It’s not the end of the world!
Diapers—done! Car seat—donated! Bicycle training wheels—gone! Your child is growing up, adolescence is looming, and while you’re still struggling to understand how your baby suddenly became someone contemplating the prom, your child is becoming an adult. Then suddenly, it’s all about matriculation and college.
But as a Solo Mom, what do you do when this young adult decides to step off the directed path and not go to college?
Most important, try not to make this about you and worry that it’s your fault. Not blaming yourself is a hard thing for any parent to do, but especially difficult when there are many negative clichés surrounding Solo Moms and their ability to raise the next generation and do it well. Unfortunately, a lot of these misguided ideas are reinforced by studies created for politicians and institutes with their own agendas, yet evidence shows most children raised by Solo Moms turn out just fine. So toss all that negativity out the window. This is about your child’s wishes, or, rather, the chrysalis about to shatter and bring forth a butterfly.
Consider the upside. There has been a lot of talk recently about student debt and the burden it places on the next generation, and as many of us Solo Moms often struggle to keep our families afloat, the prospect of sending our child into a mountain of debt can be terrifying. Supplies, tuition, moving your child to another area: these are all things you and your child won’t have to spend your hard-earned money on now or in the future.
You also will be able to skip out on all the crazy college hype and pressure. The minute your kid starts high school, you encounter an industry designed to make any aspirational parent feel that with just a little more income and inside information, your child could have a shot at the top schools in the country. It can be intimidating and infuriating at times, and with all the tours, tutors, and consultants adding to the chaos, you can kick back and enjoy the realization that you’ll be skipping that entire process.
Even after considering the positive points, it is normal to feel the guilt descending when your child announces he is not going to college. After all, in this world of increasing income disparity, a college degree has been shown to make a significant difference, and for some Solo Moms, after all these years of struggling with finances, it’s easy to worry about your child’s ability to handle her own.
Before you panic and decide that all those Internet naysayers have a point about Solo Moms, there are several things to consider, including that your child may not be ready for college—yet.
The college application process has become extremely competitive and often seems overwhelming. It may be that your child knows more about himself than you think. So stop and listen to him, and recognize that there are alternatives to the straight and narrow path. Solo Moms, who have never quite been on that path anyway, should know this, right?
Here are some other options you and your child can consider:
Some high school graduates need a gap year. Don’t take it as a failure if your child has ideas other than getting up and pushing a heavy rock up a hill every day (the way you as a Solo Mom often do). This does not mean that she will not decide to go to college, but realize that sometimes this decision does not happen on a standard schedule.
But what will my child do? you ask yourself, with visions of a movie in which you are suddenly the confused mom floating through your head. Just because he doesn’t want to go to college does not mean he has to stay at home.
There are travel-abroad programs, such as Global Citizen Year, which offer financial support for what they call a “bridge year” working and living in Ecuador, Brazil, Senegal, etc. These programs often foster other qualities than academic achievement in your child, such as independence, self-knowledge, and leadership.
Consider community college. Although it is important for young adults to find their own way, it’s also worth insisting that an education and a degree are wise investments in their future. The pace your child sets can be her own. Community college allows both of you to feel like you have agreed on something while your child figures out if further education is right for her.
Encourage your child to find employment. If your child is living at home, request that he get a job.
- Your child will be earning money and self-respect.
- She may discover a talent that may not require a college education to develop.
- The real world may make college look a lot more appealing!
Most important, remember that nothing is final. This is your child’s journey, but you can be a supportive and understanding guide.
Margot Kessler, a screen and television writer living in Los Angeles, is the sporadically witty Solo Mom of two lovely daughters.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.