As any good list maker would do, when I considered going back to college as the mother of small children, I made a Pros & Cons List. This exercise seems to help me organize my ideas. When I finished the list one column was much longer…the Con.
And not by a little – by a lot!
The journey to our family has been tricky, infertility led to surgeries, miscarriages, and infant loss. When it was clear we could not carry biological children, we embarked on two unique and life changing adoption experiences just 16 months apart. During the seven years on our road to parenthood, I was constantly rearranging my life and career to accommodate the vision of also being a mom.
I started seriously considering college two years later, living with a toddler and infant and feeling like a shell of the woman I used to be. I was working part-time as a hospital nurse, long 12-hours shifts on holidays and weekends. The job was wonderful, but we were barely breaking even after day care.
Emotionally, mentally, and physically I was drained and began questioning my personal goals. Now what? Where do I fit in my family’s plan? What do I want to be when I grow up? Do I even want to go back to school right now or ever? Maybe it will be easier when they are older.
As my Cons list grew it didn’t look good for my plan. Despite my internal warning, I persisted. I went back to school and graduated in 2017! For any mamas out there considering doing the same, here are some thoughts from that Pro & Con List.
- Future Career Opportunities – My nurse body and wit was tired and concerned I could not keep up the demands of hospital based nursing. Selfishly, I wanted most holidays and weekends off with my family and more job opportunities that would fit my new family’s life, especially during early childhood.
- The Kids Won’t Remember How Stressed Out I Am – Being a mom is stressful, as is working, housework, and school! At the time I had no idea what it would be like, but I knew there might be a melt down or two.
- Feelings of Empowerment – The desire to take care of myself and in turn give back to my girls, family, and community. Leading by example and work at improving the frameworks and structures of my community improving equality.
- It Will be Hard – Possibly one of the most difficult things I have done. It required me to reflect and re-organize my life. I needed to convince my husband, pitch the costs, discuss the time required. But knowing in the end there is a great reward after all the hard work.
- Saying “NO” – I had to say no to things I would previously say yes to.
- Missing Events – I had to adjust my childcare, work schedule and life to make school work. There were sacrifices.
- Not Enough Time– And there never will be! Ever! Time management is of utmost importance along with motivation.
- It’s Expensive – Finding the right mix of savings, cash flowing, scholarships, and (potentially) loans requires thoughtful consideration.
- Marriage Implications – If I went back to school I wanted to carefully plan time and effort in our marriage. We had been through way too much up to this point, and I wasn’t about to get a degree but lose my best friend.
- Increased Anxiety – I’m a catastrophic thinker. There were moments of self-doubt, wondering how I was going to get all the work done. Sometimes I was paralyzed by the pressure of having too much to get done – not to mention questioning my ability in graduate statistics!
- It won’t be easy! – Anything worth having usually isn’t. It takes sacrifice from the whole family, saving money, planning, getting organized, and just deciding to do it.
- My kids will be in Kindergarten before I’m done – The days are long, but the years are short. This is a long-term plan.
Big life goals will never be easy or convenient. It takes sacrifice and commitment. In returning to college I have gained knowledge, shed tears, experienced panic attacks (real ones), and celebrated achievements. Now 4 years down the road I feel confident it was worth the sacrifice.
Looking back maybe the lesson is sometimes it’s okay to tip the scale in favor of the Pros list and just do it!