When I decided to go back to school after having my daughter, I thought I had it all figured out before I even started: I would just, ya know, drop off my kid at school, and then go to school myself, and then go pick her up, go home, do her homework, then my homework, and... wait... also make dinner... and a shower! Yeah, we need showers, both of us. And oh, also I need to have a job, so somewhere in there I'm going to work a full day. And then I'll put her to bed... but I guess... I just won't go to bed... at all? Yeah, this is totally easy, no problem, handled. Han. dled.
Clearly, when I decided to go back to school after having a kid, I (like most people) totally underestimated not only how much being a student would affect my parenting life, but how much being a parent would affect my student life — and how much juggling both of them would affect every other aspect of my life. None of that is to say that it isn't totally worth it; It is, and also it's more than a little awesome that I get to have additional common ground and shared experiences with my child because we're both students at the same time. (Granted, her school experience and my school experience are obviously dramatically different, but... not as different as you might think. Let's just say that a**hole teachers and know-it-all teacher's pets are essentially the same no matter if you're in 3rd grade or grad school.)
Being a parent is a difficult job no matter the context. But there are some twisted crevices in hell reserved for the job of parenting while being in school — it's so hard, and exhausting (and yes, worth it, but still). Whether you are finishing a GED, starting college for the first time, going back to school, or finishing up your PhD, the world of parenting and academics collides in a special sort of way. So, as I raises a glass to you heroes of the late-night study sessions while trying not to wake the kids (yes, I’m toasting myself here), these are some of the things only parents who are still in school will understand:
Group Assignments Are Impossible To Coordinate And Make You Feel Like The ~Problem~ In The Group
Group assignments are a death sentence from the gods of sanity. Whether you are in undergrad, grad school, or mastering the art of the hover board at a new age school for fans of Back to the Future, group projects are your weak spot. You will definitely be getting a “Let’s meet at the pub in fifteen minutes to get this nailed down” text and you may murder someone.
You Always Look Like You're Doing Things At The Last Minute
But, like, that's just the pace of your life. You didn't sit on your ass and then rush to complete your assignment right before it was due — you're a mom and a student; you always appear to be rushing, but it's definitely not because you were being lazy before that. Running from the bus stop to class to the library to hand an assignment in three minutes before it’s due is not procrastinating. Come on, I had a whole three minutes I could have wasted if I wanted to procrastinate.
You Never Get Enough To Eat
When you're a mom who is in school, you're hungry. All the time. And it's not just because you're extra busy and thus burning extra calories (although, yes). You just sometimes literally forget to feed yourself. Carefully packing a school lunch and snack for your little minion frequently results in forgetting to put anything in your own lunch bag. Thank god for that 10-minute break between classes, though. That will totally be enough time to chew on my fingernails for sustenance.
You're Always Stressed About Forgetting Something, Whether You Actually Did Or Not
Waking up at 3:00 a.m. in a blind panic because you realized you missed a workshop. Yep. That happens a lot. And now that I’m up, I’m hungry.
Your Kid's Schoolwork Seems Insignificant, A Thought Which Obviously Makes You Feel Like A Monster
You know that feeling when you want to strangle your child's teacher for assigning a stupid, obscenely time-consuming science project that is interfering with your actual homework. Don’t they understand that your homework has potential to pay the bills and theirs is just an excuse for the teacher to stop teaching that week? (See, this is what I mean — needing to do your own school work when your beautiful, brilliant, inquisitive child needs help with theirs will take you to some dark and cynical places.)
Getting Overly Parental With Your Classmates (Even If They're Not Really Even Younger Than You Are)
That parenting gene doesn’t have an off switch. Is it really my fault that I felt the urge to tell Kristy that her Friday night antics were liable to saddle her with a venereal disease or tell Julie that her boyfriend reminds me of my ex-husband and she better run while she still can? Can I be blamed when I want to physically remove the Taco Bell from that kid in the front row's hand because he brings that to class every goddamn week and it's not healthy and he's going to die if I don't get all mom-nutrition on him (says the woman who, let me remind you, forgets to eat regularly and clearly has no high horse to sit on)??
You Relate More To Your Teachers Than You Do To The Other Students
It won’t be long before a professor will make a joke and you’ll be the only one who laughs. That’s because you’re likely the only one old enough to get the reference. Don’t worry: Getting the prof’s sense of humor will help when midterms roll around.
Sometimes It Does Feel Weird If You're Older Than Everyone Else
And the thing is, even if you are the same age as other people you go to school with, just being a parent in a sea of mostly non-parents is more than enough to make you feel practically elderly. If you're 31 and everyone else is 21, you feel ancient; If you're 22 and everyone else is 22, you still feel ancient. Again, mostly you won't care about this (you're too busy to notice), but some days, you will. On those days, your reading glasses bring out the grey in your hair (whether it's there are not), and you'll want to hide them in your bag, memorize textbooks, and pretend until your dying day that there’s nothing wrong with your eyes because you're young! You swear! Youth! Woo! (Is anyone buying this?)
People Assume You're Responsible
Which you are... at home, with your kid. At school, sure, you're responsible, but your ability to keep a human child alive doesn't necessarily make you the absolute best student in the world. In fact, if anything, it very likely makes you more prone to falling behind, and it's a miracle when you don't, so... why are all the other students looking to you like you should have the highest grades and the best notes and all the answers to all the questions? Don't they know that you're pulling some seriously impressive sh*t just to keep your own grades together? Ain't nobody got time to coach other students through this too. (Although, their assumptions about your level of academic responsibility makes it really tempting to let them borrow your notes, knowing full well that they make sense only to you. At least once a semester, you’ll give someone the wrong answer because they’re dumb enough to trust you.)
You Will Get Hit On And It Will Be Weird
Anyone without kids suddenly seems a lot like a child to you, but they don't necessarily feel that way, and so it will not stop them from hitting on you and/or asking you out. How you handle this is totally all you — maybe you go for it if you're single, or maybe you feel creeped out if they're way younger than you; hell, maybe they're way younger than you and you go for it. (Hey, you might be a mom and a student and insanely busy, but I mean, you're still alive.)
Images: Allison Gore/Romper; Giphy(10)