It’s estimated that in the next decade the majority of college students will be women. But it’s really no wonder that women are pursuing higher education these days, with hopes of higher salaries and state lottery scholarship programs to encourage enrollment and retention in higher education. Think of how recently this opportunity was not just unlikely but unthinkable!
Yes, the role of the modern woman is changing.
We see her saddled with tons of responsibility in the education and work sector. What we do not see is her traditional maternal duties diminishing in turn. That is to say, today’s woman is doing it all, a Jane-of-all-trades, if you will. Today’s woman can (and are expected to) retain traditional roles as partner, wife, mom, and household manager while adding in more responsibilities as student, employee, and all-around badass bitch. Here at NoFilter, we call that a boss lady.
So why do they do it?
To have to juggle so many roles is, first of all, exhausting.
To have to juggle so many roles is, first of all, exhausting.
First of all, there’s an immense pressure to seem like you have it all together (And let us let you in on a little secret: nobody has it all together). Societal pressure notwithstanding, career pressure is also a huge motivator to going to college, too. These days it seems like you can’t do much without a degree in hand. In some fields, a Bachelor’s is not even enough.
Or maybe they feel like they were stiffed when it comes to career development: maybe they had kids early and had to focus on the home. Perhaps they’d like to turn the attention on their own knowledge and intellectual evolution, grow their own skills, and work towards a purposeful career of their own.
So how do they do it?
This is the hard part, logistically speaking. Pursuing higher education with a family is not possible without an arsenal of support from your village, whoever that may be and whatever form it may take. I know that, at the end of the day, I simply have to depend on other people to take care of some things for me so I can get life handled.
So how does it feel?
This is the toughest part to put into words. To have to juggle so many roles is, first of all, exhausting. In order to accomplish everything on my to-do list, I have to lose a little sleep. If I’m ok with letting my performance slide a bit in favor of me-time (like that aforementioned sleep), I let my standards relax and don’t cross off 100% of that to-do list. That’s just self-preservation.
It feels like constantly not being good enough in some respect… like being overworked and undervalued.
The roles of mother and student unfortunately aren’t 100% cooperative with one another. You’re hard-pressed to find a baby-changing station in a college campus bathroom. And then there’s the unicorn of affordable daycare on or near campus while you’re attending classes. Ask me how I know!
Most students on a college campus are more worried about the next ADPi mixer than changing diapers. You try asking a classmate where the mother’s room is so you can pump breastmilk during your 15-minute class break. Unfortunately, traditional college students, dare I say it, sometimes can have absolutely zero understanding of anything beyond their own experiences.
So again, back to the feelings, when you have to relinquish one responsibility in favor of another. To have to wait until after you put the baby to sleep at night to start on a 10-page paper due at midnight? To have to ask someone, yet again, to babysit for you while you study for midterms? To have to ask your partner to take the kids out of the house while you read for class, to say no to a family barbecue over Memorial Day so you can work on a project, to pull out flashcards while you’re sweetly nursing your infant in the glider?
Or how does it feel to have to reschedule a study group for the third time because you didn’t have a babysitter? To sit at home cuddling a feverish child and skip out on your honor society induction ceremony that you oh-so-rightly earned? To start leaking breast milk during an important class presentation, or to get walked in on while pumping in your building’s always-vacant computer lab?
You do it for the chance that you may be someone else’s inspiration, that “If she can do it, so can I.”
It’s not easy. It feels like neglect. Like something is always getting put on the back burner. It feels like constantly not being good enough in some respect. It feels like being overworked and undervalued. It feels like disrespect. It feels like fear because there’s always the simmering anxiety that someone’s going to find out you can’t actually handle your shit. There’s always the fear that your own flesh and blood might feel slighted by you putting things before them. Or the fear that you have relinquished the wrong responsibility.
BUT it also feels kind of badass, like you’re the 1% of students in the room who actually understands something about the real world. Like everything you’re working so hard for is worth so much more because of who’s behind it. That moment when you *gasp* get a B+ on an assignment and it feels so good, knowing that you battled colic and a three-hour deadline to get it in on time. When you hear a professor tell you they respect your circumstances and that they’re proud of the circumstances you’ve overcome to have gotten here.
It makes it feel like it’s worth doing. You do it for the awesome moments when your toddler pulls out a photo of you waddling across the stage in a graduation cap, hugely pregnant. You do it for the joy it brings you to see your baby try on your graduation cap in a game of dress-up. You do it for the chance that you may be someone else’s inspiration, that “if she can do it, so can I.”
So go ahead, you badass boss lady, you. You write that paper while wearing that baby. You study for that midterm during late night snuggle sessions. One day when your little one is big enough to go to college, they’ll see your struggle now for what it’s worth. It’s hard to imagine that a piece of paper is worth it, but it is. For any door it opens, but also for the struggle itself. At the end of the day, the experience is something that not a single soul can take from you. And in the world of motherhood, don’t we all need to invest in ourselves a little more?