When my partner and I announced our pregnancy, the majority of our parent-friends, who had been where we were about to go, told me "nothing can prepare me for motherhood." Of course, they still encouraged me to try to prepare for being a mom. They recommended pregnancy and baby books, and gave me a list of birthing classes, but at the end of each info-swap they would kindly remind that it probably (definitely) wouldn't necessarily matter. (Thanks, friends. Very reassuring, jerks.)
My son is 1.5 years old now and, it turns out, my parent-friends were sort of right — but mostly wrong. During my first year as a mother, I realized that not only was I more prepared than I thought (and been told, repeatedly) I would be, but that college, of all things, had prepared me for parenthood in ways I didn't expect, that were (and continue to be) infinitely helpful. I didn't even think I ever want to get married or have children when I was in college, but as it turns out, what I learned when I was trying to ward off hangovers, turn in A+ papers, and study my ass off, helped me become (and continue to be) the best mom I can be.
And all of that — the ability to learn so much just from the experiences that come with living life as a college student — is perhaps the most valuable aspect of higher education. I learned more outside of a classroom, away from professors, with my head everywhere but in a textbook, than I did when I was taking notes in class. Here are just some of the ways school prepared me for motherhood. (Sure, this doesn't make my monthly student loan payments any less painful, but at least I'm working that diploma for all it's worth.)
Pulling All Nighters
Pulling all-night study sessions during finals week prepares you for how little sleep you'll be getting as a new mom. The only thing I could focus my energy on when I was up at 3 a.m. feeding my child for the 17th time that night, was that I had made it through four years of college, during which I never slept. I had a full-time job, was a full-time student and an avid, full-time partier. Staying up all night to prepare for a test, then having to go to class or work or both, made my attempts to function through the first few weeks of motherhood bearable.
Pretending You Know What You're Doing
Pretending to know where I was going on the first day of class, or what I was doing with my life in general, has helped me pretend to know what I'm doing as a mother too. Of course, I'm not above asking for help or admitting that I have few answers to the many questions parenthood poses, but more often than not, you just have to put on your best face, take a deep breath and go forward, pretending like you know what is ahead of you. I did a lot of that in college, and I'm doing a lot of that as a mother.
Answering Endless Questions About Every Detail Of Every Choice From Family Members
Answering the seemingly unending questions from family members made answering motherhood questions a breeze. In college, everyone wants to know what your major will be or how many credits you're taking or what you want to do after graduation and on and on and on. As a parent, everyone wants to know how you're sleeping and how much your baby weighs and how long you plan to breastfeed and — you guessed it — it goes on and on and on. If you can survive a family roundtable during Thanksgiving as a college student, you can survive any family get together as a mother.
Taking Care Of Drunk People
Easily the most helpful and worthwhile part of my college career was taking care of drunk people. I have learned more about how to dress, change, feed, and bathe my toddler from the numerous drunk people I assisted as a college student than any baby book could possibly hope to teach me. If you can convince your drunk roommate to leave the bar, can get them into their bed, can take off their shoes and socks, make them take a drink of water and/or eat something and tuck them in for the night, you're ready for motherhood.
Studying For Tests
Studying for test after test after test made it much easier for me to navigate the plethora of online information that surrounds motherhood. There are a lot of great (and horrible) resources out there for parents, so college-learned lessons about how to identify a reliable source, and where I should look if I want to truly be informed, helped limit the Google-induced freak outs to a minimum.
Stretching Your Meager Paychecks
When I was in college, I could make $20 last two weeks. Now, as a mother who is saving for her kid's school, I'm all about being frugal. College helped me learn to live without the things I wanted (and sometimes needed) so that I could afford the necessities. Kids are expensive (seriously, they grow out of clothes so fast!) and it pays (literally) to be able to be smart with money and stretch your dollar as far as it can go.
Making It To Class On Time
You are the only person responsible for getting to class on time when you're in college. You can't blame tardiness on a parent or older sibling. The same can be said for motherhood: Now, I am the one who has to get my kid to his appointments on time and just like my professors, his pediatrician doesn't appreciate patients being late. Learning to manage my own schedule in college is why I can manage my own schedule now.
Joining A Study Group
Learning to study with others (or even work up the courage to ask and join a study group) helped me learn to get involved with other mothers. If you're like me and many of your friends either A) don't have children, or B) have children but live far away, it can be intimidating to introduce yourself to a group of strangers. Thankfully, in college study groups were a necessity (and sometimes mandatory), so learning to exchange information with others and work together towards a common goal prepared me for mom groups and finding other like-minded friends.
Realizing How Fast Time Flies
College flew by and I'm guessing motherhood will too. When I stood onstage and received my diploma, it didn't feel like four years had gone by; I couldn't possibly be old enough to be a college graduate. I feel that very same feeling on a weekly basis, as a mother. I will stop and look at my son and think to myself, "I can't have a toddler, no way. Not enough time has gone by and I'm not old enough. He should still be a newborn."
Knowing that time flies and being able to look back at my college experience reminds me that even when things are hectic and frustrating, years are flying by. I might not be able to go back and truly appreciate those long study nights and college house parties and those amazing professors, but I can stop and appreciate the times when my kid wants to climb up on my lap and read a book, or snuggle with his favorite blanket and watch another episode of Sesame Street. Because if college taught me anything, it taught me that it will all be over before I know it.
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