Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Ugly Side of Being Back in School

While I love being a student again, there is an ugly side to being back in school. For one thing, it means getting up super early in the morning so that I can not only get Ethan fed, dressed and dropped off at his school the moment the doors open, but I also must get myself dressed, fed (if you count being fed as slurping my coffee on the fly and throwing a cereal bar in my backpack) and sitting in class by 8 a.m. On the mornings I have class, Ethan and I are a flurry of Thermoses, backpacks and bedhead, both of us clamoring to the car. Without fail, Ethan always asks me if he's the one who's late to which I always answer, "Nope, but Mommy's going to be if we don't hurry". Today, as we drove to school in the predawn hours (it was 7:15, admittedly not all that early, but still very dark), Ethan asked me why his "school starts at night". The familiar stab of mommy guilt stayed with me for a while until I remembered that even on the days where I don't have to be at class, Ethan still insists on being at school as early as possible so he can do "his morning work" which from what I've gathered is coloring some sort of picture at his table. You gotta admire his enthusiasm.

The second disadvantage to being back in school is that my downtime is severely lacking. While I must admit, that there are many times where I consider doing school work to be a form of relaxation (read: there are no kids scurrying around me vying for my attention), when an exam is approaching, it is hard to be relaxed. Especially for me, someone who functions optimally only when my surroundings are organized, when my to do lists are as completed as they can ever be and when my household is running smoothly. The glitch here is that the rest of my life, both the big things and the little things, get ignored when I'm preparing for an exam. There is no organization, my to do lists grow so long they might as well be written on a roll of toilet paper and as far as the household running smoothly, let's just say I manage not to burn the house down or leave my kids unattended for long stretches of time.

When I say that the rest of my life gets ignored, I really mean it. As far as the little things, laundry is left unwashed, unsorted, unfolded, and un-putaway in whatever place it happens to land at the moment just before I realized how desperately I needed to start buckling down on my school work. Meals do not get prepared, the contents of the pantry and the fridge are depleted and my family is forced to survive on whatever non-rotten food they can find at the time until the fridge is restocked, which will probably be a day or two after my exam (I pad it with an extra day of recovery time). Up until the day of my exam, my house looks like it was burglarized and ransacked. My physical appearance isn't much better, as hygiene is another thing that takes a back seat to studying. (I don't have time for a shower, people! That is 20 minutes that could be spent memorizing polyatomic ions or mastering molecular geometry.) So far, I've only gone two days in a row without showering, but three days without washing my hair, and I think I went an entire 24 hours without brushing my teeth, but I can't be sure. And of course, if you read my blog regularly, you'll notice that while I'm typically not a new-blog-post-every-day kind of gal, my blog gets ignored too. Sigh.

Sadly, it isn't only the little things that get ignored, but the big things as well, namely my friends and family. Adam is always very understanding about the large gaps of time I spend away from him in the days leading up to an exam. The kids are understanding too (not sure Eli even notices I'm gone most of the time) but it certainly bothers me. Especially this past weekend. Sunday morning, Adam was planning a fun activity with the boys and I got up and out early to study away from the house and all the distractions. I headed to Starbucks, got my coffee and settled in for an entire day of studying. But it took me a while to get started because I couldn't concentrate on anything other than the emptiness that I felt. I watched moms with their kids come in for a hot chocolate, I watched husbands and wives sit hand-in-hand while sipping their lattes. And all I could think about were my three boys off having fun without me.

Eventually I regained my perspective and was able to push through three chapters of molecules, ions and balanced equations, fueled in large part by the memories of the fun day the four of us had had the day before (I pulled myself away from my books long enough to spend the day apple picking with Adam and the boys - what a blast and a welcome break!).

Most of the time, I know I'm doing the right thing, but sometimes, I wonder. I wonder if it is worth it to put this burden on myself, I wonder if it is fair for me ask Adam and the boys to sacrifice their time with me, to ignore my own babies so that I can go take care of other people's sick babies in a few years from now. Usually, the answer is yes - not that there is anything that is ever better then spending time with my children - but usually, I know that everything I am doing right now is the means to get to my goal. Other than being a mother, I know that being a nurse will be the (second) most important thing I do with my life.

It's a long term goal, one that I am slowly (but ever so surely) achieving. The rewards this early in the game come in small doses. But today, I received an extra dose - my test grade from Monday's exam, which was 102. The road is long, but it feels good to know I'm on my way.


Cheryl said...

Love, love, love this post! So true - it isn't always what it appears to be.

Tricia said...

You are not alone!!! You are writing exactly what I am thinking too. Started the MA job full time and school at night=no time for the husband, family, friends, personal hygiene, housework etc etc. All I have to say is thank goodness for such understanding husbands and families that we both have. It WILL be worth it in the end!

Connie said...

Hi. I am a Grandma and an RN. I went to Nursing school when my children were in the sixth grade and a High School Freshmen. Your post reminded me how I felt when I missed my son't basketball games.

After I became an RN, I worked for awhile then took many years off . I went back to work a little over a year ago because of the economy and because... I missed some of things about being a nurse.

I know you are having the doubts now, but the years pass quickly. If you do need a decent income now or at some time down the road, Nursing may be able to provide you and your children with security.

I would say plug along and do what you are doing. The fact that you can so beautifully articulate how school complicates your life is--- wonderful. Humor and your husband's support will carry you through.
The exams and clinicals can be demanding, but your children will be proud of you! I enjoyed your post!

Jen said...

Connie, thanks so much for the words of encouragement and for sharing some of your experiences with me!

Lisa said...

You can do it, Jen! You have never failed in anything that you have set your mind to.
I totally understand your feelings of being pulled in so many directions and definitely understand the mommy guilt...I think I understand it more than you can even imagine.
We need to support each other more so we're not so alone in these ambitious endeavors. Sometimes, I feel so guilty and removed but most of the time, I know the lessons my children are learning from my example right now will shape who their are in the future and I truly believe it will be in a very positive way.