When I first started college, I knew that I would have to make some sacrifices, but I thought that they would be little things, like I wouldn’t be able to read as much, or I’d have to give up going out sometimes so that I could get work done. I never truly understood what sacrifices I would have to make and how they would really affect me as the years went on. I find myself missing things that I never cared about before I started college, and the things that I wish were still a part of my life I never imagined would be given up. It’s usually around this part of the semester that I find myself questioning if the experience is worth all of the sacrifices I’m making, but then I also just imagine what my life will be like in the future and keep telling myself that, with each semester that passes, I’m closer to a better life than I had before, and closer to opportunities that will make me happy mentally, emotionally and financially. I have to believe that the sacrifices that I’m making now will be worth it in the end.
Before I went to college, I was an ethical vegan and I was very conscious of my mental and physical health. This is before I was pregnant or accepted into college (both of those things happened in the same week─my life changed pretty quickly!) and had a lot more time and money on my hands. I would wake up with the sun, open my screen door, meditate with a positive mantra, then do a basic yoga routine. After that, I would make a 64 oz. juice or smoothie and a small cup of coffee to drink while I got ready for work. When I got off work, I’d head home, put on my jogging clothes and go for a nice long jog. I enjoyed the progress I made every time I went outside, and I had such a beautiful, serene route that any stress I might have encountered in my day was gone. I had my Saturday trips to the Farmer’s Market to look forward to, where I’d load up on all of the fresh, locally grown whole foods that I could, stop by the grocery for the staples that weren’t offered, like rice, and head home to plan what I could make with what I got. I felt great and I looked healthy. It was wonderful!
Now, and for the last three years, my partner, a proud meat-eater, is the one who picks out what we eat since we can’t afford two different diet plans. We can’t afford to go to the Farmer’s Market because we can’t afford for anything we buy to go bad. Now that there are three of us, and only one of us has a career, we have to know that what we buy will be eaten before it has a chance to spoil. I don’t have the time or energy for yoga, and the few times that I’ve attempted jogging, I’ve had a bigger stress headache than when I started because jogging with a two-year old is not a serene and relaxing experience. I feel stressed and I look unhealthy. Things right now are, sadly, but honestly, not as great as they were before.
This is not the only difference in my life since starting college, but it is the most dramatic change to show exactly what is sacrificed when you choose to go to college. It’s not just about having to stay in every once in awhile; you have to make some serious sacrifices and lifestyle changes if you plan to attend a four year university with a family. Unless you are just really lucky, you’re going to be tired, stressed, and feeling kind of frumpy. There’s no tips or tricks for avoiding that besides having a lot of money (which, if you do, good for you!).
As much as it may seem like I’m complaining, I wouldn’t make another choice, and I don’t think that anyone who wants to go to college but has kids should let their fears of sacrifice stand in the way. Sure, sacrifice sucks, but it’s not as bad as regret. As long as you know what you can and cannot handle, and you’re willing to make some serious sacrifices, you can achieve a higher education while still being a good parent. For a long time, I really felt like I’d lost myself, and I would take on the struggle of losing myself again because what I’ve gained and am still gaining. Sure, I lost my ability to have a nice, large wardrobe, a healthy, self-focused morning and evening routine, and good whole foods that tasted good and were good for me, I’ve learned how to save money, make lists, be patient, take risks, endure hardships, work hard and play harder, make meaningful friendships, utilize discomfort and look to the future. I’ve gained life skills that I never would have managed to gain from the life I lived pre-college, and as much as I miss my old lifestyle, I cherish everything that I’ve gained from temporarily giving it up (and, yes, these sacrifices are temporary).
Most importantly, while it would have been so much easier to have had PD later on, I’m glad that I didn’t let having him hold me back from my aspirations because he’s also learning and growing in ways he wouldn’t have had he been born later or had I sacrificed going to college. I know that, because PD watched both of his parents get through college while having him, he will know that anything is possible if you just keep working hard and focus on the future. He will know that “I can’t” is never an acceptable answer and that the power of education is real. He will have two cheerleaders in his corner to say, “Yes you can, because we did, and we (hopefully) had more adversity to face than you”. There is nothing that can be lost from pursuing your dreams in front of your kids; there is only something to lose from using them as an excuse to not even try.
My best friend said it best one night, when we were pulling a late-night chill session. She was telling me about one of her co-workers who kept saying that she wished that she could go back to school and talking about her plans to. This lady kept saying talked about it for the first three years that my friend was pursuing her degree. She then said, “I just thought to myself, ‘If you would have gone back when you said you were going to… you’d almost be done by now'”. The desire won’t go away, it’ll just be replaced with regret. There’s just so much more to gain from what is sacrificed to make your dreams for you and your family come true.
So overall, you make a lot of painful sacrifices, but you don’t lose anything by being a college parent. You, your child(ren) and your family only have everything to gain. So, if you’re thinking about going back to school, then do it. It’s worth it. You are the reason that I even created this blog, so just know that the entire College Parent community is rooting for you and trying to give you the tools, tips and tricks you’ll need to be successful. If you’re already a college parent, then I hope that this helped re-motivate or console any doubts you may have had. Every day you’re so much closer to the end, and your journey is such an inspiration to those watching you─especially those little ones you’re working so hard for. You can do it!
Have a productive week,