Rachelle Peterson, a double major in international studies and history, and Rachel Bissegger, a history major, are both mothers taking classes at the U.
Both are non-traditional students, working toward graduation while raising children.
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“I feel like I’m juggling, but I can’t drop any balls because they’re my kids and school,” Peterson said.
Peterson doesn’t exaggerate about the juggling act. Like many students, she was unsure of what she wanted to do, but she originally pursued her education at Salt Lake City Community College, working two jobs until she got married. Her husband was studying to be an engineer, so she put her education on hold and watched her children until he had completed his degree. Peterson said this is a common situation among women.
“It’s normal for a man to be the breadwinner and the women to stay home, but I think it’s important not to fall into social pressures,” she said.
By the end of her husband’s college experience, after years of working at low-paying jobs, Peterson saw the importance of school. Though it has taken four years to get where she is today, she has started to feel accomplished through balancing school, raising three children and working as a teacher’s aide at an elementary school. Going against the social stereotype that women must stay at home has made her more determined in pursuing a degree because she said it will show her children the importance of education as well.
Bissegger, though her situation differs in that she started her family in high school, has had a similar experience. What’s hardest for her is that although the U hosts activities for families on campus, she has found it difficult to get involved in average student life.
“I think mentally, it’s draining,” Bissegger said. “You see young people and the freedom they have, and it can get you down.”
Though it has been hard for Peterson to connect with life on campus, she has found other ways to achieve success. She studied abroad in France for five weeks, while her husband stayed at home to take care of the family. Through this experience she was able to reevaluate herself and think about her education.
Bissegger said it is difficult to connect with student life on campus when there is dinner to be made and children to be picked up from school.
“It can be discouraging, but I think about where I can go,” Bissegger said. “College is important, and I need to convey that to my children. It’s life-changing.”