A letter from a reader:
Maybe this is too personal of a topic for you to address in your blog but I’m curious about your thoughts on what is preferable:
- Having a family before receiving an education/degree as you did
- Focusing on education/degree prior to embarking on marriage/family
After reading recently about your juggling efforts to meet family needs such as meals with studying for A & P, I’m curious if you would make the same choices again, or would you prefer to go the traditional route? Also, would you be happy to see your children follow the same sequence you did, or would you prefer that they take the standard path?
I think it’s safe to say that it is wonderful to see the focus on yourself including education & career after so many years of caring for your family.
As with a lot of things in life, I can see upsides to both of the life paths in your question!
Going through nursing school as a single person with no kids would definitely have some advantages; it would be much easier to just focus on school and almost nothing else. And I would imagine that since younger brains are better at memorizing things, some of this work would be easier if you took it on right out of high school.
However, I can also see a whole lot of upsides for me personally with the path that I took through life.
(For those not super familiar with my path, a quick rundown: I did one year of college post-high school, then got married, had kids, homeschooled them, worked part-time as a piano teacher, then as a blogger, until now. My youngest is a high school junior and I am doing prerequisites right now, with the plan to start the R.N. program when she finishes high school.)
I’m glad I had kids when I was very young because I do not do pregnancy well
27-year-old me with Sonia and Zoe
I had hyperemesis with all of my pregnancies, and even though I had all my kids between the ages of 21 and 27, I was still exhausted by the hyperemesis. I can’t imagine trying to navigate sickness-filled pregnancies as an older mom.
Also, the physical work of caring for babies and young children is a lot! I’m glad I was young and fresh during that phase of parenting. 🙂
I’d have chosen a different career if I’d finished college as a young person
(This is probably the biggest reason I’m glad I waited to get my degree!)
I was pursuing a career as a nutritionist when I was young, so if I’d finished school then, I’d have ended up with a degree that doesn’t match with what I want to do right now.
I appreciate that I can evaluate what I want right now, at exactly the time I’m going to enter the workforce. I get to choose what Kristen-in-her-40s wants to do, not what 18-year-old-Kristen wanted to do.
It is quite possible that even if I’d finished college as a young person, I still would be going back to school to get a nursing degree now!
I’m glad I was able to do flexible work during the years of raising our kids
Even if I’d finished my nutritionist degree before kids, the jobs I was looking at would not have paid enough to make it worth putting multiple children in daycare. So, I would have been out of the workforce for a number of years anyway.
It was much better for me to be able to earn money as a piano teacher and a blogger during the years my kids were young; those two jobs meshed with motherhood and homeschooling much better than my nutritionist degree would have.
If I had had no income-earning abilities during the years of raising my kids, I might have felt regret about not having gotten a degree first.
But I was able to faithfully contribute to our family’s finances even without a degree, and that is a blessing.
I appreciate school more now than I did in the past
I think most people grow in appreciation for learning as they age; that’s definitely been true for me! I am not looking at school as a box to check; I want to know the things I am studying.
I really am choosing to go to college, so I have a better attitude about it
I could go through the rest of my life without getting a college degree if I wanted to. I could keep blogging, I could teach piano lessons, or I could stop working altogether and just volunteer since Mr. FG’s salary would totally be enough for us to live on, particularly as empty-nesters.
I am doing this school because I want to, not because I have to, and that makes a world of difference in my attitude.
My kids are excited about me going to school
I think this is really the perfect time for me to go. If I’d tried to do this when they were younger, the juggling would have been a lot harder, and they might have felt a little neglected.
But since they are all older and more independent, they are of an age where they can cheer me on. They were all very supportive of the idea of me going back to school….”You can do this, Mom!”
Heck, Sonia and Zoe both actually helped me with my studying last week by reviewing my flashcards with me!
There are some age advantages when it comes to learning
I know myself better, so I know how to study.
I have lots of life experiences to tie my learning to.
And I have a fully-developed pre-frontal cortex, which means I can make more sensible time-management decisions than my younger classmates. 😉
I think my age will be of some advantage when I start nursing
I’m sure I would have been a competent worker if I’d become a nurse in my 20s. But I can also see how my more advanced age will help me too.
For instance, I think I am better at speaking up now than I was back then. And my empathy and compassion muscles are better now than they used to be, largely because I think I am a little more humble and a little less self-righteous now than I was then.
I am much more able to see things in shades of gray now, vs. the black-and-white way I saw the world when I was younger. I used to think the answers to everything were so clear (my way is the right way; everyone else’s in the wrong way!), and I think that might have gotten in the way of good nursing sometimes.
And if I end up working in pediatrics, labor and delivery, or the NICU, my years of mothering will be helpful.
What path do I want my kids to take?
I want them to take whatever path is the best fit for them! My experience is my experience, and since my children are not carbon copies of me, the life path I took is not necessarily the right life path for them.
Trade school, college, apprenticeship, entrepreneurship, early marriage, late marriage, no marriage at all…I don’t have particular expectations for what their paths to adulthood will look like.
I just hope that they will each be able to find a career path that uses their gifts and skills and that allows them to make a positive difference in the world.
In a nutshell, my kids’ paths don’t have to be the same as mine!
I think I answered the question pretty thoroughly, but if R.E. or anyone else has more questions after reading this post, leave ’em in the comments and I’ll answer there!
P.S. I definitely am very happy that I did two really full semesters of Gen. Ed. college classes straight out of high school. Those credits knocked out tons of my nursing school prerequisites, so now the only prerequisites left are the very pertinent medical-oriented ones.
P.P.S. I want to add that I realize my situation is full of privileges that not everyone has; for instance, my friend Mia is working full time and going through nursing school as a single mom of a middle-schooler and high-schooler, and I am exhausted just thinking about that! I am very blessed to have the options that I do at this point in my life.
Monday 22nd of November 2021
Great post that I'm just reading now! Hmmmm, it's a tough one for me. I got my BA right after high school, then my MA right after that--then started teaching a few years later. I got married at 29, first kid at 33, second at 35. I'd have loved to have had more kids, but it didn't happen. Now I'm 40 and working on my 2nd MAs.
I am happy with how things worked out, because I like my life now. However...I had thought I was too immature to have had kids younger, but it's the kids that made me mature into a better and more focused person. I love love love being a mom, even if I work, and I wish I had had more kids. So, part of my wishes I had gotten started with a family earlier in that respect...but I didn't meet the right person until later. Maybe motherhood wouldn't have been as great if I had married one of my knuckle-head exes. :D
Monday 22nd of November 2021
Ha, that is a good point. Having a solid person to co-parent with makes a huge difference!
Saturday 6th of November 2021
So then your Lucy necklace is quite appropriate! You guys have the same enneagram.
Saturday 6th of November 2021
So many wonderful thoughts here, just wanted to offer a perspective shared by the headmaster at my school - he shared an article (which I can't find) about making as many dots as possible (ie. take opportunities to do and learn new things). We may not see any patterns for a while, but often, the dots end up connecting in ways we couldn't have imagined. This has certainly been true in my life, and gives me hope when I'm feeling stuck or lost.
Thursday 4th of November 2021
Aw, a shout out and a picture posted in the last few weeks. Makes me miss you even more, sweet friend! For those who don't have the privilege of knowing Kristen 'IRL'- she really is this level headed and compassionate in person. You will be an incredible nurse, Kristen!
Somehow, I did both paths... I went straight to college after high school, got married, and worked part time for a few years before becoming a mom. Then I was fully invested in the SAHM life until becoming a single mom and, eventually, going back to school again.
I think, in some ways, being forced to become a single mom and HAVING to find a way to provide for my children (which was difficult since, despite having a four year college degree with highest honors, I had very little job experience post college and the job market was flooded applicants when I entered it) was exactly the kick in the pants I needed. I had wanted to go to nursing school for years and years, but I was so scared of failure I never did. Would I have remained frozen in fear and never pursued it if I wasn't forced? Maybe. I wholly and completely love every single thing I'm learning (although next week's instruction on ostomy care may change that... there's a reason I keep Vicks in my nursing bag! ;) ) and my kids are getting to see how valuable it is to apply yourself to accomplishing a challenging goal. And they've become far more responsible over the last year, which is good since I tended to coddle them a lot. :) It's hard. So hard. But so worth it!
Thursday 4th of November 2021
So many good paths! We all want to make the most of what we're handed, I think.
I attended a top-tier university, and I confess to worrying occasionally that some people would say I've squandered my degree since I'm home with my kids. But I'm blessed to have no debt, and my degree comes in handy all the time for educating my kids and generally being a good citizen. And it got me that boring job that supported us through grad school (and also helped some cardiology devices get FDA clearance, in a tiny administrative support and editing kind of way). And I wanted four kids so much more than career satisfaction, and I have them, and feel so blessed!
One of the reasons I got my teaching credential was to have a clear means of supporting myself and my kids in case something should happen to my husband. If I hadn't been so set on that we'd have started our family sooner.
I think your reasons for your path are wonderful, Kristen. I think if I went back to school I'd have so much more focus. What I want most for my own kids is that they pursue life, whether that's taking opportunities as they come or planning them out, and rolling with the punches either way. Responsibility, intentionality, contentment, commitment are the ideals that come to mind.