Dear Barb – Feeling guilty about pursuing a degree

Dear Barb:

I am a mature woman who has recently begun working on my Bachelor of Arts degree at Athabasca University (AU). I have spent my life taking care of my family. I always wanted to return to school, but felt my first obligation was to my family. Even though I have taken the first step by returning to school, I still feel the pangs of guilt that maybe I shouldn’t be doing this at my age. Money isn’t an issue, but I don’t feel completely comfortable spending this amount of money on myself. How can I overcome these negative feelings and enjoy my university experience?

Wanda in London

Congratulations Wanda, you are on your way to achieving your dream. Many mature women, like yourself, have had a lifelong desire to obtain a university education but were unable to realize this dream.

In the 1960s and 1970s women were generally expected to forfeit higher education to stay home and raise their children. Often when their children began school, mothers went out to work, but due to their lack of post-secondary education, they were only able to work at low paying office positions or other similar occupations. As well, these women were often expected to baby-sit grandchildren when they arrived. Because this generation spent a lifetime assisting others in achieving their goals, they were not able to give themselves permission to follow their own dreams. However, the women who were bold enough to take this step ended up feeling, as you do, guilty.

It is important that you overcome this guilt, as it may cause you to drop out of your studies, thereby not completing your degree. Give yourself permission to pursue this achievement. You have sacrificed for everyone else; now it is your turn.

As you continue your studies, you will begin to feel better about yourself and thus raise your self-esteem. Encourage yourself, in much the same way that you probably encouraged your children as they were obtaining their education.

Attending AU is an excellent choice, as their “Open University Policy” accommodates individuals, like yourself, who may not fit the mold of the typical university student. AU’s mission statement is, “Athabasca University is dedicated to the removal of barriers that restrict access to, and success in, university studies and to increasing equality of educational opportunity for adult learners worldwide.”

My advice to you, Wanda, is to allow yourself this highly-deserved activity and accomplishment. In the end, those around you will benefit from your newfound confidence and sense of fulfillment.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

%d bloggers like this: