I was so excited to go to college when I graduated high school and my initial ideas about the degrees I wanted to pursue were ambitious. When I actually began college, the reality of the long road ahead of me hit and I began to second guess my choices.

This is when I changed my major so that my classes and the journey to graduation weren’t as intimidating. But the more classes I took, the less sure I was about what I actually wanted to do. About half-way through my Bachelor’s degree I became overwhelmed by the cost of my classes and I lacked a clear direction for my future career.

I really wasn’t motivated to finish, so I dropped out of college with no real plan of when I would go back.

Fast forward three years and I was now married with a two-year-old son. My job involved different responsibilities but I enjoyed the aspects that allowed me to work with children the most.

All of a sudden, it became very clear to me: I needed to get an education degree. 

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I enjoyed being with and teaching children and the idea of studying how children grow and learn had always been interesting to me. I had a focus and a desired career in my sights but how was I really going to do this? I was working, taking care of my son and our home and my husband and I were so young and couldn’t take on the cost of a college tuition. It seemed like there were more obstacles in the way of completing my degree than ever before.

I was so much more determined and driven though and I knew that I couldn’t waste my time. If I was going to do this, I was going to have to make a plan, work hard and consider this a part-time job.

My first semester, I took one class online and one in-person—and I was immediately overwhelmed. The mere review of the syllabi filled me with regret about what I was getting myself into and had me questioning how I could balance everything in my life.

Thankfully, that feeling didn’t last long. Each assignment I completed gave me a little confidence and each good grade or encouragement from a professor that I received pushed me to work even harder. Every semester seemed to be more difficult in some way but working towards a goal and seeing progress made me feel accomplished and it helped me to stay sharp and focused.

Honestly, it also added a layer to my identity. Before I went back to school I mostly saw myself as “just a mom” and didn’t think of myself as being that good at anything besides motherhood. I had to remind myself of the truths about motherhood that I forgot. No one is “just a mom,” because the role of being a mom is the most mentally and physically challenging thing one could take on. It’s also humbling, rewarding, joyful and empowering.

When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, my life looked much more different than when I began. My husband now had an awesome job, my son was four and in the middle of his first year of school, I had an 11-month-old daughter and I already had a teaching job that I loved.

Getting that degree is by far my proudest accomplishment, besides my family. It taught me and prepared me for so much more than just teaching a class of children. I learned how to manage my time and prioritize my responsibilities better. I would tell any parent who is considering going back to school that if it’s something you really want, you will find the time, resources and energy necessary to get it done. 

The reality is that you will probably be up late most nights, you will probably need to sacrifice a lot of your weekend and you will probably feel like you can never get ahead. I had many nights that I wanted to wait until my kids were asleep before I started working on assignments, but they struggled to settle down so I was up way too late working.

My daughter was 11 months old when I graduated so as you can probably guess, I was in school through my whole pregnancy and she was born during one of my winter breaks. The fall semester right before she was born brought the hardest workload of my college career but it seemed to help distract me from the less fun parts of pregnancy somehow.

Some advice I would give anyone interested in going back to school is don’t let finances stop you from going back to school. I got so much financial help when I went back to school by applying for financial aid as early as possible and applying for tons of scholarships through the university. I’m a very ordinary person, my GPA from my early college years wasn’t stellar and I wasn’t a part of any organizations or doing anything special so I was amazed that I was being awarded scholarships. I really believe that writing an honest application and showing that I was serious and driven, led to some generous donors investing in me.

I didn’t write all of this so that someone would think that I did something extraordinary. I’m writing this because as parents, we all have this determination inside of us. We can go after whatever goals and dreams we have because we all have this super parent within us. And I think we can all look back on our lives before we were parents and laugh about the things that we thought were hard or challenging then—because we’ve overcome so much more now.