I never stayed in a dorm in college. I did years of community college, cobbling together as associates in photography before working for a few years as a freelance news photographer and in a film developing lab.
I drove the 45 minutes back and forth for my bachelors at a Cal State university or used the Metrolink, watching the pile of cars in Corona wax and wane like the moon I sometimes saw on my way to school, driven to and from by my boyfriend/fiancé.
College this time around is really hard. It’s a full 8-hour day on campus, and another night. I squash in school assignments after the boys are in bed, or try to get up early and make maps before I make breakfast and walk the kindergartener to school and get ready for work. I am still the one who makes sure laundry gets done, plans meals and makes sure toilet paper is in every bathroom for everyone else.
Every once in a while a series of texts pass between and one of the moms I met when Wonder Boy was a few months old. She had a second a few months after Lil’ Wonder, and we decided at the same time last year to back to school for better futures for our families.
We’re both back-to-school-working-moms.
Being moms of boys, it’s been really hard to give up some of the time where we are closest with our sons – when they are young, and still need cuddles and kisses and are OK with having a tea party or watching Sophia the Fist with us because, if we were a little girl it would be our favorite.
And working too, my friend has 12-hour days out of the house first a her job, then chemistry classes at night. She even squeezes in tutoring sessions on the weekend.
We both are living the life far removed from our ideal, when instead of being with our kids we are taking even more time away as we plan ahead for a brighter future.
And we take time away from other things too – our spouses, who had to take up another share of the load, and for ourselves. My idea of free time is taking a hot shower these days, and it has been far too long since I have ‘hung out’ with anyone.
It’s a constant uphill push for both of, and stress levels rise, and we are somewhat in competition with kids who have nothing to do but go to school, study and work on way too fancy PowerPoint presentations in an effort to please instructors.
We’ve learned a lot besides what we signed up for – from learning that the ‘blackboard’ in our college lives isn’t on the wall, but online; that a pen and paper is old fashioned, and that, amazingly enough, we will probably survive this.
So the texts fly back and forth – releasing stress, gossip about class, or texts of encouragement even after we confide how our hearts break when we have to take time away from our little boys for school and work.
Camaraderie only we understand, support we know we need, honesty about what we’re dealing with.
And even though we have different homes, different lives and families, we are college roommates – heading the same direction together on the same time frame.
Sacrificing ourselves for the future, taking away from our kids so we can give them what we think is even greater things.
And planning margaritas after finals.