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Being a Student and a Mom

by McKenna on August 19, 2008
category: Finances,Inspiration

775220_classroom.jpg Some of you moms scrapbook, others dabble in photography, others lead book clubs, others garden for your “me-time.” My “me-time” is spent in a classroom as a college student and I love it!

When I became pregnant with my first child, both myself and my husband were college students and working full time. I was majoring in education and my husband was a business major. During my nine month pregnancy, all of our energy was poured into getting my husband finished with school so I could stay at home when our child was born.

When my daughter was born, I was able to become a stay-at-home-mom like we hoped for. However, our lives were not filled with play dates, breastfeeding, library visits and pajama days as I expected. They were filled with physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, doctor appointments, and tube feedings. Her health issues and developmental delays opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed! Before her arrival, my knowledge of speech therapy was for people who stuttered or had lisps, or elderly people who suffered from strokes. Through first hand experience, I learned that speech therapists not only help with language delays, but they also are big time players in children who have feeding disorders like my child did. As my daughter grew and developed, we walked through some major feeding difficulties. We also introduced sign language to her to help her be able to communicate and are still working very diligently on verbal language. After the birth of my son, it became very clear to me that I wanted to be a Speech and Language Pathologist. Through talking with new moms going through similar feeding difficulties and sharing our experience and watching my child’s language develop, I have developed a passion for child development, specifically language and feeding development. I spoke to my husband about going back to school and received an enormous amount of support and encouragement from him. Darah’s speech pathologist, Angela was so sweet to give me all the nitty gritty details of the education program, tell me what speech pathologists were paid, and has cheered me as I have dived into finishing my degree!

Going back to school has been important to me for many reasons. One reason being that I really don’t like leaving things unfinished. I started college and it’s very important for me to finish it. I also want to set a good example to both of my children. I expect both of them to go to college (Darah too!) and I want to make sure they know that I do as I say. Another reason this specific degree is important to me is I really feel like it will help me parent Darah. Her speech is one of the most important things to me and I really want to give her every opportunity to be well spoken. It’s also important for me to be able to work if I ever needed to. I am watching my mom have to enter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom for 25 years and have been sad at the difficulty she is having. She doesn’t have the option to stay home anymore, but finding a job that will balance out child care costs for my very young siblings still living at home has proven to be nearly impossible.

It’s amazing how much better of a student I am now that I have some age, wisdom, discipline, and experience on me that I didn’t have as an 18 and 19 year old!

Here’s some tips that have helped me as I finish my degree:

  • You’re a mom first! Just like with any extra curricular activity, I have had to make a conscious effort to not allow my school to take over my responsibility and privilege of parenting Darah and Connor.
  • Online! Online! Online! I had about 38 hours that I needed before I could start my true speech pathology courses. I took all but 8 hours of these online in a span of a year. Unfortunately, of the 14 classes I have left, I can only take 2 of these online now. However, there are plenty of degrees that you can finish completely online!
  • RateMyProfessors.com! By going to this website, you can type in any school in the country, the teachers name and find out the nitty-gritty of the teacher by student reviews. If you need to take a hard course, you can use this tool to know which teacher will be the easiest! Way valuable!
  • Sleep when you’re dead! I’m kidding. Make sure that you don’t push yourself too hard and you recognize your limits. I’m an “all-or-nothing” kind of gal, and have had to try to pace myself. I’m really not good at pacing myself, but have a husband who has said “slow down” when I’ve needed it. If you have been out of school for a long time, or are just starting college, start out by taking one course online and start gaging what you can handle
  • Apply for financial aid! Even if you will not qualify for free assistance, a lot of schools use the government’s FAFSA to determine scholarships that are based on academic merit and not financial need. Hunt for local and national scholarship opportunities!
  • Be careful about loans. We are having to get loans to pay for my college, and while I believe that college debt can be a smart investment, do not take more than you absolutely need. If you cannot afford to go back to school without taking out lots of loans, then maybe you should take less courses at a time and pay cash for them. The luxury of being a stay-at-home-mom college student, is there really isn’t a hurry for me to finish, other than the rush I have placed on myself.
  • Recruit some cheerleaders! My husband has been my biggest cheerleader through this process. I also have some amazing friends who have been cheering me on as I take finals and check off more courses necessary to finish my degree. Without my support team, I think it would be very easy to give up.
  • Just do it! I talked about going back to school for two years before I finally did it. I had valid excuses, however it took that first trip to the counselor’s office to really get me to start. Making that decision was the hardest step of this whole process.

7 Responses to Being a Student and a Mom

  • Comment by Dawn
    August 19, 2008 @ 8:40 am

    McKenna, yay! I applaud you for all of your effort. This is a really helpful post for any mom who wants to get back into the school “game”! I am amazed at my own hesitation to do something like that. I graduated from college back in ’98. Which is like eight lifetimes ago in technology years. It’s wimpy for sure, but that kind of freaks me out.

    I did have to take one class back in ’04 for a state-mandated certification course (I was teaching English and they said I just HAD to have geography on my transcript, go figure. Those crazy Virginians. :) ) I really liked being in that atmosphere again, even though I was older, much older than most of the class. Thankfully it was a pretty easy course. The thought of writing a paper again – ugh. :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Angela
    August 19, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

    McKenna, I am so so so so so very proud of you! I think it is admirable you have chosen a career that will not only positively affect the lives of your children and family as a whole, but potentially change the lives of every person you serve as an SLP. What an awesome thought!

    Always, remember that you can do it!! It will be hard at times, but I promise, you can cry on my shoulder if you need to. Being a mom in school is no picnic, but what wonderful motivation you will have when you look in your kids eyes and know that it’s all for the greater good.

    What a blessing you have the support of your hubby. I could have never done it without mine.

    Aside from all this, and I’ve told you this from the very beginning, I think maybe from the 1st or 2nd time we met…McKenna, YOU’RE A NATURAL!! I have never met anyone more born to be a Speech-Language Pathologist than you. I think God might have given you the gift of Darah because not only did he know that you’d be the perfect mommy for her, but he also knew that she would steer you towards your life’s work, your calling. Ever thought of that? Deep, huh?

    For any mom (or future mom) who is contemplating going back to college…You can do it, too!! I gave birth to one child in undergrad and one child in grad school! Crazy, but doable (Is that a real word?) I thought I was really tough until my OB told me she had a baby on Friday and was back in med school on Monday. Now that’s tough!

    Go get ‘em, girl! I’m right behind you… whether you need a push or a hug!


  • Comment by McKenna
    August 20, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

    Thanks Dawn and Angela! Angela, your comment brought tears to my eyes!! I truly believe that if I can do it, anyone can, so I hope this motivates those moms who are thinking about going back to school to step in there and do it! This is a good motivational boost for myself as I get ready to start classes back up on Monday! :shock:

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Heidi
    August 21, 2008 @ 8:09 am

    I admire any mom attending school to achieve their degree. It’s truly inspiring because I don’t think I’m the type of individual who could juggle parenting with school….at least with young kids. When my kids are in school FT and hubby has retired from the military, then it will be my time to go back to school to get my master’s degree. But then again, I’ve always said I would be cool with the idea working as a Starbucks Barista receiving a free lb. of coffee a week and iced vanilla lattes!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Brit
    August 21, 2008 @ 4:57 pm

    I’m so proud of you, McKenna!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Megan
    August 25, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

    Good for you for going back to school to get your degree. My mom, who’s an elementary school special needs teacher, says Speech and Language Pathologists are in high demand. She’s always told me I should study that. My son also had a speech delay and a slight feeding problem as well. We worked with an SLP through Early Intervention and another through a Rehab hospital. I found everything very interesting and I learned a lot from them. It’s amazing how children learn and develop and how so many things are intertwined. Hmmm…I wonder if I came across your blog today for a reason. I’d love to read more about your schooling and your journey towards your degree. Good luck!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by lbw
    September 6, 2008 @ 6:54 am

    I’ve only just discovered your blog. I going back to study next year and have been really nervous about it as hub is finishing off his diploma as well. It’s always affirming to hear about others who are raising kids and studying. I’m v. inspired by this post.

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