I’m Not Wonder Woman: A Student Parent’s Story

“There’s never enough time!”

As a parent and student, I say this to myself nearly every semester, but yet I keep signing up for a full course load. I guess I must be a glutton for punishment, as I barely have free time to begin with without the added pressures of taking four classes. You see, I’m a mother of two beautiful children ages 3 and 5, and a stepmother to an amazing 10 year old. Just last year, my then 4-year-old got diagnosed with ADHD shortly after I received my diagnosis at 32. I knew college would be a challenge even before my official diagnosis. Even though I felt confident in my own intelligent, I just couldn’t do school—or so I told myself.

Flashback to 15 years ago when I dropped out of high school.

At age 17, I moved back in with my mother after spending almost five years in the foster care system. My mother was diagnosed with heart failure and was no longer able to work. The bills starting piling up and weren’t paying themselves, so I started working full-time to support both of us. At that age, I felt overwhelmed between a full time school schedule and working the 4 p.m. to midnight shift at the local gas station: something had to give. I missed my graduation, prom, and many other luxuries afforded to other teenagers my age because I had the added responsibility of caring for an elderly mother. Looking back, I think I always feared not being able to handle things or to appear to be an underachiever.

So here I stand today: a full-time college student in her 30’s, working three part-time jobs a part time homeschooling gig, and raising three kids. Things get hectic to say the least.

In addition to my many hats, I’m also the housekeeper, chauffeur, soccer mom, party planner, secret shopper for birthdays and holidays, special needs advocate, appointment setter, family doctor, interior decorator, cook, dishwasher, coach, behavior interventionist, therapist, laundry attendant, car mechanic, maintenance worker, and teacher.

One hat I struggle to wear though is being Wonder Woman. Trying to keep our lives running like a well-oiled machine is hard for anyone, let alone a mother struggling with a learning disability and mental illness. In all the bustle, I often neglect myself.

After the kids are in bed and homework is done, I question the last time I ate. When was the last time I relaxed, and I mean actually relaxed? Did I shower today? Did I remember to take my medication? Schedules are the hardest. If my daughter woke up on the wrong side of the bed and we leave the house 15 mins late, I have to recalculate my entire day to drop one kid off at daycare 25 miles away, my second at school some 30 mins away from that, get to work exactly a half hour later, and repeat. It’s not unheard of for me to put almost 400 miles on my car each week between drop offs, pickups, doctors’ appointments, sports or activities.

One blessing that studying at Mount Wachusett Community College has afforded me, is flexibility. If I register for a class that I feel might be overwhelming with my ADHD, I can take it on campus and feel like I have more individual attention and I’m more apt to ask for help. For the classes I’m more comfortable with, online availability is a wonderful option to fit into my busy schedule: I can take a test at 8 a.m. or 10 p.m. depending on my work schedule.

CCAMPIS has also been a blessing as I wouldn’t have been able to even attend school without it. I would’ve had to wait until my kids were in school full time and by then who knows where life would bring me. I load myself up with classes so that I can eventually get a career versus the three part time jobs I’m doing now that are burning me out. My hope is to finish college before they get into school full time so that I can enjoy my summers with them.

Taking all these responsibilities at once often makes me feel like I can’t be the mom I want to be, but I have to remember that this is all preparing for me to become the mom I know I can be. A mother that got to finally walk across the stage to accept her diploma. A mother who overcame the odds and proved those people that thought she couldn’t do it wrong. A mother who can make her children proud and set a new precedent. A mother who, unlike her mother before her, graduated high school and got a college degree.