Debra Carpenter: Mom goes to college

I tried not think about it over the last three months, but college still snuck up on me. That’s how it tends to happen, in my experience.
Sep 3, 2013
Debra Carpenter, Mother, Interrupted

I tried not think about it over the last three months, but college still snuck up on me. That’s how it tends to happen, in my experience. It’s like sunbathing, blissfully unaware of the real world and its’ problems, and suddenly being sprayed with ice-cold water by your little brother (thanks, Aaron). Just when I thought I could go on living a carefree life full of sunshine and downtime forever, reality hit me in the form of hard classes, hundreds of deadlines, and textbooks bigger than my head. Textbooks bigger than my body. Textbooks that make the phrase “Hit the books” sound more dangerous than it should.

I’m trying to get back into the swing of “learning” and “being productive” while managing to keep my child fed, brushed, and bathed, but it’s unclear whether or not I’ll ever recover from the lazy days of summer.

Some might say that going to college is tough. You have to remember a lot of information that seems useless at the time, and some of it is hard to learn. You have to wake up at hours that don’t really work with your internal clock and require you to drink large amounts of coffee. You have to read lots of long-winded books that don’t interest you. Even if they do interest you, you’ll have to answer so many questions about them that you’ll get sick of them quickly. You have to write long papers and create bibliographies even longer than the paper itself. Basically, the entire situation is awful. It’s heartbreaking. Soul-crushing, even. I attended college on a traditional campus for one year before I became a mom. It didn’t really prepare me for this.

Knowing how hard it would be to juggle raising a newborn and taking full-time classes online, I preferred to think about the possibility of mommy-baby naptime during the day and the ability to take exams at 11:58pm on the night they were due. Then I made the rational decision to take all my courses online so I could stay home with my daughter. It seemed rational at the time, I mean.

My daughter isn’t involved in my college experience by choice, so I do have to cut her some slack. She’s just not a big fan of me doing homework, reading, or anything that doesn’t focus on her. She’s a lot like Alice in Wonderland because she doesn’t see the point in reading books without pictures. And sure, my textbooks have pictures. But they are pictures of body parts and emaciated people in other parts of the world, which really aren’t her thing. She looks more for the friendly grasshopper/magical unicorn variety of picture books.

Even though the situation can be difficult and sometimes I want to cry into my International Health notes that are barely legible and written on the back of a grocery list, I’m glad I’m in a position where I can choose to stay home with my little girl while pursuing my degree. I’ve figured out that she enjoys sitting next to me and doing her own “homework,” whether it’s a coloring page or alphabet workbook. Making sure she stays busy is the key to keeping her from hiding my textbooks and putting my pens in the fish tank.

But, if my giant, boring Informatics in Nursing textbook were to go missing at the hands of a certain three year old girl, I probably wouldn’t be too upset. I’d be more delighted. Actually, maybe ecstatic is a better word.

Debra Carpenter, a Lebanon native, is a novice mother, wife, and college student. She writes about the parts of parenthood you didn’t expect when you were expecting. Email her at and visit the website at


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