There are two dreams I have always had since I was a little girl. The first was the dream of being a mom. That dream started to come true after I married Steve, a Lutheran pastor. The role of mom is now a reality. Steve and I have 2 birth sons, Seth who is 7, and Sam, 6. We are also licensed foster/adopt parents and are in the process of adopting Amber, who is 2.
The fulfillment of my first dream, being a mom, is a blessing and a sacred gift. Two of my children have special needs. Sam was born with a birth defect, tracheal-esophageal fistula, and has asthma. Amber has phenylketonuria (PKU), which requires diet therapy and careful monitoring of food intake. These special needs require medication, organization, and patience.
My second dream was of being a nurse. After graduating from high school, I didn't pursue nursing because I didn't think I was strong in math and science. I earned a BA in psychology, married, became a preschool teacher, daycare provider, and a mom. I had the opportunity to return to school when we moved to Huron, SD, two years ago. I decided then to make my wish of becoming a nurse a reality. I entered Huron University as a pre-nursing major and will graduate with an associate degree in nursing next spring.
Pursuing my second dream in nursing school has been an adventure and a wonderful learning experience. The frustrations are many, but so are the rewards. I ended my first year with a 4.0 GPA. I was the 1997 Fuld Fellow for South Dakota and had a wonderful and memorable trip to Vancouver to attend the International Congress of Nurses. I have gained knowledge and personal insight from my nursing education.
It is a challenge to be a nursing student and a mom. Nursing school alone is a formidable task; however, when combined with being a mom it can be overwhelming. There is much that I have learned from experience, most often, the hard way.
- First, dare to try. Fear can be consuming you, but if you do not try, you will never know if you could have succeeded. I had many doubts, questions, and fears when I started college again... and no answers. If I could pass chemistry, I could apply for nursing school. I passed ... with an A!
- Second, keep life simple. I do not have clutter in my house. Its easier to dust, vacuum, and clean. I plan a menu and make one trip to the grocery store each week. I do laundry during free moments and all the housework gets done on the weekends.
- Third, develop multitasking skills. I never realized before that I could do five things at once! I can do laundry, help my kids with their homework, organize dinner, and review the notes I've taped to kitchen cupboards to memorize immunoglobulins and their functions. It's amazing that I can memorize and make a great meatloaf at the same time!
- Set priorities. When you are in nursing school, it can consume your life. You eat, sleep and breathe nursing. But it is still important to me to be there for my family, and particularly, to be a good mom. Sometimes, the choice is between my child's needs and my own need to study, and each situation is assessed differently. It would be great to always fulfill my children's needs first, but there are times when studying for an exam has to take priority, even if I sometimes feel guilty about it. I try to do special things with my children when life isn't so hectic, like a pizza picnic in the living room, slumber party in mom & dad's room, a trip to the park or a movie, or just reading a book with them.
My children have learned from my role modeling that studying and reading are important to learning, and I hope they will develop good study habits as a result. I am there for my children after school, and from dinner through bedtime. This is considered valuable family time. I study after their bedtime, usually until late at night, doing paperwork, making study guides, writing papers, and, of course, reading my textbooks. Still, one must be prepared for interruptions. I never get a good night's sleep when I need one. The kids inevitably are sick or can't sleep the night before an important exam or early clinical. Therefore, my support system is very valuable. That's my fifth piece of advice: recruit a support system! I have a wonderful study buddy, Margo, who doesn't seem to mind my messy kitchen, studying among loads of laundry, or the continual interruptions of children who need my attention. She is always willing to study at my house. Sometimes, we take a study break to go sledding or bake cookies for a "munchie" attack. Even moms need to be wild and crazy at times!
My husband Steve is an enormous help. He often cooks, cleans, takes our children to church with him, drives the kids to their activities, proofreads my papers, surfs the internet for articles that might interest me, and helps me study for tests. He is my support in tough times, and the silent partner in my dream of being a nurse.
Lastly, meet the challenge little by little, in small steps. I have to take one day at a time, and sometimes, one hour at a time. As my dream becomes a reality, I am living testimony, yes, you can be a mom and a nursing student. If you have the desire and will to achieve your dreams of motherhood and nursing, the support of family and friends, and the opportunity to achieve, it is indeed possible to do both.
The author is a nursing student at Huron University, Huron, SD, and will graduate in May. She is the 1997 South Dakota Fuld Fellow.