I was thinking the other day, longingly, about the good ole college days and times when life was simpler. When I had almost not a care in the world. Times when I wasn’t up all night with little to no sleep or constantly cleaning up someone else’s vomit or memorizing silly little songs to sing at random moments.

Until I realized, no, college was kind of just like that. Especially on nights that I was a designated driver to all those filling their steins to dear old Maine. So here are 5 ways that my college experience totally prepared me for motherhood…or, at least, 5 ways that college was eerily parallel to motherhood and I was still completely and utterly unprepared in both scenarios. Take your pick.

 

5. The all-nighters.

baby-memes-2-omg-cute-things-09192012-10My first experience staying awake for a full 48 hours revolved around, of course, finals. I am nothing if not an amazing procrastinator. So, each year during finals I would find myself rushing at the last minute to read/study/write/panic. But I became quite skilled at hammering out a 10-page paper with no resources other than my computer, 12 cans of Diet Coke and a really witty AIM status to keep the distraction at bay.

Little did I know that 8 years later, I would call upon this vital skill as my newborn son took to cluster feeding through the night, on multiple occasions. I was so tired my tired was tired. But I pulled through knowing that, just like my capstone presentation on {insert whatever the hell topic I presented on here}, this too would pass. And I would barely even remember that it happened. (Mostly because it was all done in a fog of exhaustion.) Unfortunately, I couldn’t drink 96 fluid ounces of caffeine while breastfeeding and who the hell uses AIM in the 20-10’s? But I was resourceful and made it work, because that’s what moms do.

4. The importance of alcohol as motivation.

School is for learning. Of course. But sometimes the dangling of a little carrot is effective in getting things done, especially when you are a procrastinator. And so it was with booze and homework for me. I learned that it was generally in my best interest to say, “Michelle, finish this paper, read two chapters and you’re free to set sail with the Captain down at Phi Kap for the rest of the weekend.” It was a much more effective than the alternative, which was attempting to finish homework three sheets to the wind or while throwing up into a trash can the next morning. It got the job done.

And so it is with parenting. I say to myself, “Michelle, make it through these last few hours of tantrums and shitty diapers, read ’em a little Goodnight Moon, and then let’s pop open that bottle of Sweet Red!” The main difference being that I now I am 30+1 years old, have 1 glass of wine and am in bed by 9pm. Unfortunately, I’m probably more hungover the next morning than I ever was in college and yet, for some reason, still expected to wake up at 5am and contribute to society. Still there’s nothing like a fresh, cold beer to celebrate the little victories each day… it’s how we parents cope so we can continue to get all of our jobs done.

3. The exorbitant and rising costs, which can’t be avoided.

When I was in college, I didn’t give much consideration to money. Except for the fact that I preeeetty much had none at all times. I worked for what little grants and scholarships I had, I held a work study job, and my mom covered my rent. Still, the only time I had more than $100 in my bank account was the time I tested out of English 101 and got a refund check for 3 credits-worth of financial aid. I’m probably still paying off the interest on that refunded aid, btw. Whatever, we don’t all make great life choices.

When I got pregnant, I didn’t give much consideration to money. Until I started obtaining quotes for childcare, and got the initial list of costs from my OB/Gyn. Then I was all, Jesus, Mary and Josephine, how do people afford kids?! I feel rich each time one of my children moves up a room, and the fee drops by $100 a month. I work and work and work, and ponder how it can be that I have preeeetty much no money at all times. It’s a crapshoot which will be paid off first – my student loans, or Nora’s hospital bill.

Apparently I learned nothing from my financial experience in college, so let’s just move on. This topic is depressing.

2. Finding community within a diverse group of women.

Certain big life events have a way of making us feel alone. When I was a junior in college, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had spent too long unsuccessfully trying to find my niche. I had spent my Freshman year pining over a high school ex-boyfriend. I had more friends Sophomore year, but they felt more like friends of friends and not MY friends. So I thought, maybe I’ll pay for some of my own friends. (Just kidding, it’s not like that.) I joined a sorority. And it was the best thing I could have done. Suddenly, I had a group of 50 sisters who actually, really felt like sisters. Like-minded people, but the kind that open you up to different ways of thinking. Thoughtful people, who I’d stay connected to 10 years later. My college experience would have been drastically different, worse, without them.

I think becoming a mother can be the loneliest of all. Because even though you’re constantly attached to another human being, you are giving literally everything you have to something that is incapable of giving anything back for the first 0-3 months. And people “don’t want to bother you” or want to give you “time to settle in,” so even when you think you might have a village, it feels mostly like no one is home. It’s hard. When I had Charlie I turned to the interwebs, to the magic of a message board where I found more than 100 women in the exact same point in life as me. They were all new moms, mostly first timers. And suddenly, I was surrounded by like-minded people that opened me up to different ways of thinking. Thoughtful people, who I know I will stay connected to 10 years later. My motherhood experience would be drastically different, worse, without them.

1. The complete and total transformation of who I was. 

Looking back, who I was as a human being before college seems so, so far away. I was a child. A novice. I had no idea what life was about. College, and my experience there, built me. I mean, the foundation was there from a really good upbringing – but I became who I am as an adult during those 4 years. It was like being reborn. I was ready as I’d have ever been to live on my own, get a job, and contribute to the world in some meaningful way. I was transformed.

When I became a mother, it was like a whole new layer had been revealed. My prior life, all at once, seemed so, so far away. I had only ever been a child. A novice. I had no idea what life really was about. I had established who I was in my years prior, and here I was – giving half of myself away. Refilling what was left of me with love and joy and amazement of this tiny miracle that I had helped to create. I was reborn, a mother to my son. I was transformed.

 

I will be forever grateful for my college experience. As odd as it seems, it was my experiences there that helped form who I am not only as an adult and an employee and a friend, but as a mother. I’ll always think back on it fondly, and often wish just for a day I could go back in time to when everything seemed so hard but was really so, incredibly easy. I’ll reflect on the times when life was a blast, the friends were good and, damn, the beer was cheap.

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