I quit

I quit

I Quit.

This week, I listened to a podcast about mothers caring for themselves and putting themselves first. 

It made me start thinking about how much time we spend doing, thinking, and worrying about our children. 

For those of you who have been through the college admissions process before, think about all the time you have spent as your child’s college counselor: the hours you have spent looking at websites, creating spreadsheets, booking tours, hotels, and airline tickets, not to mention the hours you have spent worrying about whether your child is going to get into the school of your—I mean THEIR—dreams.

I recently asked some former students how many hours they spent a week researching, talking about, and working on their college admissions process (not including any test preparation). Their answers varied, but on average, they spent 1 -2 hours. I asked their parents the same questions. Can you guess if their answers were less, the same, or more than their children? 

Spoiler alert:  it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for.

Why do we spend more time researching, learning, discussing, and reading about colleges than our children? Why do we spend hours searching websites and online forums to understand admissions statistics and the likelihood of our child’s acceptance? Don’t we have other things we can be doing with those hours?

Why can’t we simply turn to our children and say, “I love you, I want the best for you, I am here to help you in whatever way you would like, but I quit.” 

However, before quitting, always have an exit plan! 

As a wise woman, my mom – not that I would have given her credit when I was a teenager – often reminded me never to burn bridges – we need to have an exit plan to quit properly.

I have been through the college admissions process three times with my own children. My oldest daughter welcomed my help; she enjoyed hearing my opinions, had a blast on our road trips, and even let me tutor her for the SATs (well, that didn’t go as smoothly as the other pieces, but that is a story to share over a glass of wine). This is not to say we didn’t have our disagreements, but for the most part, our conversations were civil.

My middle daughter is strong-willed and fiercely independent. She likes to do things in her own time, in her own way. As we started taking the first few baby steps in her process, I could tell she wanted me to be less involved. However, teaching an old dog new tricks is hard, so I may have overstepped a few times.

But before my son entered his process last spring, I quit being our “family” college counselor. At our “exit” interview, I told him how much I loved working with and spending time with him, but that I was resigning as our family college counselor and would appreciate it if he could help me define my new role. 

We sat together and drafted the job responsibilities he would like me to fulfill for this process. We discussed his roles and expectations of mine, and I shared with him my expectations of him. On a whim, I added a timeline of when I would be available to fulfill my duties.

It was one of the best things I could have done. My son gave me his boundaries, things he thought he wanted to handle on his own, things he felt he needed help with, and things he would forgive me for when I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.

It wasn’t easy; I can be opinionated (and don’t always hold my tongue), and let’s face it, I know a lot about colleges and the admissions process – but I knew I had to let him face this on his terms.

We made it through; he needed a few nudges, and I needed a few reminders that I was overstepping my job responsibilities, but overall, it was a relatively smooth experience, so much so that I am going to use this exercise with my students and their families. 

Listen, I am not saying that if you quit or, in some cases, get fired, the worrying will go away. But what it will do is allow you to focus on yourself – and I am sure you will agree that, as Moms, we never have enough time for that in the first place.

Grab the Official Guide to Talking About College with Your Teenager

This guide is full of tips and the approach I believe we ALL need when it comes to talking about college as a family. Trust me, when I say I know because I’ve been right where you are, it comes straight from my experiences!