A walk in non-traditional shoes

I found it quite ironic that I received a small taste of what non-traditional life is really like just a few days before Non-traditional Student Recognition Week, which runs from Nov. 7 to Nov. 13. Let me tell you, it was much more difficult than I imagined.

Last week, I was asked by my aunt and uncle to watch their three children from Monday to Thursday while they went on vacation. Their family lives in Milton, so I thought to myself, “How hard could it be?” So I agreed to watch my cousins for a week.

Little did I know that this week would be an eye-opening experience as to just how stressful non-traditional student life can be.

My mornings began abruptly after a 6 a.m. alarm, signifying my responsibility to wake three kids up, make sure they have everything they need for school and get them on the school bus by 7 a.m. If I learned one thing in the entire week, it was that I completely underestimated how difficult it can be to convince three kids to get out of bed. By the end of the week, I was forced to get creative in my wake-up techniques and even then, they weren’t always successful. Yet to my surprise, I was able to get the three of them onto the bus all four days.

After getting the kids on the bus, it was then my turn to get ready and squeeze in a 20-minute drive to make it to my 8 a.m. class on time. Paying attention and not falling asleep in class was a difficulty for me. Trying to focus on my studies proved to be difficult when all I could think about was where and when the kids had to be after they got out of school and what they were going to have for dinner.

Yet even after a full day of classes and a part-time job, the madness had yet to begin until after I returned to Milton at 4:30 p.m. I was running from place to place, both dropping off and picking up. Never have I ever seen my gas tank get so low, so quickly. For parents with involved children everywhere, the job description of being the all-time “chauffeur” is an understatement, to say the least.

In between all of these activities, finding time for dinner was definitely difficult. Fast food seemed to be the easiest option. I applaud the mothers and fathers who find the time to cook a homemade dinner for their family during a week like this. I would have had a very hard time doing this, let alone make something edible for the kids to eat.

Once 9:30 p.m. rolled around and the kids were all in bed, the first window of opportunity opened for me to complete my own homework. Thankfully I didn’t have any quizzes or exams to complete that week, since I found it difficult to complete regular weekly assignments by midnight. After climbing into bed and experiencing my first sigh of relief the entire day, I was reminded of the fact that in just six hours, this day was about to start over.

Even though I only took care of my cousins for four days, I do believe I receive a tiny glimpse into a non-traditional student’s life, which was well worth the experience. Immediately after I returned back to my dorm room, I called my mom and told her how much I appreciate all the things she has done for me and continues to do for me. My mom was a non-traditional student herself, going through a Master’s Degree program with three very involved children. Back then, I didn’t always understand why she was in such a bad mood or always seemed to be stressed out, but now I realize being a student while also being a parent is one of the hardest things anyone could do.

Being non-traditional takes a lot of patience, balancing and most of all time-management. I believe most traditional college students like myself don’t realize just how difficult being a non-traditional student is and I hope that if any traditional student gets the chance to walk in a non-traditional student’s shoes even just for a day, do it. See what it’s like to try to balance parenthood, schoolwork, relationships and jobs while keeping your sanity the whole way through.

So to every non-traditional student at UW-Whitewater, I would like to recognize just how hard you work to make school, work and family life happen simultaneously. I applaud and admire your ability to not only be good parents, husbands and wives, but also be good students.