I don’t have children. But my mom did! My mother was in school trying to become a nurse when she became unexpectedly pregnant with me. As a result, she reluctantly dropped out. (Sorry, Mom!) She always regretted that decision, because she worked the rest of her life in menial jobs. That was almost 30 years ago.
Moms Going Back to School? Kids Win Big
I thought I’d ask some of my friends today to see how having children shaped their decisions about college. Almost everyone I talked to agreed that the kids benefited from their parents’ higher education. Rachel Magee, a single mom, was working 70 hours a week in minimum-wage jobs before she decided to go back to school to be a nurse.
Although she’s still in school, she says she’s already a better role model to her son. “My schoolbooks are always laid out all over the place. He sees the effort I put into it. One summer at daycare, he even made a whole book about the body and certain organs and functions. It was a proud mommy moment!” she says.
Jessica (who asked to use a fake name) returned to school to learn more about therapeutic horseback riding for disabled children, and she agrees with Rachel.
“My mom had a lot of regrets, and I wanted to show my daughter that you can be a mom and still do what you love.”
Chonce Maddox, a freelance writer, was motivated to go back to school to help her son. “For me, it wasn't even an option,” she said. “I just powered through school because I knew getting an education was going to be one of the best things I could have done to support myself and my child. It actually motivated me to work harder to finish.”
Is Going Back to School Worth It? Analyzing the Costs
Sometimes having kids is a one-two punch to your finances. Not only is college often cost-prohibitive to begin with, but now you’ve got another expense that makes it even less affordable. My mom found this out firsthand — and so did my friends John and Liz Conrow.
Liz was just one semester away from graduating when she dropped out to care for their newborn daughter, but she doesn’t regret it. “Honestly, I wouldn't change what I did by dropping out. Sure, I don't have a job in my perfect field, but who does anymore? I got to stay home with a newborn. That was more important — and making sure my husband got his degree, so at least one of us had an opportunity.”
In such cases, there are financial aid options available to help parents afford the high cost of college. Rachel used Pell Grants to fund most of her school before resorting to taking out student loans. Chonce took advantage of on-campus resources for parents, like childcare and student-parent meetings. And of course, she took full advantage of naptime!
Kids May Dictate Your College Choices
Raising kids while in school is no easy task. Rachel tried going to school while working two jobs and singlehandedly raising a newborn. No wonder she dropped out! She didn’t let that deter her, though. Three years later, she picked it right back up and is on track to graduate.
In order to fit children and college into your life, you might have to adjust your college choice — and even your major. Rachel originally wanted to be a pharmacist, but that would have meant moving to a far-away school where she wouldn’t be able to take advantage of support from friends and family. Instead, she chose a more affordable community college close to home.
Like Rachel, Jessica also selected a degree that was more kid-friendly. Originally, she got an associate’s degree in special education and a B.A. in psychology. “I chose to work in preschool so I can be on the same schedule as my daughter and share our lives more. I have always loved teaching.” She’s also considering a second B.A. in education so she can teach more advanced grades as her daughter progresses.
College has never been an easy task, and neither has parenting. But each of these parents (and thousands more out there) show that it’s possible for moms going back to school to balance balance family and college life.