I am freaking scared and excited! I’ll have my Associates degree in May, finally, after a couple of previous attempts through the years that didn’t work out for one reason or another. I was determined and stuck with it this time. Even though there were a couple of times I wanted to give up when things got tough, I stayed committed and now I’m finally getting it.
After reaching this goal, I’d like to continue on to my Bachelors degree but I’m going to see what happens first. I’ve put some feelers out and applied online for some jobs. If I can get in, that would be great – would love to get back into EMMC – and I’ll continue maybe a class at a time online. If not, then I’ll continue classes full-time but keep trying to get something in my field as I go.
Part of me feels hugely under-qualified and as though I don’t fit into the demographic of “professional” and as if I have an “I’m just support staff” mentality. Even though I generally think every person in every job they do has importance, I was taken aback once when a fellow receptionist once said something about her “career” and I thought, ‘What? Career? I’ve never thought of this as a career. Don’t professionals with degrees and certifications and initials after their names have careers? That’s not me.’ but another part of me realizes that I don’t give myself enough credit. I have had YEARS of experience that would be equivalent to at least a Liberal Arts Bachelors degree. Add my A.S. in CIS and I’m pretty well qualified but self doubt always creeps in. I know though, that anyone coming straight out of college with no experience or someone with years of experience and education but in another field are going to have the same learning curve as me. I still look at administrative assistant jobs though and think ‘that’s what I do’ and check them off to review later. Those are respectable jobs and I feel I was good at what I did, but I wanted to better myself and wanted more for our family.
My goal is to be able to take my turn supporting us and give Ron a turn being ‘house dad’ for Sarah and a break (this is a break now that Sarah is much calmer and less obsessive and mobile than she used to be, and more potty-trained with no recent “poop storms”) from the mental and physical stress of working in retail and of being our sole support as everyone’s expenses go up. I know he does like his job and his coworkers but it’s stressful and it’s hard on him, 50 and stuck throwing freight sometimes, and always on his feet all day. Sometimes he can barely walk when he gets home. Ron is satisfied where he is. He has not had any interest in taking classes and – at his age – wasn’t going to try to do something else. So I decided to. Since it’s been not only difficult but impossible for both of us to work full-time and I’ve had to leave jobs to take care of Sarah, I figured the only way we can live is with only one of us working.
However, retail middle management income JUST covers our expenses which are very basic – we have one 2004 pre-owned car, no recreational vehicles, no camp just one basic ranch house, basic cable – I mean basic when I say basic. We do get by, even get treats and go out to eat once in awhile. But we’ve never gone on a real vacation. He hasn’t visited family in Michigan in forever. We don’t have extra disposable income for anything. So I decided that if we’re going to live on one income, it’s going to have to be mine and I’m going to go back to school and get my degree so that I can get something that will be the equivalent of both of us working full-time jobs. Nothing extravagant. Nothing will change except the fact that we won’t be stressed about what to do with Sarah over the summer or how we’ll pay the next heating oil bill and we’ll have family evenings and weekends back.
Ron has been key in my being able to do this because I basically said, “I’m going back to school” and then “I’m quitting my job to focus on my classes and work with Sarah over the summer” and he has spent every minute of his time off, especially on weekends, tending to Sarah while I am glued to my computer doing homework and studying. He’s put up with a lot from me, gotten barked at, and he has continued to wait on me hand and foot.
He barely says a word about it but sometimes I feel like he hates that fact that I’m doing this. I didn’t really have any other choice besides the status quo. I hope that he realizes – I wish that he would realize, but I don’t think he does – that this is what we need, that my hours upon hours of studying and getting good grades and getting this degree is what WE need for us to more than just scratch by by the skin of our teeth. I’m not going to college for my own entertainment or to get out of doing other things. The only way to get ahead in life – unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg – is to get an education. It is a fact that people with degrees earn far more than those without and the field I chose is at the top. I could not have done this without him and he is actually going to benefit greatly from the hours I stay glued to my computer while he takes care of Sarah or watches MASH and Jeopardy.
I really had hoped that he was going to follow our plan and work his way up through his job so that he would earn enough for me to be home with Sarah but that didn’t pan out. Daycare is not an option. Summers are rough. Without that issue, there’s still the issue that during the school year, we will always need care for her after school. Care for a special needs child is not cheap. This past summer, I quit my job regardless of whether of not it was “possible” because there was just no other option. I stayed home with her and it was the best decision I ever made. I would rather be home with her – at this point, now that she’s gotten through the last rough spots where I almost gave up. She’s made so much progress. I’d rather budget and cook, clean, all of that but it’s not in the cards for me. When his promotion didn’t work out and I finally decided to go back to school, I felt let down and like I’ve been forced to pick up the ball he dropped but I’m over it. I’ve learned so much and I feel better for the self-improvement. I’ve always wanted to finish college. Self-improvement and setting goals and reaching them is my thing, I guess. He would have had us apply for this or that help. Nope. I will not be held back and held down to that level. I’m smarter than that. If you don’t make enough money to pay your bills, you find a way to make more. People are paid what they’re worth if they’re earning exactly what someone is willing to pay for the work they do (ie. against people who work at McDonald’s crying that they don’t get paid enough). If you’re paid what you’re worth and that’s not enough for you, do something so that you’re worth more. That’s exactly what I’m working on.
I keep going back and forth between being grateful toward my husband for all that he does that allows me to do this and resentful toward him for not doing all that he could do to get us out of our financial rut and allow me to be here to be Sarah’s caregiver. I’m better at keeping her on goals – I have to remind him to do certain things. It seems like I constantly have to tell him to do he doesn’t seem to think to do on his own. Military order-taking mentality? I don’t know. I can drive her places like the mall, the park, appointments. He can’t. I have a feeling I’ll still get all of the paperwork and managing appointments and meetings. Plus I always do the “invisible cleaning”, you know, the stuff no one notices like the front of the stove when it gets all gunky. And I cook lots of things besides mac and cheese and hotdogs. Oh man, am I scared. I just don’t know. All I know is that I’m happy that I’m reaching my goal. I want more for myself than this. I want more for us. I’m not doing it just for me. I’m doing it for us.