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Finalist 3 – Amber

My first attempt at college was a dismal failure. I was lost with no real knowledge of what I wanted to do or be when I ‘grew up’. With a lack of clear goals, I dabbled in class and school work until I eventually dropped out my junior year. Sixteen years later, I’ve returned. This time, with my fourteen year old son at my side. I’ve officially spent more time as a mother than college student and, for many reasons, I’m grateful. Mostly I’m grateful to have someone for whom I have to be a role model.

When I became frustrated or overwhelmed during my first stint in college, I wasn’t ashamed to just give up because I could easily take the course against next semester with a ‘better’ professor. I was quite good at justifying my reasons. It’s a different story now when I throw my hands in the air while tears of frustration drip off my chin. It’s different because my son in watching. My beautiful, gifted son who has yet found that moment of struggle. But I know it is coming. Someday, in some class, he’s going to struggle and scream and want to give up. How he sees me react to difficulties will be there, brewing in the back of his mind and that is my entire reason for continuing when things become difficult.

The second greatest advantage to returning to school after motherhood is that I’ve learned, through much practice, to let the little things go. I’ve always been a notorious perfectionist, which plays a huge part in my failings the first time. The thought of failing at anything causes me panic that takes my breath away. Many times in life, it was easier to give up than risk failure. I don’t have that luxury anymore. My son has taught me how to fail. Birthday cakes? Lopsided and unreadable. Halloween costumes? He lost most of his mummy costume halfway through trick-or-treating. Yet, he always laughed and loved my attempts anyway because I tried. So, when I sit down to write that 12 page paper, I think of him and realize that it doesn’t have to publish-able in an academic journal. I do not have to uncover ground breaking thoughts. My ‘good’ is good enough.

So while I could compile a list of tools I’ve learned from motherhood, such as budgeting, time management, and organization, I have to say that the single greatest advantage of going back to school after motherhood is my son. He drives me not only to do better with a degree, but to be better on the journey. He shapes my attitude and determination with a single look. And knowing that his not-so-little-eyes are watching at a prudent time in his development moves me to show him how it’s done. Even if it’s hard. Even when I cry. Even if I feel like I will never succeed. I persevere. Because he deserves better from me. Perhaps, he makes me believe I deserve better too.