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What It’s Really Like: Balancing Life as a Student + Mom

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The glamorized picture of college life has escaped me, to say the least.

I’ve never attended a Greek party, or lived out millennial bliss in the confines of  residency housing. I’ve never experienced a Superbad-style night to never remember, and have yet to understand the true nature of a kegger.

This is not due to my lack of swag or human touch with the 2015 crowd. This is my university reality because I am a MOM. TwitterLogo_#55acee

Pursuing a university degree is the most literal interpretation of what the saying “a means to an end” can muster. I’ve never felt compelled to set myself free and YOLO-it because my mind is preoccupied with becoming the best version of myself and earning a degree that my parents and my daughter will be proud of. I have a very observant and I-will-call-you-out-for-preaching-but-not-practicing natured little girl whom I need to do good for.

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When I had a child at 17-years-old, the excitement to search for my dream campus and ideal program of study was replaced by a simple thought: get a degree, and get it quick. This one-track-mind approach to figuring out not only my abruptly altered fate, but that of an innocent baby girl, lead me to jump from one program to another more times than I’d like to admit (I’ve switched programs four times).

Now, our preceding Baby Boomer generation may read this and think, “Yeah, sounds about right. Typical Millennial unable to commit to a single plan of action.” And sure, that’s as valid an opinion as any other. But now, with six courses left to finish a Communication degree (finally), I see the above chaos as my means to my end.

As anxious and dreamy high-school graduates, we often carry heavy, one-dimensional ideas of what our professional paths should look like. TwitterLogo_#55acee This begins with our college education. While many have convictions for a particular life-calling from the tender age of five, and see it through without straying from their path, I’ve realized that the program of my dreams does not exist. And that’s okay.

Read more: What It’s Really Like: I Have a Rare Neurological Disorder

Becoming a mother at such a young age awakened my sense of urgency and curiosity. I’ve had to become resourceful. This means searching madly for options when none seemed to exist.

I’ve realized that I am an open and fluid concept. This means that there is not one, ideal program of study that will satisfy my passionate for music; my desire to advocate for gender equality and human rights; my love for creation and unconventionalism; and my inability to settle for a 9 to 5 that keeps me from myself and my daughter. All of these dreams will be fulfilled by me in the life that awaits me, just like yours will, too. You have to make it happen outside of any program of study you choose.

This excerpt is neither an attempt to fight against organized education. Nor is it a claim to have genius qualities that would allow me to bypass the college experience and launch Facebook’s competition.

True, finishing a 20-page paper while nursing a four-year-old’s fever isn’t on anyone’s bucket list. TwitterLogo_#55acee Neither is feeling crippling guilt over grabbing a drink after with your peers after tough presentation or reassuring your weeping daughter that you in fact love her dearly when she claims you’re never home. But being a full-time university student while working and raising a child has taught me three important lessons:

1. I am smarter and tougher than I would have ever imagined myself to be

2. A university degree will allow me to entertain my dreams by providing a bigger, plumpier pillow to fall back on when things fail and my daughter’s needs go from a monthly daycare fee to sports activities, piano lessons, and a college fund

3. Attempting to fully discover myself and my purpose in this dimension we call life through a program of study is silly and surreal. TwitterLogo_#55aceeAs my favorite Women’s Studies professor, Susan Harris, says: “Discovering oneself is a lifelong process – sometimes I ask myself what the heck I’m doing as a professor and if I could be doing a greater deed for humanity.”

Laura Carmelo is a Communication student at Mount Royal University. She is fascinated by the power of a genuine and raw conversation. Laura hopes to bring her five-year-old-daughter on her personal and professional (hopefully international) journey, so as to inspire a thirst for knowledge and empowerment. 

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Campus Contributors are a select group of recognized leaders and experts in topics relating to college students.