[Lessons From A Student Mama] The Mistake Of Trying To Do Too Much While Balancing School And Family

studentFor years before I graduated from college in 2011 I imagined my graduation day.

I’d wrap myself in a long gown, and attempt to fight back tears, tears of years of sacrifice and struggle. Trying to steady myself on the seemingly long walk to the stage to accept my diploma I’d search in the crowd for my loved ones and my daughter waving frantically wanting to ensure her Mommy saw her. I’d close my eyes, hear my name and slowly walk on the stage, praying I wouldn’t fall. With a frantically beating heart I’d smile wide all while thinking I did it. I did it. I finally did it.

My graduation day was a dream I had ever since I re-enrolled in college two years after my daughter was born.

Every student dreams about their Graduation day, a day of celebration and excitement. It can seem out of your reach when you’re in the midst of studying for exams and burning the midnight oil. And for those who juggle parenthood and employment alongside being a student the journey to securing a degree can at times seem daunting. That image of walking across the stage to accept my college diploma was, at times, the only thing that kept me from walking away from pursuing a higher education.

As I look back at the five total years I spent being a student, I’m in complete awe that I was able to prioritize my education. Though I had two older siblings that were in college, it wasn’t something that was ever pushed on me or encouraged. I figured I should go because I didn’t want to be stuck in my small town forever, but I didn’t take it seriously. It wasn’t until after I had my daughter that I realized having a degree would open more doors and could help me provide a brighter future for us.

alex and daughter 2


Two years after re-enrolling in school I transferred to a more prestigious school and just wanted to be done already. I was a single mom working full time and going to school – I wasn’t doing a good job at balancing, and often felt I wasn’t present enough for my daughter because I was being pulled in so many different directions. Because I just wanted to be done and didn’t have a great support system I increased my course load and switched to taking all my classes online. I told myself I wanted to graduate when I was 25. I had too. I needed to for my family…and my sanity.

Though I have my degree hanging up at home, I wish I would have spent more time in my classes and took full advantage of being in school. I rushed through my schoolwork because I didn’t have 100% to commit to it – I needed to focus on being a star employee at work so I could provide a roof over our heads and food on the table. Of course every college student skims books and cuts corners at times – I did as much as I could and it was to my disadvantage. I kept telling people who thought I was crazy for doing too much that I felt that I was ten steps behind everyone else, that I needed to work harder, stretch myself thinner and pick up the pace if I ever wanted to do something with my life. I didn’t give myself the opportunity to think much when I was in school, I just knew I had to keep going, going, and going. And that was a mistake.

I missed out on too much because I was determined to get my degree. Just like my work and my daughter, my studies required my full attention and didn’t deserve to be rushed. On one hand I’m glad I preserved especially when I wanted to give up so much, but I do feel I cheated myself. And on the other I wish I would have embraced being a student more, there is so much to learn about the world and the field I was studying and I could have benefitted from slowing down. It’s something I continue to struggle with, I’ve made progress but there is a ways to go.

Oh, and my determination paid off. I graduated two weeks before my 26th birthday.

Can you relate to Alex’s dilemma of rushing through school but wanting to stop and “smell the roses”?


  1. We live and we learn. I’m headed back to school online. At first, I was going to pressure myself into doing both day school and online classes but that would leave stretched too thin and miserable. I don’t do well miserable. So, I’ve made the choice to just do one.

    This way I still have time for my family, building my brand and I don’t start to dread going back for my Masters.


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