From The Confessional: I Got A Degree And All I Have To Show For It Is A Mountain Of Debt

by Karen Johnson

Growing up, so many of us had lofty dreams and aspirations about what we wanted to be “when we grew up.” And those dreams often included college, maybe even grad school. Well, all that fancy, sometimes very expensive education paid off for many, but not all. Unfortunately, there are a shit-ton of grownups in debt, still paying off student loans, and feel that they have nothing to show for it. Either their field requires another degree (that they can’t afford or don’t have time to get), or the job market is saturated, or employers don’t want to pay a fair wage (and everyone deserves a fair wage).

And then there’s another group of educated adults with fancy degrees (that may even be framed on the wall as they collect dust). They just happen to also be stay-at-home parents now, and now they’re struggling to re-enter the workforce. (Which, frankly, is bullshit because there’s no harder-working person who can multi-task and function on zero sleep than a mom).

The truth is, college is expensive AF and requires real commitment. At least, you hope, you’ll be able to land a good job that will pay your bills, provide healthcare for your family, and allow you to not drown in loan debt. But when you can’t—for any number of reasons—it’s a real kick in the teeth.

Here are some confessions from the Scary Mommy Confessional about useless degrees that are just sitting in a drawer somewhere.

I have a masters degree in clinical psychology. And I’m being defeated by an almost 4-year-old who wants to keep pooping herself. You win for now kid ‘cause I need a break and I have no idea what to try next. I wish I could grasp what you see in this.

Confessional #25836451

I feel like a failure. I am a reading specialist and special ed teacher and all my own kids read below level. It is like pulling teeth to get them to read! Even for pleasure. I have 2 Masters degrees in literacy and can't help my own kids. Ugh.

Confessional #25779494

Lots of moms have degrees that actually should help us figure out our hellion children. But they don’t. Because kids don’t make sense, like ever.

I got my BA. Been a SAHM for my kiddos entire life. My degree is down the drain. What was the point?

Confessional #25820593

I have two degrees, one from an Ivy League school, with the student loans to prove it. I'm an unemployed SAHM who is wasting her potential and her life.

Confessional #25817104

I feel trapped by my kids. DH gets to travel the world without a second thought. I have two degrees from Ivy League schools and spend my days watching Dora, changing diapers, and driving car pool. I want to escape.

Confessional #1566596

I despise being home as a stay at home mom. What was the point of my degrees? I can’t be the only one.

Confessional #25820071

SAHMs often feel extremely frustrated as the years tick by.

I've been a SAHM for 7+ yrs for our special needs child. Now that I'm ready to return to work, no one will hire me. Despite receiving my Bachelor's degree & new skills/exp during this time, not one interview. I'm so fucking angry & depressed.

Confessional #25817881

My agency cancelled a job contract that requires the graduate degree I have. They then offered me a bachelor entry level job that basically has the same job requirements but repackaged into a demoted position. They expect me to be greatlful for this!??

Confessional #25836252

Told a hr off at a job interview yesterday when he brought up I don’t have a bachelors degree. Told him you want to pay 9.75 an hour and want a bachelors degree? Good luck with that! Turned and walked out

Confessional #25827828

And then there are the women who very much want to re-enter the workforce and use the degrees they worked hard for, but employers won’t hire them or will hire them, but won’t pay what these women deserve.

I have a degree in business and have no idea how to find a good job. Every job I see wants like 15 years exp and a masters degree for a $50,000 salary. Even worse, they want excellent communication skills and ability to multitask. I am useless.

Confessional #25794793

Nothing makes you feel like shit quite like having 2 university BSc degrees yet not being qualified for anything that pays enough to cover the cost of working (parking, gas, daycare, and income tax).

Confessional #25804801

I'm looking for a job so I can separate from my husband. Despite having a Bachelor's degree, I'm realizing I'm not qualified for anything. I feel completely useless and trapped.

Confessional #25784810

Even worse is when you push through school and then still somehow feel like you’re not qualified for anything. But you’re in student debt hell. WTF?!

Frustration is the kid I just finished putting through college to get a computer science degree who, when he’s home on break, can’t even figure out why the hell my printer is offline.

Confessional #25835774

I want to go back to school for my master's but it's way too expensive. I'm already deep in debt for my useless bachelor's degree.

Confessional #25835137

I wasted my parents money when they paid for my college degree. I ended up working a low paying dead end job. I'm sorry I didn't do better and feel like I threw their hard earned money away. Sorry Mom and Dad

Confessional #25832444

I worked hard to get a useless college degree while being a wife & mom doing nearly all of our household work. I'm currently a nanny. I feel like a failure & am in debt w/student loans for nothing. Wish I knew my "calling".

Confessional #25832270

You might look back on your college career and think it was all a giant waste of time and money. Or maybe you feel that way about your spouse’s student loan debt. Or your kid’s. Any way you slice it, it feels like you can’t be truly prepared to work that hard only to struggle. Didn’t they tell us we needed that degree to land a good job?

I have a master’s degree in professional counseling, and DH tries to mansplain a psychological concept to me. What a fucking asshole he is.

Confessional #25792386

I’m a SAHM and even though I have a Masters degree in my field, people talk down to me and treat me like I’m an idiot because I don’t work.

Confessional #25782450

Feeling like you don’t get respect for the experience, knowledge, and degree you have can make you fume.

I've been forced to be a SAHM because of Covid. I have 2 degrees & worked my ass off for a career I wanted to keep. DH gets to keep his work life & all its perks while I go insane. Told him when this is over it's about MY career and HE's staying home.

Confessional #25819415

DH is supportive in that he wants me to get a degree & help out, but he does nothing to make my life easier in order to obtain it. "WhAt's FoR diNNer?!" if he sees that I am obviously trying to study, instead of making something easy or ordering pizza.

Confessional #25833377

H yelled at me when I said I was stressed about work, bc I can't understand stress bc I don't work in sales like he does with $$$ deals. He also called me an idiot 3x. I'm the one with a uni degree & only work pt because we have 3 young DC, asshole

Confessional #25820250

I’m pissed that just because I have a degree in education I’m now the one responsible for: WFH full-time, all school related emails, distance learning, cleaning, laundry, cooking and shopping because he makes more money and does yard work. Fuck. Off.

Confessional #25797391

And we definitely need support from our partners, especially as we try to find validation for the degrees we worked so hard to earn. Or, while we’re putting our careers on hold to raise the kids, watching our spouse’s career flourish.

Basically, here’s what we need. Don’t be an asshole, and make sure Mom gets “a turn” to focus on themselves too. Because there was a time, years ago, when she had dreams and aspirations. Even if some of those dreams involved motherhood, some of them likely didn’t, and those dreams don’t need to die just because she popped out a few kids.

If you’re the mom in these scenarios, feeling trapped, feeling useless, feeling like your degree was a complete waste of time and money, you’re not alone. And your life isn’t over. Carve out your own space, dust off that degree, and show the world exactly what a badass you really are.