Starting Over with Empowerment

By Sylvie Griffiths:

Going back to school 12 years after completing half of my undergraduate studies was not an easy endeavor. To say things had changed since my last attempt at college would be an understatement. My first day of classes as a junior at a major university was almost comedy; the students, due to my age, assumed I was the professor. With the flattery came the acknowledgement that I was different from my classmates. Older, with a large family, and with years more life experience than my peers. I was unable to attend school functions and stay on campus after my classes concluded; I had a full time job and a husband and our four children at home. As a mom, I definitely had to sacrifice time I barely had for myself to accomplish my goals concerning education.

Honestly, sometimes the sacrifice weighs heavily on my mind. The burden of knowing your kids want to play when a huge paper is due or the anguish it causes when you literally have 16 hour days and not enough sleep is sacrifice. And, as women and mothers, sacrifice comes so naturally to us. My undergraduate degree is one of my greatest accomplishments. I am proud of my hard work. My sacrifice gave me inspiration to keep going in school, so now graduate school takes me away from family, friends, and extra income due to my schedule and work load. I desperately want to help people; my degree is in the mental health and human services field. I envision a future non -for profit that I will develop once my degree and education now yields my MBA. These goals and hopes and dreams sometimes cause me heartache when my youngest says they want to snuggle but I am on my laptop working. My older daughter is struggling with becoming a teenager. My oldest son is a teen at 15 learning to drive. And my younger daughter is developing her singing talent and hoping I can get her into a performing arts school next year. To say I am busy would be a gross simplification of days I feeling panicked, guilty, and exhausted.

I recently had to make another sacrifice that hurt my heart; I had to resign from a job that was directly helping others. I loved the work. I helped individuals with HIV. I built trust and relationships with people who had been discarded by family and friends due to their diagnosis. My clients needed me and I was more than happy to be there for them. However, my family could not find a way to get by with my job. Financially, I had to make the choice to leave my job while I complete my schooling. I went back into my former career as a hairdresser, which I felt I had to give up when I earned my undergraduate degree. Ultimately, I am happy with my decision and I am staying on as a volunteer so I can still help those clients but initially I felt like a failure. Here came the sacrifice and still there was the guilt and negative feelings; it felt like I could not be a mother, wife, student, and employee and give everything 100%. Getting what I need for myself is hard work. This is frustrating and I know other parents go through these feelings daily; I am part of the majority with these struggles.

My entire family came to my graduation in May of 2016 when I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Health. My kids sat through a long boring ceremony. My husband navigated the parking and crowd nightmare with four kids. My friends came over to celebrate after the ceremony; my husband had thrown me a surprise graduation party. That day is vivid and clear in my mind because it had been so long since I felt that sense of pride in what I had accomplished. I need and deserve more of days like that one, and I really am focused on the journey now instead of the final result. I think as working parents, we all tend to get so caught up in our responsibilities and hectic schedules that we forget to enjoy those days. My kids are getting older and I realize my time with them is growing shorter; my oldest might be out of the house in just three years! I now understand that I did not fail in having to leave my job helping others, I am on a journey and it’s a marathon verses a 5K. My boss at the salon reminded me that failure is never trying something new. That was a powerful message because it is literally what I tell my children. I will take my own advice because the other day my youngest asked if he could go to my graduation when I am done with my MBA. I am proud of my sacrifice and I will set an excellent example for my children as I make changes that will effect our entire family. And I will set my sights on graduation day in 2018 and when I can see my family, all in attendance, beaming with pride. It isn’t sacrifice when I do things for myself its empowerment.

About Sylvie Griffiths:
Sylvie is a happily married mother of four who enjoys writing, people and chocolate.

She is an Evaluation Associate and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Healthcare-Adult Community Concentration, from the University of South Florida. She holds more than ten years of experience in performance assessment and behavioral health services and is currently enrolled as an MBA student at Springfield College, School of Professional and Continuing Studies.