The fall semester started on Tuesday, and so started my crazy six days a week schedule. It should be easy. I mean, I’m taking less credits than I’ve ever taken. 12 credits, four classes should be nothing to me after 18 credit semesters. Oh, wait, that’s right… It’s Capstone semester. Capstone. The word inspires awe, anxiety, fear, and panic attacks in Communications students at Keystone College. The syllabus is twenty-nine pages long. The ability to graduate rests on successfully completing this two-semester graduation project. Nothing I’ve done so far matters, as long as Capstone looms over me.
Truthfully, I’m less worried about Capstone than other students in my class. I can do the work. I can turn things in on time. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a dedicated student. My problem is a bit more complicated, and yet, a bit more simple. I’m an adult student. Not only am I older than most of the kids I go to school with, but I also have a few more responsibilities. Namely, my three small children, ages six, five, and two.
There is nothing like writing a paper over the chorus of voices, “Mommy, she hit me,” Mommy, I want (name said want),” “Mommy, Sissy needs a diaper,” and my personal favorite, “Mommy?” (look up from paper, see smiling child who really wants nothing, but a bit of my attention). My problem is finding a balance. How much effort really needs to go into these papers, when I have real, living beings depending on me for everything? How much time should be spent wrestling, snuggling, and reading Peter Rabbit, when I have a stack of Vonnegut novels on my desk to be finished for Advanced Lit, a paper to write for Comm Theory, a speech to write for Public Speaking, and a proposal to prepare for Capstone?
It’s all about balance. And my life is balanced much like a basketball on a finger. Any breath of air, one missed day, one emergency with the kids, could send my world spiraling out of control. Why not just give up school until the kids are older, you might ask. I’ve asked myself the same question. The resulting answer looks bleak to me. I love my kids, and I miss them like crazy when I’m not with them. I even feel guilty sometimes for leaving them. But, if I give up my dream to graduate, then I will be a worse parent. I will be a bitter parent. There is no reason why I shouldn’t have my dream too. This is the thing that every mom needs to be reminded of.
Following your dreams makes you a better parent because it completes you as an individual first. And the thing is, moms are real people too. You had a name before you became mom. This is something I’ve only discovered recently. When I think back to my own mom, and how strained her relationship had been with her kids, I realized that she had dreams once. I realized that she was a real person, with a real life. She just never pursued them. It was a hard discovery, to realize that I shouldn’t hate this woman for not being her everything, and to see her as an individual, not only my mom. One of my biggest fears in life is to become my mother. I love her, but she is a very frustrated, misplaced human being. I realize now that I won’t be like her because I am me. I follow my dreams, focus on what matters to me, and the rest falls into place.
I still suffer from the famous “mom-guilt,” but I refuse to let it get me down. I think that it makes me a better student to have outside responsibilities, and I think it makes me a better mom to have school, which has always been my thing. It’s a challenge, balancing these two lives. It’s a struggle to sit in class with whining kids who didn’t get enough sleep last night. It’s a hardship, leaving my baby girl when all I want to do is hold her on the couch and watch a movie. It’s dangerous, racing home from a 3:15 class at 70 mph so I can grab the boys off of the bus to start their homework. Some days, I don’t think I can do it anymore. Then, I remember how strong I’ve been in the past, and I know that somehow, I’ll manage.