What Happens When Mom Goes To College

When I was in early high school, somewhere around 13 years ago, there was a saying going around. A saying, it seemed, everybody thought was over-the-moon hilarious, but I never really got it. The saying was, “your mom goes to college.” That’s it. No lead in, no joke, just a punch line without an explanation.

If I had to guess, I’m sure it originated with the infamous and ever so creative comeback of, “Your mom…” to any random sentence. For those of you who didn’t experience this delight, it went something like this…

Peer: That looks weird.

Kid: Your mom looks weird. 

Hilarious, right? Not so much. But for some reason, without fail, I probably saw at least one “Your mom goes to college” shirt or sweatshirt everywhere I went for an entire year.

Sometime during that year though, I watched Napoleon Dynamite. Then, and only then, did I understand and laugh about it. Probably originally from the relief of no longer being annoyed.

Around that same time, my mom actually went back to college to pursue a chiropractic degree. And in a very ironic way, a bad joke became an actual relevant piece of my life. Which finally did make it kind of funny.

Now, a decade and a half later, I have two toddlers and am pursuing a master’s degree. Sometimes, I have to admit, it kind of feels like the opposite of a smart idea. Especially when I hit busy season– you know, the three to four months where there’s not a free weekend on your calendar, you’re out of town every other week, and somehow every single person you know has a birthday, wedding and baby in the same month. 

But whether life is chaotic or not, what happens when mom goes to college isn’t necessarily glamorous or exciting. Plans keep getting made, chores still exist, kids continue to run around screaming, and life goes on. The major difference from my point of view is that something else got added to my plate. In turn, a new balance has to be created. Whether that means you reassign duties throughout the household or knock a few items off your priority list, life needs to shift a little. It also means you’ll have a few more late nights in the near future. 

At first, I felt consumed by my computer. I work from home all day, on my computer. I work all weekend on homework, on my computer. I just want to take a break from all responsibility by scrolling Facebook, on my computer. Unfortunately, a mom constantly glued to her computer is not the image I’d like my kids to remember for a year of their toddler lives. So I had to make a plan. 

Aside from redistributing and addressing how things get done, I needed better time management in my life. It’s funny, really, when more responsibilities pile on, how often it causes people to become more organized. You’re forced to either sink or swim. And when you’re sinking thousands of dollars into furthering an education, you better believe swimming is the only option.

Surprisingly, I feel that adding more chaos to my plate with college actually made me better at managing my time and effort. It also made me more appreciative and present during the time I spend away from those responsibilities and with my kids, primarily.

I’d be exaggerating if I said what happens when mom goes back to college is all good though. There are nights I’d give just about anything to not spend three hours on accounting homework. I can’t tell you how many Sundays I’ve had to miss Game of Thrones live (gasp) to put finishing touches on a paper. There are days where my daughter sees me get frustrated and says something like, “It’s OK, mom. Just go finish your work.” My four year old daughter has said that to me – let that sink in. Granted, at times it’s because she wants me out of her hair, but nonetheless, it’s a sobering interaction.

One thing’s for certain though: my kids won’t see me making excuses over not pursuing a path that’s important to me. I know a lot of people might say they do these things for their kids or what a great example this will be for mine, but the truth is that I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it because it’s something I’ve wanted to do since finishing my undergrad. And in the long run, I hope that time mom went to college does show my kids that being a parent doesn’t have to mean losing yourself. It means redistributing and addressing how things get done.

It means time management. It means learning to swim. And most of all, it means being more appreciative and present with your time. 

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