Mom’s Going Back to School
by Alaina Dean
Making the decision to go back to college was probably the hardest I’ve ever had to make. Several factors played a role in my difficulty. The largest though, was that I am the mother of three—ages fourteen, twelve, and six at the time. I also actively participated in the operation of my husband’s company. Although, most of my work was done from home, taking care of my children and my home were my priority.
I had thought about going back to school several times over the previous years, but the time just never seemed right. It seemed every time I’d start looking at schools, I’d find out I was pregnant; so, the cons always seemed to outweigh the pros and I’d leave the idea on the table. I had made the decision to be a stay at home mom and I felt that I had to follow through with that decision.
Even though I loved being at home with my kids, I still had this sensation inside me that wanted more. All of my children were finally in school and keeping up my home and taking care of the accounting for our company kept me very busy, but still I longed to feel a sense of personal achievement. Then the guilt of leaving the home would set in and I’d push the feelings back, continuing with my routine.
Eventually I brought my feelings to my husband and to my surprise, he was supportive. He thought I should go for it. I brought up that going to school would take up a lot of my time and that he and the kids would have to chip in around the house. I informed him there would be many evening hours that I would have to spend studying and if I was going to do this, I was going to take it seriously. He expected nothing less and explained we would all do whatever it took. Then he asked me, “Who are you trying to convince? He was right. I wasn’t sure if I had it in me. I was nervous and scared, yet I was also happy and excited.
I had always had an interest in the medical field and when I began researching possible study programs, I decided on nursing. I applied at a local school and when I got my acceptance, I scheduled an appointment with an advisor. To my dismay, the first question she asked me was, “Are you sure you want to do this?” What kind of question was that? Of course I want to do this, don’t I? She explained that this program was very competitive and even though I had been accepted into the college, acceptance into the nursing program was based on a points system. She pointed out that there were 600 pre-nursing students and roughly 80 spaces available and those 80 have to have the highest amount of points. Points were awarded for grades received from pre-requisites in sciences and math. The fear set in. I hadn’t been in school in years, and now I’m expected to get A’s in these courses just to be competitive. And a lot of my competitors are students straight out of high school whose experience in these subjects is a lot more recent than mine.
I took all of her information in, and then I got a little angry. This lady didn’t know me. She had no idea of what I was capable of. I can do this! So, I registered for classes for the following spring—medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and college algebra. I know, right?
On the first day of classes, I dropped the kids off at school and headed to campus. I got to the parking lot about an hour before my first class. I sat in my car and gave myself a pep talk. I can do this, I can do this. When I walked into the empty classroom, I took a seat right up front. Students started rolling in, the majority of them young girls that I could picture one of my sons dating. What am I doing? My anxiety started to peak—deep breaths. The instructor came in, we looked about the same age—more deep breaths. She began the class by instructing us to introduce ourselves by telling our name, a little about ourselves, and why we were pursuing a career in nursing. When the introductions got to my row, the young blond next to me introduced herself, “My name is Amber. I graduated from high school last year and I have wanted to be a nurse since I was a kid.” I giggled, she still was a kid. Ok, it was my turn. “Hi, my name is Alaina. I am old enough to be Amber’s mom and I have always had an interest in the medical field.” The class and my instructor, Mrs. Smith, laughed and she said, “me too.”
I jumped right in to my studies, spent break times in my books, and joined any skills group I could find. Anatomy was a tough subject and much of the information I knew nothing about. I found each lecture fascinating, and yearned for more. I didn’t want to take too much time from my family, so at home, I’d wait until late at night and then I spent most of my evenings reviewing key terms, memorizing diagrams of the body systems, and calculating formulas. Before exams, I took flash cards and my books with me everywhere I went. Waiting to see the pediatrician, I was studying. On game nights, I cheered my kid’s basketball teams on with my notebook in my lap. Eating dinner at a restaurant, I was flipping through flash cards. Waiting in line to pick up my daughter from school, I reviewed lecture notes.
My first semester I ended with a 4.0 and when I received the letter from the Dean informing me that I had made the President’s List, I was ecstatic. I posted it on the fridge alongside the A my son received on a test. Now trust me, this wasn’t easy. My families support was a huge factor in my first semester success. They tolerated my constant medical discussions, paper writing, and non-stop reciting of medical terms. There were many make-your-own dinner nights and many evenings of mom falling asleep on the couch out of exhaustion. But they never complained.
Now, two years later, I’m still a college student and will be for a while longer because I have broadened by horizon. I plan to continue my education and pursue becoming a nurse practitioner. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot on the way and I’ve adjusted a little more. Life is still a balancing act, but I’ve found stability with my family life and my education. I have a great family and a great system. I’ve learned to be realistic with my expectations and have gained a renewed sense of self-confidence. I will do this.