Am I A parent? Am I a student? The struggle of being both

As the teen mother to a now 8-year-old, my college experience has been non-traditional in many ways. In my classes, I often overhear classmates whispering about their weekends which differ greatly from mine.

While once in awhile I feel a twinge of jealousy for the kind of freedom that I haven’t had since I was 16, I will not trade my present life for anything else.

I may not get to stay out late at bars and clubs with friends every weekend, stumbling home and waking up at noon the next day, but the rewards I gain from raising a child outweigh those adventures every single time.

Many times, juggling parenthood with full-time studies has been overwhelming. A few times, out of desperation, I have had to bring him to class because a babysitter bails. Then there are the foggy-day school schedules which mean I have to miss class so I can get him to school at a later time, not to bring up the sick days and the uncoordinated holidays when he has a day off but I don’t. Then there is the time I spend doing homework and I’m overcome with guilt because I can’t spend the time with him.

Before becoming a parent, I did not understand what it would actually take to get an education. I didn’t foresee all the struggles I’d endure or the times when I’d feel so hopeless, I’d think of giving up. I didn’t see that for me, I’d have to work harder than some. I never thought I’d have people telling me it was time to quit school and get a job after a while, because I had a kid to support.

I didn’t know that there would be sighs and talks about “being in school forever” from the counselors since I have to go slower than full-time because I also have a job. I didn’t see how hard it was going to be to answer “What are your hobbies?” when I can barely breathe between studying, parenting and working. Most of all, I didn’t see how hard it was going to be to raise someone else when I am not even finished being raised.

Successes are different after becoming a parent. Everything I do is not just for me; it’s for him. I hope that if my son can see me in school and working hard, he’ll grow up to want to work that hard too. I can see how every success I have affects him in a positive way. I want him to have a good childhood, and although I don’t want him to know struggle, I do want him to know that it takes effort to be successful.

On the other side of it, my failures in school often carry over to motherhood. I know I’m a role model, and when I fail, I feel ashamed. I feel like not only a bad student, but a bad parent. I expect my son to earn high grades in his classes, so when I don’t, I feel like a hypocrite. The only positive spin I can put on these failures is that if you’ve never known failure, you can never know success. I have to be patient with him and teach him that we are only human.

Throughout all my struggles, my successes, and my failures, I just try to keep in mind that one day, it will all have been worth it, because we will have a better life. I know that one day, my son will look back on his childhood and know that I tried my best to give him the best.