Published on: 10/28/2012

Upon graduation from high school in 1988, I attempted a semester at Milwaukee Area Technical School.  To be honest, I wasn't "into" school, studying, classes and such.  I decided instead, to head up to the game room and major in darts.  I joined the dart team, and eventually finished the semester with a trophy. 

Wandering about, dying to get out of my house, I decided to join the U.S. Army.  Serving two out of four years active duty, I became pregnant, got married and received an Honorable Discharge for my pregnancy.  Despite the fact that one must serve 36 out of 48 months active duty in order to receive the G.I. Bill for education, I chose, instead to raise my daughter.  Nothing was more important, or had been ingrained, than a child being raised by his or her parents.  Within a year, we were pregnant with a 2nd daughter.  Once again, I decided to put everything, including my career, on hold to raise my daughters.  It is a choice I have never regretted.

I recall a few years later.  My daughters were approximately 9 and 10 years old.  I was working part time as a bank teller.  I wanted to sign my girls up for day camp.  Everything was good to go. We went to church and ran into a family member who stated it was "important that I was home with my girls" which caused me to quit that job in order to be with them in the summer.  I knew eventually I would get another job with my background.

Within my family structure, it was ingrained that women stay home with their babies.  This is something I strongly believed.  I felt that no one could do it better, that a mother was the strongest bond and nothing can replace the time invested.  I was there for the first smiles, words, steps and so on.  Because the military paid very little, we lived on love, Ramen Noodles and Macaroni and Cheese.  I never thought of us having little financially.  I always believed that we were rich because we were together. 

Four scores and twenty years later I know so much more.  I still have no regrets, yet I do have the wisdom to know that women must be educated in order to feel a sense of security.  Let me explain why.

Upon my discharge from the Army, I stayed home for a year.  When my husband was transferred to a base in Korea, I was pregnant with our second daughter.  In order to pay for long distance telephone bills, I had to leave our first daughter with various babysitters and worked 4 days a week at a hospital.  After his year was up in Korea, we were transferred to Fort Ord and eventually went back to Fort Lewis.  Because of travels, I was unable to work in order to move and take care of our daughters.

It wasn't until we separated that I began to work full time.  Because of my lack of education, I began with an hourly wage of $8.50 an hour as a bank teller.  Not much when you have a mortgage, bills and such.  Let's just say that I eventually worked my way up and did fairly well.  Upon a layoff in 2007, I began to look for work.  It was difficult.  Despite the fact I had extensive experience including my military background, employers were looking for that plus education.  I can't tell you how many roadblocks I came against because of this. 

In talking with mothers and daughters today, including my own growing up, I find myself repeating the same words.  "The most important thing your daughter can achieve is her education.  (She) must get an (education).  Sheducation." 

My years of service paid off evetually.  Back in 2008 I was granted the Wisconsin G.I. Bill.  Anyone who enlisted in Wisconsin and returned as a resident is allowed to apply for education benefits.  It pays for 120 college credits, either at MATC or any UW College.  I completed my general education courses from 2008 - 2010 and did really well.  I believe my GPA was a solid 3.65%. 

It was a tough decision.  I had put my education on hold to be home with my daughters.  It was a painstaking route due to the fact that I would be working full time and take two to three courses at night.  I was exhausted, missed my kids and appreciated them even more.  My final semester I recall taking three courses which included English, Micro-Economics and Speech.  I did really well, even surprised myself with a final grade of B in Micro. 

Looking back, would I have done anything different?  Absolutely not!  All I know is that my advice for young women today is as follows:  GET YOUR EDUCATION!  I don't care if you start college and take general courses, even one or two.  Work, even if it's part time.  Get your feet wet.  Whether you have babies, are living with someone, engaged, married, whatever the case may be, go to school.  You must do something for your future.  No matter that your guy has a great job, is able to support the family and allow you time to stay home and raise your kids.  You must take time to further yourself in order to be given the greatest opportunities life has to offer.  Volunteer, get your name out there.  This will give you the ability to have doors opened by knowing the right people. 

As a woman, there is nothing greater than knowing you can take care of business.  If you eventually become a single parent you can make it.  You may struggle, but it will get better.  Nothing backs you up more than education and experience.  It's not a guarantee in todays world, yet it sure as heck does feel good knowing it may give you an edge.   

Way too many women stay because of fear that they've been out of the workforce for too long.  They don't have experience, even working a basic job.  Don't be this woman.  It doesn't matter that you have children, do whatever it takes to swap babysitting with another mom.  Heck, beg your parents, siblings, aunts, etc.  If the people in your life know you're trying to improve yourself, they may offer without you having to ask. 

Women have the right, just like men, to succeed in this world.  Just because you've given birth does not exempt you from the priveledges of employment and education.  Marriage doesn't exempt you from taking care of your personal needs.  Make sure you are healthy in order to partner with someone who supports your independence and security.  A partner who doesn't mind you taking a couple of hours a week for a class or two while he watches the kids.  Last but not least, your children deserve a mom who is strong enough to make decisions if push comes to shove.  Nothing is more devastating to children when they are forced to stay in an unhealthy relationship because mommy is too afraid to do it on her own. 

Taking care of yourself will allow you the opportunity to take care of others.  After all, you were an individual with dreams, wants, needs and desires prior to your relationship with your partner and children.  Water yourself, feed yourself and you will grow into a beautiful flower. 

If you have questions about education, etc, please feel free to post below.  I will do my best to give you direction which will best suit your lifestyle.