Mama Goes Back to School
By Heather Truett

It was a nice day, not too hot outside. I had some errands to run and loaded my infant son into his car seat. We hit the grocery store and the post office. Last, I drove to the university campus and began searching for a parking space. He was beginning to get cranky, but I just had to run into the financial aide office and ask a couple of questions. It wouldn't take me long. I drove all over the campus to no avail. Permit parking only -- faculty parking only -- student parking only -- did they never have visitors? So, I drove a couple of blocks away from the campus and parked at a local pizza place. Unloading the stroller, I got Haydn situated and took a long drink of my soda. I silently thanked God for comfortable tennis shoes and started the trek back to campus.

Halfway there, I realized I didn't even know where the financial aide office was, so I stopped the next person I saw. Short, blonde and wearing glasses, she was gazing straight ahead, perhaps working the equation from her last class. When I asked where the office was, she gave me a somewhat blank look, glanced at my son, and mumbled something about the building with the clock tower, but she wasn't really sure. I thanked her and kept walking. I knew the building with the tower was not financial aide and wondered how she could not know. Are there really people out there who pay for school without any help?

The sun was higher in the sky, and beads of sweat formed on my brow. I adjusted my purse and Haydn's diaper bag on my shoulder and took another drink before crossing onto the campus grounds. Students swarmed like bees; headphones on, books in hands or tucked into bags, walking in pairs or alone. I was struck by how alike we were and still so different. Having reached my twentieth year at that point, I was older than some of them and younger than others. I didn't wear headphones or talk to a friend. I had Haydn for company and he chattered in baby talk, while I replied with questions about the financial aide office that he could never understand, let alone answer.

I stopped a second girl, a young Asian with her hair in a ponytail. She looked nice, so I crossed my fingers and explained my dilemma. She quickly pointed to a building about ten feet away boasting a sign that read "Student Records and Financial Aide." I blushed and thanked her, pushing the stroller on down the sidewalk. Haydn enjoyed borrowing the wheelchair ramp to get his stroller inside without dealing with the staircase. Once inside, I was surrounded by offices and had to ask yet another carefree college kid where to go.

She reminded me of a cheerleader, with her athletic build and big smile. She showed me the right office, and I heard another "thank you" escape my lips. Inside the office, I was informed I needed a FASFA filled out before they would even talk to me. Why didn't they explain that on the phone before I came all the way over here?

Fine; we turned back toward the doors. By this time, Haydn was not a happy camper. He was whining, but not interested in a bottle. I was sweating in the now-burning sun, and my frustration level was high. Suddenly, the students rushing past and strolling past angered me. Why was it so simple for them? They didn't park three blocks away, and if they did, they didn't shove a stroller the whole trek to class. They didn't think twice about stairs and ramps and the financial aide office. They looked at me strangely as I walked by. Maybe I am paranoid, but I swore they were thinking, "What is she doing here?" Either that, or they never looked my way at all. I am not sure which bothered me more.

I got an annoyed look from a couple because of Haydn's now loud protests as we waited for the ‘walk’ sign at the corner. I tried talking to him in a soothing voice, but it wasn't soothing him or me, and I wasn't sure how convincing I was that everything was ok. Needless to say, the car with its freezing air conditioning and some music was a welcome change from the outdoors.

I am not sure how long I sat there before driving away from my first experience with going back to school. It was discouraging, but not enough so that I would give up. And I wondered, if it is this hard for me to handle it, how do older women do it? What about single moms with two or three children? What about women who have lived their whole lives on a high school diploma and a husband's established career just to be left alone with a family to feed? I know when I do start classes again, I won't have my son on my hip. I will blend into the crowd easily, but others won't. So I will look for them, and I will answer their questions. I won't make them feel old or out of place. This is America and education is part of the American dream -- for kids and for mommies like me.


Heather Truett is a stay at home mom to 1, a stepmommy to 1 and a freelance writer. She has been published on sites such as and and is the Young Parents editor here at Busy Parents Online.

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