I had my daughter during the winter of my junior year of college. I took off the semester she was born and returned the following August when she was 6-months-old. I expected juggling school, a part-time job, my handmade shop, and a baby to be hard.
I didn’t realize how hard, though, until I was knee-deep in research papers and pureed peas. I fought through nap-less days, sleepless nights, and stuffy noses for four long semesters. I wrote papers with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the background and a cranky baby on my lap. I fought through the guilt I had leaving her to go to class or to the library to finish assignments while she cried for me as I walked out the door. But in between my part-time job and classes, I also got to enjoy the extra time I had with her while she was at the most fun ages.
I am now just a few short weeks from graduation and have been spending time reflecting on the past few semesters and the adventurous experience it has been finishing college with a toddler. I found that the best way to get through the stress is to laugh through it and find some entertainment in it all, which is exactly what this list does.
1. College students are just like toddlers. They’re constantly whining about being hungry, bored, or needing a nap.
2. It is possible to type a paper on your laptop while simultaneously breastfeeding. This activity just takes some patience and practice, some creative balancing, and the ability to tune out the constant sucking noise. Also, be prepared for when the baby unlatches mid-suck. Breast milk and MacBooks don’t mix.
3. 8 a.m. classes are a lot easier to get up for when you are trying to escape your cranky toddler. Seriously. God bless every day care teacher, grandparent and daily caregiver.
4. You instantly become the parent voice of every class when everyone finds out you have a kid. Any discussion that relates to parenting or children will result in your opinion of whether or not boys should play with dolls, or if kids actually learn anything from TV.
5. Your purse full of snacks and Advil will come in handy with all of your friends and the random girl in the bathroom. Also, be prepared to be referred to as “Mom.”
6. You will often find the pens in your backpack replaced by pacifiers. Because the toddler took your pens to scribble in the shapes in your math book, which is also missing from your backpack.
7. Being up all night during the early months of having an infant prepares you to stay up through the wee hours of the morning to finish papers while the toddler sleeps on your lap (because the toddler doesn’t sleep in her bed and enjoys smacking the keyboard of your MacBook). And you can’t write the paper while the toddler is awake unless you resort to caveman times of pencil and paper (expect the pencil to eventually be stolen).
8. Using all of your patience on your well-meaning toddler decorating the walls (and probably herself) with spaghetti means you will have a low tolerance for the excuses of the college students in your classes: “I didn’t have time to finish my paper because I worked at Starbucks on Saturday” becomes invalid compared to the hoops you have to jump through to write a paper or even go pee alone.
9. You will find creative ways and places to read and do assignments, like sitting on the lid of the toilet next to the bathtub while keeping one eye on the child growing a soap-bubble beard and pouring water over the edge of the tub.
10. Trading places with your boyfriend who works 60 hours a week sounds like a vacation. His job doesn’t assign homework, need a bath, or gag at the sight of peas, or poop.
11. Time management is everything. This one is no joke. Use a planner. Write down every assignment, every due date, every appointment, everything down to having lunch with a friend or going grocery shopping. You cannot remember everything on your own.
12. Many professors are extremely understanding and accommodating of atypical students. Rather than asking for extensions on due dates, ask for assignments early and let your professor know if you run a tight schedule. Most will do their best to help you succeed.
It turns out that “my kid deleted my entire paper while I was chasing the dog around the kitchen table trying to retrieve the last not-missing pacifier” is a completely valid reason for turning in a paper late. Variations of this include “my kid threw up all over me, the couch, and the living room carpet an hour before the paper was due.”
13. No matter how busy my days are, or how sleepless my nights are, I wouldn’t trade this for the world.
It’s all for my daughter, all of it.