Mom Trapped by Student Debt: What I Tell My Kids About Following Their Dreams


My student debt has me trapped, and I’m paying for a degree that I don’t even use.

I just had a birthday, and each year as I inch closer to 35 I think about my dreams. I review the plans I had for myself and the student debt that looms over them.

I’m not where I thought I would be in life. I have two incredible kids who are my light even on the darkest of days. I have a wonderful husband who loves and supports me endlessly. But then my comparison game begins, and I find my life lacking.

Every single day I tell my kids to follow their hearts and to go after their passions. I tell them that dreams are worth fighting for, and they can accomplish anything they want. I don’t tell them that student debt can stop those dreams right in their tracks. I don’t want to burden them with that fear of student debt at such a young age. But I do want them to know the reality of student debt.

student debt, college degree, woman graduating

I’ve been watching a show lately that reminds me of how much I wanted to become a lawyer. It was a career goal that I gave up on way too early. I didn’t even try before I convinced myself that it wasn’t possible.

I have friends who are lawyers, CEOs, doctors, pharmacists, and financial advisors. They seem to have successful careers. I have friends who are stay at home parents and never miss a moment of their children’s lives and seem to be incredibly fulfilled.

I’m stuck somewhere in the middle, wishing I could blog full time and actually make a career out of it.

I have a job that does not require the degree that I’m struggling to repay each month. My student debt compounds with my past spending problems, and our new household bills to create a situation where I feel trapped. I have to be strategic about my movements and understand the ripple effect that each choice I make will cause. I know that each decision I make impacts my two tiny humans and my husband, and not just me.

The crushing student debt, credit card debt, and household debt impact me more than just financially. I’m a shell of the woman I was. I feel like I am going through the motions but not really living life to its fullest. I’m a tired mom, and sometimes a short-fused mom. I yell more than I’d like to admit, and it’s not my family’s fault that I feel so trapped by my student loans and financial struggles. They, unfortunately, see that tired, emotional, and irritable mom more than I’d like to admit.

Ten years ago, I left a corporate job. My first job. It was a fun, high-paced job with the promise of promotions and financial security. I watched others around me receive promotions, and I realized the one thing they had in common was a sense of commitment that I would never have. I love to work, and I’ll work my hardest, but I refuse to spend my weekends at an office when I can get the work done during the week. I refused to prove myself by turning my 50 hour work week into 60, then 70 hours just to compete for a promotion.

corporate job, woman with blue eyes in a business suit, disheveled

In this corporate job, I was using my degree, and I was making connections that would have helped me grow professionally. I traveled with the job, going to Texas and Philadelphia, with the promise of more travel in the future. I thought I was doing great, but with every task I completed, there was criticism. I reported to two Senior Directors and a Vice President. The challenging part was receiving praise from two people, and then criticism from one. Who was right? Was I doing something wrong, or was I correctly performing the task at hand? Did the one who criticized me believe that I needed to be pushed and challenged? Either way, I felt defeated and confused at the end of each day and realized this was not the career I wanted. I also knew I wanted to raise a family.

Almost ten years later, and I’m stagnating in the same job that I took when I left the corporate world. My job does not require my degree. On the other hand, my job gives me perfect freedom for family time. But I’m not using my degree or advancing my career. This was a costly degree that I’m struggling to pay off, and have struggled to pay off for the last ten years.

The end of my student debt is sort of in sight, but I’m still looking at a few challenging years ahead.

The struggle of being in what feels like a dead-end job and having crushing student debt presents the challenge of choosing either happiness or practicality. Being practical suggests that I would not make any changes, out of fear of failure. I would maintain the job that I’m currently doing and not risk anything. For me, a career based on happiness would be one that allows me to write full time and make a career of it. I even want to write a book, but I’ve started to consider that a pure pipe dream.

Do you notice the difference though? I have a job, but I want a career and I can’t look at my current job that way. It provides a paycheck and security, but it doesn’t satisfy my ambition or skills or dreams.

I have ideas of how to change my current situation into an actual career that utilizes my degree, but the unfortunate thing is, I’m impatient. To have to wait another 3-5 years for my career to take off, while still struggling to pay for my degree deflates any excitement for my future career.

When I step back and look at the big picture, I have to ask, “What am I showing my children, by being miserable in a job each day?” My seven-year-old daughter can see the emotion that is drained from me each and every day. And I don’t like to have my kids to see me cry some mornings just from the thought of going into work. They are aware that by Saturday afternoon I’m already dreading Monday morning (with a whole day left of the weekend).

I want my kids to know that work life can be exciting and that working for a degree is important.

student debt, follow your dreams

Life isn’t just about bills. I want my kids to know that there is so much more to life and that they can rewrite their story at any point they choose to. I’m not showing my kids this though.

To this day, I still wonder if I left that corporate job too hastily. Maybe I was young and naive, and maybe if I had just pushed myself a bit longer, it would have worked out. The truth is, that I would never be where I am today if I had stayed. I would have never had the family I have or found the passion for writing like I did.

I tell my kids to follow their dreams, so why am I not taking my own advice?

How does student debt impact your ability to follow your dreams? How do you teach your kids about student loans?

mom trapped by student debt


  1. I feel this in a lot of ways! It’s so hard to not resent my college debt and those who encouraged me to pursue it before I truly knew what I wanted to do- now that I do know, I’m still deep in paying for a degree and unwilling to take out loans for anything else. I, too, have discovered purpose in writing and blogging and am working to make it an income.


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