College and the Single Mother
by Susana Rosende, copyright 2000

"The Perfect Guy"

"The Perfect Guy, Mr. Right, Prince Charming,
Knight in Shining Armour: Sorry Ladies...
He's an elusive species."

The perfect guy does not exist, but I would have settled for Mr. Nice Guy.

I was a divorced mother of a two-year-old when I decided to go back to school for my degree.

I had dropped out of college during my marriage, first to support us until he finished HIS degree, and later, during my second pregnancy because I couldn't keep the full schedule including work, school, and a toddler. Our second child died from complications to a birth defect shortly after birth, and my husband moved out.

Two years after the divorce was finalized, I graduated with a B.A. in English/Technical Writing.

Nine years later, when I divorced an abusive second husband, I was able make it with two children, a mortgage, and a car payment, despite the late child support from husband #1.
(Husband #2's wages are garnished.) I only wish I made enough to support my children in our nice home WITHOUT their money.

I caution all young women not to marry until they earn a degree, have a career, and are financially independent.

He may be a prince, but then again, he may not. Be prepared in case Mr. Right turns into Mr. Wrong.

Inspirational Single Moms:

DIVORCE, CAREER, and the Single Parent:

"In Transition" by Susana Maria Rosende, copyright 1989

From a distance, you observe her running around campus with her blue denim jacket and glossy red back pack, or bouncing around T-shirt and spandex- clad in aerobics class, and you think to yourself: "Ah, the typical college student." More likely than not, you will barely notice her as she blends in with the rest of the fresh-faced and eager student body.

Upon closer scrutiny, you notice that something is amiss. You detect the slight stoop to her shoulders and the lines on her face. You take note of the belly bulge and hips that only motherhood can create. No more bikinis for this woman, you realize as you recognize the signs of age and maturity. This is not a girl! This is a woman pushing thirty! She is not breathlessly running around campus! She is flushed and out of breath as she tries to keep up!

So, you re-group and discard your first impression as you change your original observation to:
"Ah! She is a typical University of Central Florida (UCF) student."

This student, this woman, joins the growing ranks of the UCF student body, median age 26, known as Adults in Transition--the career changers, career advancers, recently divorced, newly retired, empty nesters, restless housewives, or just one on the plain old professional students on the 10-year plan, embarking on yet another new major.

She may be one of, some of, or all of the above. Of this you can be sure. If you've reached this foregone conclusion, then you are on track. She is indeed a woman in transition.

This woman has resumed her education after a three year hiatus spent immersed in the joys of motherhood, complete with 2 AM feedings, dirty diapers, and the relentless pursuit of a dignified maternity outfit -- one without a big bow on the collar which makes one resemble an overweight Bozo the Clown.

"Ah, motherhood!" you nod in understanding. That explains the belly, and the hips. The sense of fulfillment incurred by motherhood notwithstanding, it also explains the urgent need for the intellectual stimulation that only a college environment can provide.

This woman, alas, also joins the ranks of the recently divorced, wrenched from the secure womb of marriage, and thrust into the often humiliating world of dating, shifting in mid-gear from "Thirtysomething"* to "Dirty Dancing,"** painfully reminiscent of the world happily abandoned almost a decade ago, complete with sweaty palms and the awkward first kiss, but newly complicated by the need for baby-sitters, clothing to hide figure flaws, and the threat of AIDS.

This is a woman struggling for self-reliance and independence, as she swallows her pride, and returns -- temporarily, son-in-tow, to her parent's home. This is a step backwards, she realizes, as she finds herself at square one: living with her parents; commuting to college.

Strong-willed and determined, she plods along, strategically planning the completion of her degree to coincide with the exact day in time that her Temporary Rehabilitative Alimony expires.

* Television show depicting the lives of married thirty-year-olds with young children.

** 1980s' film depicting a sensual dance known as "dirty dancing."

"The Real Thing"

Susana Maria Rosende copyright 1989

The other day I overheard a young co-ed complaining about the older, non-traditional students in her literature class. It was in the Ladies Room, and the young woman was practically shellacking her permed mane with hair spray as her gum-popping friend nodded in agreement.

"Those housewives," she whined, "throw off the class curve! All they do is study, while us real students have too many other things going on in our lives."

"What a cop out!" I mused silently as I fished my comb out of my purse. As I did so, out popped my son Brian's toy dinosaur. It bounced on the floor and landed
on the young woman's Reebok.

As I retrieved the toy, I realized that I'm not always as organized and on top of things as I wish. Sometimes the only way to describe my current lifestyle is 'total mayhem."

After all, being all of the following:

  • Single parent of a pre-schooler,
  • Full-time student, and
  • Three-job/part-time member of the work force
does not leave much time for studying, let alone anything else.

What it all boils down to is knowing what your priorities are. Contrary to that young student's beliefs, those 'housewives,' and the other non-traditional students, have a lot more going on in their lives than taking classes and studying. Without getting into a feminist argument on all the work and responsibility that go into mothering and running a household, I must raise one point: What the older, non-traditional students have over this young girl is a sense of purpose.

If that makes us older, non-traditional co-eds better students, then perhaps WE are the 'real thing.'


by Susana Rosende, copyright 2002

Was I having a mid-life crisis?

That's what everyone wanted to know.
(In all fairness, I often question my OWN reasoning.)

As if my life wasn't full enough -- -I'm back in college for a second degree!

And THIS time, 12 years later, in Computer Programming.

Luckily, the young professor at Valencia Community College is so
passionate about his subject matter, and so dedicated to teaching,
he bends over backwards for his students:
  • Arranging extra study sessions,

  • Allowing my nine-year-old to sit in during class and lab times (when my eldest cannot baby-sit),

  • Offering words of encouragement when I feel ready to quit!

My children are less encouraging.

My youngest's initial reaction was, "But... you're so OLD.
Will they even LET you go to college?"

When I replied that the age of 41 didn't qualify as senior citizen status, my 16-year-old shot back, "Mom, admit it. You're a fossil." Then he added, "Besides, you have to take care of us. You don't have time for school."

Fossil, indeed. As they say in the south, I'm not dead and buried. I can still learn new concepts and embark on a new career! AND I can still take care of my children and all my other responsibilities.


Besides, they say life begins at 40.


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