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The Complicated Life as a Full-time Employee, Single Mother, and Student

I began as a freshman at Stillman College in Fall 1998.  Although I’d taken computer courses in high school that basically taught the fundamentals of Microsoft Office, and I’d worked as the photo editor of our newspaper, the first time I’d ever really used a computer consistently was when I came to college. I can remember staying online for hours at a time, completely enthralled by how small my world had just become through the use of technology.

Never in my life had I been either academically challenged or communicatively deficient.  I have always grasped concepts with ease and just as efficiently put my thoughts into words.  Even when I came to college for the first time, I sometimes carried a 15-21 hour course load while working up to 36 hours per week and never had a problem completing assignments. I simply sat and typed what I knew; but eventually, school began to bore me. It was no longer challenging.

I stopped going to class. I still completed some assignments, but it wasn’t enough to keep me afloat. I lost my Harte Honors scholarship, and since that time, EVERYTHING has been a challenge!  My inability to pay for college sent me severely off track.  While I still enjoyed my job, my lack of a degree continued to hang over my head. That is the one major goal in my life I had ever begun and left incomplete, and picking up where I left off seemed to be impossible. I would come into contact with school officials and staff, and they always asked when I would be coming back to finish.  I would tell them that it would be soon.  “Soon” turned into 12 years later.

This January, I registered for classes for the Spring semester and discovered I am only 24 hours short of my degree. The funny thing is that I already have a total of 110 hours, more than the number needed to have graduated.  Yet, I don’t have enough hours to have majored in anything. Ever heard the saying “a jack of all trades but a master at none?” That would describe my academic life. It’s funny yet sad at the same time.

So, in January, I decided it was time to go back to school. I decided this the week of registration.  I had no plan in place as to how I would balance my job, motherhood, and school.  All I knew was that I had to finish school. So, I enrolled. “Proper planning prevents poor production.”  That is one of my most favorite sayings, yet I failed at it! And I mean miserably.

Because I leave work at 1:00pm, my daughter is just waking from her nap in daycare. She is a very high-energy three-year-old that needs a constant eye, and I struggle to get her into bed by 9:30pm. Seeing as how I awaken by 4:00am every weekday morning, if I’m able to get into bed by 10:00pm, that leaves me a maximum of 6 hours to sleep.  That doesn’t seem so bad, except I wake up numerous times during those 6 hours to make sure my daughter is alright.

I’ve been doing this since she was a baby. I had her at only 31 weeks gestation.  She was 2lbs 14oz at birth and only 4lbs 9oz when she came home from the hospital.  She had severe acid reflux and would often awaken vomiting. There have been numerous nights that I went to bed around 10:30 and woke up to vomiting at 12:30, had to change bed sheets, clean her up, and force myself to doze (although only slightly out of fear she would begin to vomit and I would not hear her) before my alarm went off at 3:45. My daughter also fought meningitis as a baby and developed pneumonia as a result of RSV when she was a year old. So, I also awaken to make sure the temperature is as perfect as possible to prevent her from even catching a cold.

Now, between my working hours and being a (perhaps overly-) protective mother, have you heard me mention any time set aside for school work? What I had set as a major priority in my life somehow fell by the way side. In my mind, school is still an attainable goal; but how do I earn a degree without putting forth any work? At one time, I thought that maybe I had jumped into school the second time prematurely.  Perhaps I should have waited until my daughter is a bit older and needs a little less attention.  Then, I realized that waiting for the perfect time is what has me where I am…. Twelve years later!

If never before, I am now blatantly aware that there is never the perfect time to begin working towards a goal.  The perfect time is whenever you decide to make the first step, as long as there is a plan in place for every step thereafter. Although I work efficiently, without guidance and a plan, I can do many things yet accomplish nothing in totality, evidenced by my current lack of a degree despite 110 academic hours.

At this point, I’m working in arrears, but being behind does not mean I cannot catch up. Seeing my goal within my reach yet inching away makes me even more determined to construct a plan and stick to it. It’s okay to want to be a good employee and a great mother, but I also have to keep in mind that my daughter is going to grow up. School fees and extra-curricular activities will require funding. In addition sometimes, employment opportunities run their course.  I have to place myself in a position to continue to advance.  For that, I need my degree. That is enough motivation in itself.

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