The Myth of Wasted Education: Combining Motherhood and School

When I married at 20, I knew I was making the right choice for me. I had found my best friend, and I wouldn’t let him go. I had one year until college graduation, and he had three. We started our life together as your typical poor, struggling college students, but we had a plan. After graduation, I went after a job, but finding full-time employment was a struggle. Once I did get a job, it paid the bills, but not much else.
I felt undervalued and underpaid, and I struggled with my self-worth.

I knew I could do more, be more. But I had lost my way. My husband, who has always been my champion, encouraged me to look into graduate school programs. His support rekindled my ambition and self-confidence, and before I knew it, I was thinking about going to law school.  The more I learned about the variety of opportunities in law, particularly the flexibility some fields could provide for women with families, the more excited I became. And yet…

Although it sounded perfect for me, I still had my doubts.
I eventually wanted to have and raise a family, but I also wanted to earn an education that would lead to a career, not just a job. Would I really be able to have both?
What if later I changed my mind and decided I wanted to stay home with my kids full-time—would I regret the time and money spent on my law degree?

Before I made a decision, I attended a panel at Brigham Young University in which women attorneys and judges shared their experiences and answered questions. One of the women went to law school, practiced for a while, and then decided to put her practice on hold while she raised a family. She shared her response to people who criticized her for “wasting” her degree, which was something to the effect of: “How can you ever waste education? You can’t. It influences every area of your life.”

That’s when it clicked for me. No one can have a college or post-graduate degree and “not be doing anything with it.” Whatever you are doing, whether you are raising a family, serving in your community, or earning a wage (or all three!), you are using your education. The moment I understood that, I no longer had any doubts. I knew whatever educational opportunities I pursued would benefit myself and those around me, including my spouse and children.

From the first day of class at BYU Law, I knew I was in the right place. It was like learning a new language, and I loved it. I was growing, learning, and becoming the person I always knew I could be.

At the same time, my husband and I felt that something was missing from our lives. We wanted to start our family. At the beginning of my 2L year, I found out I was pregnant. I knew completing school and having a baby would be difficult, but we were excited, and we were going to find a way. When I miscarried at 13 weeks, it might have derailed me. But as devastating as it was, I had an amazing, loving husband, and I had an outlet.

I threw myself into my studies, which gave me something else to focus on. I found that it steadied me and gave me confidence in myself and my worth. In many ways, my education better prepared me to handle that trial.

My first child was born between semesters of my 3L year. Within his first year of life, I completed law school and graduated, studied for and passed the Bar exam, and opened a solo law practice. Now three years out of law school, my husband and I have two little boys. He just finished a Master’s Degree, and I am an associate attorney at a firm in Provo, where I recently transitioned to working full-time to run one of the partner’s practice while he serves as a mission president for the LDS Church.

I am still in the thick of things, and I am far from perfect. Some days are incredibly rewarding and others are hard.
Still, every day I am grateful for my education and the type of wife, mother, and attorney it has helped me become.

Sometimes other women have asked me, “How did you do it?” They don’t believe they could handle school and a family, that there must be a secret that allows some women to “do it all.”

The truth is there is no secret.
No one handles it perfectly, and no one formula is going to work for everyone.
Like Nike advocates, you just do it.
With so many programs and options available, there is one that will work for your situation.
If you have the desire and the drive, you find a way and make it happen.

It’s worth it! You’re worth it.

And remember—you are not alone!
Rely on your spouse, your family members, and your friends.
Connect with other women who have been or who are in the same situation.
They will each commiserate with you, tell you that you’re doing great, and encourage you to keep going.
Some days, that’s all you’ll need.

Jessica Tyler holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Studies with an Art History minor from Brigham Young University, and a Juris Doctorate from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. Jessica joined the Provo law firm MacArthur, Heder & Metler as an Associate Attorney in 2013. Jessica and her husband, Jonathan, are the parents of two energetic boys. Outside of work, Jessica enjoys going on adventures with her family, attending BYU basketball and football games, reading, and playing volleyball and tennis.

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