the lives they deserve.  Lives where we are free to be with them.


  1. You are a great mommy and a stronger woman than me. My husband is in school, I decided I am good in my job and can't handle not having the time with my kids. I'll let him make the big bucks. :)

  2. As I'm catching up on your blog today, all I can think is - Is she reading my mind????

    Seriously. My husband and I are in a very similar situation. We're both working on our MBA's and will be done at the end of summer. And all we can think is how hard it is to find time for everything.

    Enjoy your break. Spoil the kids rotten while you have the time. And take a lot of joy in knowing that you're almost done!


  3. Hang in there- you are almost through!

  4. You are almost done & that's great! I want to go back to school so bad, but then I laugh, because Tuesday, was the first day this month I didn't have something I HAD to do with the girls. I can see it now, I'd be missing classes for appointments every week and that's just not how I want to start.
    Kudos to you for being able to handle it all and get your priorities straight, not many adults with children can say that!

  5. WOW, thats a lot on your plate! I am now a new follower from MBC, please visit me @ and follow our journey!
    Thank you!

  6. That's great that you're almost done, you have so much on your plate! Stopping in from!

  7. I'm a new follower from the Mom Pledge Blog Hop. I have to say that I really admire you going to school and being a mom to young children. You rock!



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