The problem is this: you are crazy about your kids and from the time you stopped taking the pill until the moment you sat bolt upright in bed at 3 in the morning and realized that there was absolutely no way you would ever be able to pay for college, retirement and groceries and electricity; you have wanted nothing but the very best for them.
But life changes and before you know it your children are in therapy and you are fighting alcoholism; they grit their teeth and shake because they are so full of rage toward you and boarding school is a fun escape fantasy, like Morocco.
Yet here's the other dilemma. While you pine for financial freedom and know that to get there you will need to make more money, you begin this descent into madness as you realize: "In order to take my career to 'the next level' I will need to spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars more on my own education. I should be saving for the education of my children!" and there, right there, the dreams of becoming a career changer or a career stepper-upper (how many of us have heard our salaries will increase by a significant chunk if we would only get our Masters degree?) droop and fall from the vine, as we envision socking away our salary increase hope into the college fund in hopes that maybe, just maybe, our kids won't end up in the same confusing loophole of financial priorities as we have and will get their career choices right the first time out of the gate.
Another issue is this: as our kids get older, there's a sense of not being needed the same way we used to be. We long for stimulation, intellectual challenge; maybe our job has suddenly become sort of interesting to us, we're getting better at it, we want to move ahead, to grow, to learn more about our field. Yet the thought of prioritizing our own education over saving for our children overwhelms us.
We ask constantly of our children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" as if it's the single most important thing in the universe. If our children were to ask this question of us, would we reply "your mother" or are there other mysteries, other adventures in store for us, and, if so, can we afford them without feeling we're taking something away from our children?
The truth is, each individual family and family member must choose what's right for him or her at any given moment. Given an opportunity to obtain a PhD at age 50, many children, college bound or not, would encourage and even applaud their parent for taking such a huge risk and putting in so much effort. Often, children don't end up feeling deprived by a parent putting extra resources and energy into a personal or professional endeavor, rather, they feel inspired and excited by it - it becomes a great role model of perseverance and dedication for them.
So the next time this question between your furthering your education or saving for your children comes up, remember, there's no shame in a student loan.
Edited by Alison Stanton
Aimee Boyle lives and writes in CT. She is a regular contributor to EmpowHER