Return to study?

Julia Frugoli jfrugol at CLEMSON.EDU
Thu May 24 04:30:03 EST 2001

>Hi all,
>I am a 38 y.o. mother of two teenagers, currently doing a preparatory course
>for uni., hoping to do a biomedical degree next year. I was wondering if
>there are any women reading this newsgroup that have gone back to study
>after raising a family?
>How did you cope with family and study? I haven't been in paid work for 15
>years, and am nervous enough about study, let alone worrying about
>"deserting" my teenagers (and husband) when they may most need me!
>How did you all deal with the guilt? (And your schedules!)
>I apologise if this is not the correct forum in which to be asking these


This is the correct forum, IMHO.

I went to college and graduate school while raising a family, which 
is not quite the same thing-my youngest was 8 months old when I 
started college (and she graduates from high school next week!).  My 
children were used to their mother being in school, so there was no 
big change of lifestyle to go through.

That being said-you are NOT "deserting" your family.  In fact, it's 
surprising how well they get along when given a chance to be 
responsible for themselves.  Looking back, the greatest gifts I gave 
my children were the example of taking charge of my own life and the 
ability to cook and pick up after themselves (when my son called from 
college complaining that the guys in his fraternity were leaving 
their socks all over the floor, I laughed as only a mother who has 
nagged about picking up toys and clothes for years can). Guilt is a 
personal thing, but it helps to ask if the thing you're feeling 
guilty about is because you should, or because someone else says you 
should.  I did run into people who felt I was depriving my children, 
but as long as my children didn't think that, I ignored them.  In 
fact, my children have been my biggest fans over the years.

I found that my teenagers needed me more emotionally than physically, 
and that requires making time to talk.  But I couldn't "schedule" 
time-it had to happen naturally.  Driving in the car seemed to work 
well, and until they got their drivers permits,it combined the two 
levels of support they needed most-transportation and a 
non-judgmental ear.

If your spouse understands that this is what you want to do, his 
support (emotionally and physically) is invaluable, and also sets an 
example for the children about partnerships in life.  If he sees it 
as interfering with his life, or an imposition on him, there are 
issues there that may come back to bite you later, and you might want 
to discuss them now.

I studied everywhere.  I carried books to doctors and dentists 
appointments (mine & the kids), studied while cooking, studied while 
the rest of the family was plopped in front of the TV.  I studied 
with my children (homework time can be family time, and it shows them 
that you value knowledge as well). For uninterrupted time critical 
for difficult problem sets or exam studying, I found late night and 
early morning sessions, when everyone else was asleep were helpful, 
and  when I was too tired for that, a couple of hours midday in a 
library cubicle did the trick.  The actual amount of time you spend 
in class pursuing an undergraduate degree, even with labs, is about 
20 hours a week, which leaves you with another 20 hours to study 
before you're using up as much time as a job.  In fact, the hardest 
transition for me was after my undergrad degree and before I went to 
graduate school, when I worked for a government lab for 4 years.  The 
rigid schedule, commute and regular workweek with few vacations ate 
up more time than going to school ever did.  Of course, it also 
brought in a paycheck :).  And now I find myself wishing for the good 
old days of 40 hour workweeks!

I wish you the best in your endeavor.  And I through in the advice my 
grandmother lived by which has helped me too.  Take it one day at a 

Julia Frugoli
Asst. Professor
Biological Sciences
Clemson University
132 Long Hall
Clemson, SC 29634

PHONE (864) 656-1859
FAX (864) 656-0435

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