Confessions of a college drop-out (that'd be me)

My confession is that I'm okay with being a college drop-out because I am exactly where I want to be as a stay at home homeschooling mom.

As a child, I always thought that one day I'd go to college. Not that my family had tons of money and could easily pay for college tuition; I didn't even really know how I'd make it to college, but I just knew that I wanted to go. In fact, I believed I needed to go if I wanted to be successful, to make something of myself, and pursue any kind of career.

So after high school, I went college. My chosen field of study was missions; I had aspirations of going to the deepest, darkest parts of Africa and ministering to the people there. I paid for my college tuition that first year by playing piano for one of the college's traveling groups, and my parents paid for my room and board, which still added up to a staggering sum.

After my freshman year I met my husband, Jeff, and we were married after my sophomore year. I left school after my junior year, before completing my degree, and traveled with my husband to Alaska where I taught piano in a private school.

Since I left college after only three years, I was frustrated with not having finished my degree, even though I wasn't necessarily going to be using the degree in my current occupation. I just wanted to finish, to have that magical piece of paper that said I had finished college. At the time, I mistakenly believed that my self-worth was inextricably tied to that piece of paper. And working next to college-educated teachers all day long, I continually felt like a second-class citizen.

But the years went on, Jeff and I had our first two kids, and we had moved from Alaska to South Carolina. After we moved, I became a stay at home mom, teaching piano lessons from my home instead of at a private school. We were living in a rented apartment since we couldn't come up with a down payment for a home. Yet like many young couples with children, we really wanted a house of our own — a place we could call home. So we concocted a plan that entailed me getting a nursing degree so that I could get a job and make enough money that we could afford a house and start paying off debts.

So I went back to school. And I actually did very well in nursing school, making good grades, and learning a lot. And even though we were able to buy a house after I had been in nursing school for a year, I still stayed in school, hoping to be able to finish and get a full-time job that would help us pay off debts and get more financially stable.

But nearing the end of the nursing program, the stress of being a college student, working nights two days a week at a local hospital, as well as trying to be a mom to two toddlers, started to wear on me. I found myself crying on the way to clinicals, stressing out over the smallest things, and I was a complete wreck at home. A complete wreck.

And so I quit. I dropped out of nursing school with only three classes left before graduation.

I had finally come to the point where I couldn't envision myself — with any sense of peace — putting my kids in daycare while I worked a full-time job, and being able to see them only a few hours a day. And although I really wanted to finish my degree, to get that piece of paper and say officially that I'm a college graduate, I wanted to be a mom to my children even more. I wanted to be there to raise them.

Shortly after I dropped out of nursing school, I gave birth to my third child. I focused even harder at making my piano teaching business successful, and I worked especially hard at being a mom. There were still times when I felt guilty about quitting nursing school, and I even considered finishing my degree through an extension program so that I could at least say I had finished. But my common sense won out.

I was where I wanted to be. I was being a full-time mother to my children.

There have been times when someone has heard my story — how I've completed over five years of college, but don't have a degree to show for it — and they have accused me of being a quitter, of not being able to finish anything. Those comments hurt, of course, but then I remember that completing a college degree isn't what makes me successful. It's being in God's will, and making sure that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

My college experience may not have led to a college degree, but going to college, and specifically to nursing school, has definitely helped me homeschool my children better, especially in the areas of science. So I look back on all those years in college and I don't see them as a waste. Those years of college helped prepare me to be an even better homeschool mom.

And a homeschool mom is exactly what I want to be. And that's not something I'd trade for any college degree. I am a confessed college drop out that is happy with the college experience but I don't need the paper to prove I am somebody.

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  1. American Texan says

    Thank you, Joy. Your article has helped reinforce my own beliefs.
    My husband and I just learned that we are expecting our first child. I have finals next week but after that I am done with school.
    Staying home and raising my child is more important to me than finishing school.
    I know I have family members that will be very disappointed with this decision, and though I'm sure I will face some regrets, I look forward to raising and teaching my child at home.


  2. says

    Learning is never a waste, even if you don't have a degree to show for it. Your children are only going to be children for so long. You can't have them in daycare now and then decide 20 years down the road that you want to stay at home with them. You can, however, stay home with your children now and decide to go back to school in 20 years.

    When hubby and I have children, I want to stay home with them. Until then, I'm trying to get my degree finished. We wanted me to have a degree in case, God forbid something ever happened to him and I needed to work to support the family. I ought to be more marketable and be able to get a better paying job with a degree.

    Pamela @ Frugal Vet Tech’s last blog post..Reader Question: Is vet tech school worth it?


  3. says

    Joy, I got my degree, but don't use it. I was in the workforce for 2 years before we got pregnant with our first. If I had it to do over again, I would have skipped school in a heartbeat for the chance to learn the skills I need every day as a mom. It's been a struggle to try to figure out mommy things in the middle of being a mommy. The sad thing is, no one ever told me that I could grow up to be a Mom. I drifted through college as a theatre major because I couldn't think of anything better to do. 😉

    Becca’s last blog post..New Prince, New Pomp


  4. says

    I have a degree in nursing and worked as one for 5 years before coming home full-time with the kids. I know people felt I was wasting my degree by not working. How could they say that!! Can you imagine people thought staying home would be a waste!!
    It has also given me the knowledge base to be able to teach a co-op chemistry class to high schoolers(last year was biology). I believe God had school and nursing as a season in my life.

    Judy’s last blog post..CBD CODE!!!


  5. says

    I have a college degree. In fact, I have two. What a waste! I tell my girls to pursue knowledge, not a degree. You don't need to pay a lot of money to learn a lot. And you don't need a degree to be a good mommy.
    My girls are pursuing things like cake decorating, photography, and jewelry-making. All money-making vocations that they can do full time or not at all. Their license won't expire and they won't have to take cont. ed. classes to keep these up. And best of all, they don't conflict with motherhood!


    Joy Reply:

    @Ginger, Right with you on focusing on money-making skills. (And goodness, you're up late reading! You going through my archives or somethin'?) :)


  6. Sarah says

    I just stumbled across your blog and am struggling with the same issues. I have always just wanted to be a mom and after several losses including a preemie that passed away, I finally became one in April! I said the whole time I was pregnant, "I'm just going to be happy and focus on raising my daughter". Now that she is here, that nagging feeling that I need to finish my degree (the one I also have no intention on using, except for my own self-validation) is back. I, like you, have quit twice. My husband constantly tells me that a degree doesn't determine your worth, but that's easy for him to say since he has one! It feels like modern women are "looked down upon" if their only goal is to be a homemaker. There is so much pressure to be the perfect mother, have a prestigious career, and a mound of educational credentials. I really enjoyed your blog and to be honest, I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling with these emotions.


  7. says

    I stumbled across your blog from somewhere, and I just love this post. Thank you for sharing it. I dropped out of college (where I was on a full ride & a semester from finishing) just over 9 years ago to marry the man of my dreams. We have 4 children who I teach at home, and I couldn't ask for a better life. No slip of paper or stamp on my forehead that reads "smart" would ever be worth more than what I am doing now.


  8. says

    I found this blog a few months ago & was looking at topics in your archive – thank you so much for this one!! I was a single mom while I went to nursing school & even worked for a year before meeting & marrying my husband. I've always wanted to be a mommy but I was the oddball in my family & "encouraged" (read into that word!) to be super-woman instead. It's wonderful to find like-minded women. I'm a proud homeschooling SAHM with #4 on the way! :-)


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