Parenthood Juggle: To Put Off School or To Not Put Off School

university campusGrowing up I never planned on getting married.  I honestly planned on having a high power job and changing the world.  I joined the church my last year of high school and I clearly remember walking into my BYU apartment and announcing that my religion professor said that to get to the celestial kingdom, one had to get married.  I was shocked, and still never planned on getting married.  I then met a really great guy and, much to my shock, got married when I was 19.  I got pregnant the month after I turned 20.  We both finished our degrees and the plan was for me to go back to school when the kids were all in grade school. 

Life went on – my husband went to grad school, we did the start-up life (where you can work any 80 hours of the week you want), and church.  I had our 4th child the week after I turned 26.  I was pretty sure I had forever messed up my life.  We had no money; my husband was gone all the time with work and church.  I fell into a high functioning depression.  While he was totally supportive of me going back to school, we had very small children and no time or money, and no family close enough to help out.  I started to give up on the idea of ever going back to school.  I tried to be happy as a person who stayed at home my whole life.  I felt like this is what the church was teaching and I fit the mold so well anyway, so why not just let the academic stuff go?  But it never really worked very well.  I would have dreams about going to school and nightmares about never going back to school to pursue my dreams.  The more I tried to push it down the more I felt suffocated and like I was not doing what I was put on earth to do.

When I decided to go back to school I was shocked by how much negative feedback I got from professors, and programs about my 10 year gap in education.  I had this idea that it would be very easy to go back.  A lot of work, of course, but I had no idea how hard it would be to be taken seriously as a candidate.  It proved to be very frustrating.  I had not kept my skills up and I finished my undergrad so fast that I had neglected to make connections with professors that would remember me a decade later.  I had to do a lot of work to even get a volunteer position.  I called and emailed and visited so many professors that it was heart wrenching when I was turned down again and a again.  I really wish that someone had told me to keep my ball in the game even a little. 

I feel like I was able to go back to school by pure luck.  Our financial and time constraints changed dramatically.  My husband has been able to work from home while I go to school this year.  But he will need to find a job in the near future.  All my kids are in school full day and that also makes it possible.  The shift has been hard.  It has been very hard for me to let my husband do things, and a lot of things have been forgotten in the process.  Bills have gone unpaid because neither of us thought about it.  The house is messier and things go undone for longer.  It has also been a shift for the kids.  The youngest is having a hard time with the idea that I cannot always take her to school because I have to go to campus.  Vacations have not lined up, which has been very hard.  When I still need to work and they have school, vacation complicates things.  It will get more complicated when my husband goes back to work.  We are trying to plan ahead, but I still think the transition will be hard. I fear that I am messing up my kids by going back to school, by not following the LDS plan of staying home.  I fear that they will resent me and that they will hate me when they grow up.  I try very hard to balance it, and I just hope that it is more positive than negative.  One positive thing is that I feel our marriage has truly become more equal as a result of this process.  I think that putting off education can work, but it can also mean that your dreams never happen. I kind of feel like I am beating the odds.  

I really wish that someone had told me that marriage does not always change your life plans, but having children does.  I wish that I had not had a baby at 20.  I wish that I had grown up a bit more and really realized how the world worked and networked better in college.   I wish that I had planned my life instead of letting someone else or an institution or peers dictate what my life should look like or what my future should hold.  I find peace in the world of Anna Quindlen, “It’s odd when I think of the arc of my life, from child to young woman to aging adult. First I was who I was. Then I didn’t know who I was. Then I invented someone and became her. Then I began to like what I invented. And finally I was what I was again.” I think my life has been that way: I was who I was, and then I tried to be who others thought I should be, then I was so broken that I didn’t know who I was so I just made it up, and that is who I am.  I am the person that I want to be, because who I want to be is me. 

Submitted by Jessica

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