What Can I Do?


Hi, Mrs. Naylor. I used to write to you all the time when I was younger.  I have loved your Alice books since I was 10 years old. I just turned 20 last month. I used to write to you about all my boy problems, friends who were distancing from me, and, of course, my parents who could just never understand me like you did. 🙂 You literally got me through the entire portion of my life that had me figuring out who I was, what my place in life was, and who I was destined to be. You and your Alice books, that is. Without your fan mail section, I don’t know what I would have done from ages 11 to 14. For being my guide through that confusing time in every girls life, I want to say thank you.

My senior year of high school, I had SO much motivation. I was going to classes during the day, my after school job, dual enrollment college classes at night, and still found time to go to church three times a week. I was a busy girl, with no social life. I wasn’t allowed to date, or have friends outside of my small church anyway. So, it was probably a good thing that I was so busy. I ended up graduating a semester ahead of my class, and moved out of my parent’s house at 17. Because I had gone all this time without any social life whatsoever, and I moved to a college town 55 miles away from my parents that is notorious for partying, I figured I’d take a semester off. I had my own place with one of my older girlfriends as a roommate, and whenever I wasn’t working, I could do whatever and go wherever I pleased. I was a big change from what I was used to.

I quickly made friends at my new job, and through my roommate and got a boyfriend, literally, the first week I was here. Besides maybe two boyfriends, which I had to hide from my mother, my junior and senior years of high school, that lasted maybe a month each, this was my first serious relationship. My boyfriend and I eventually moved in together, he proposed, we got married, and this September we will celebrate our first wedding anniversary and three years of being together. Crazy how time flies, right? We’ve even bought our first house, and are in the process of deciding when we will have our first child. I sometimes regret settling down so quickly, but in the long run, I’m glad I did. I’m crazy in love with this man and am very excited to see what our future holds!

Which brings me to the problem. Since we have bought our house and settled in, it definitely requires both of our incomes to pay the bills. Neither of us have been to college, and I desperately want to obtain a degree before I start having children. Our jobs are both overnight, and I just can’t see myself working from 10 pm to 7 am, then going to classes all day… I would never get any sleep! I feel like I never get sleep as it is. And the degree that I’m wanting to go for is a two year program that basically has the schedule of 8-5. I just don’t know what to do and I’d like your opinion. How can I be a full time student and hold a full time job at the same time? I’d rather not get a new job, because this one has all of the benefits that I need. And if I leave and come back, I’ll have to work my way back up the ladder to get those benefits. I’ve tried to look into federal assistance but there must be something I’m missing. We just barely make too much for food stamps. I’m sure I would qualify for student loans and scholarships, but if I cut my hours down at work, we would need monetary assistance to pay our bills. What do you think I should do?

Phyllis replied:

I’ve printed your long letter here because I think many of my readers will see themselves in it.  Sometimes when we are forbidden to do something, we rush into hasty decisions the minute we get our freedom.  Sometimes these decisions turn out to be good ones, sometimes not.  Nevertheless, you have been married a year (Congratulations!) and report that you are happy.  You are both sharing the burden of your decision to buy a house, and again, congratulations on both of you being responsible.  Now, what to do next?

Since you opted to buy a house instead of renting an apartment, we need to deal with things as they are.  Yes, you need full time work in order to pay your mortgage and to keep your benefits–health and retirement.  And no, it’s neither possible nor wise to work full time at night and go to school full time in the day.  So…the choice that’s left, as I see it, is to take courses one or two at a time.  The downside is that it will take longer to get the degree, and it will take time away from your marriage, and this is important too.  You can’t give up the necessary ongoing work to keep love and marriage alive simply to live in a house and go to school.  So it’s time for a calm, honest discussion with each other.  Who most wants to go back to school and get a degree?  What is the minimum amount of time you need to be helpful and supportive to each other each week?  If one year, one of you takes on an extra burden (of working overtime or doing household chores), can the other person take over the next year?  Can you alternate, or is it best for one person to graduate first?  You need to discuss these things lovingly with each other before you think of bringing children into the equation.
But many couples have faced similar obstacles and worked out a solution, and I’m sure that you can also.  It was wonderful hearing from you.

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