League of Student Moms: Jen

My friend Jen is amazing. She's had quite an adventure over the past couple of years, including pursuing a nursing degree, founding a magnet school, and leaping into single parenthood. It's fitting to post this interview this week because I am thankful for her friendship and example. She's a hero of mine and recently she took a break to answer my questions about being a mom and student:

Tell us about yourself and your family:  I’m a new single mom of 3 kids—14 year old girl, 11 year old boy, 7 year old boy.  I started going back to school about 4 ½ years ago.  I started out with one class at a time and have been going full-time for 2 years.  I went through a divorce last year and managed to survive, stay in school, and even do well in school.  I think this is one of my proudest achievements.  

Favorite word? vapid

What led you to decide to go “back to school”?   I had been looking for my ideal career for 10 years after I stopped working to be home with my kids.  I have always loved medicine and hospitals and toyed with nursing one semester the first time around in college, but it didn’t seem to fit at the time.  When my youngest was 2, I came across a nursing program that seemed the ideal fit and it was like lightening struck.  I knew I needed to go to nursing school

What are you studying and where?  What topics in particular are your passions? Nursing at Westminster College in SLC.  I LOVE pediatrics and OB/Gyn.  These are my two passions.

What do you envision after you’re through being a student?  Finally working and being paid (I’ve been doing volunteer/non-paying work for 12 years…)

What’s a typical day for you?  Up at 6 am to get 14 year old up and off to school, get myself and my 2 boys out the door by 8:05 am.  Go to lecture or clinicals.  If it’s a clinical day, my day starts a little earlier.  Race home to be home when my kids walk in the door from school.  Everyone does homework, piano, etc. Try to fit in making dinner somewhere in there.  If it’s a sports event day for the 14 year old, drive to her meet or game sometimes up to 45 minutes away.  Get everyone in bed by 9 pm. 

How do you blend motherhood and studenthood, both on a practical level and a life-balance one ?  I try to get as much studying and homework done before my kids come home from school so that when I am with my kids, I am focused on being a mother.  I compartmentalize very well.  School usually stays at school, home is at home. 

What items or practices/habits could you not live without?  My purple calendar book, it keeps me on track of where I need to be and when.  My cell phone, I stay in touch with my kids and family thru text (have to admit sometimes during class)

Who are your real life heroes? Favorite heroes in fiction?  The women I have met along my journey who balance their education, careers, and their families.  Annie is one of them. My mom is another of my heroes.  She went back to get her master’s degree when I was in high school and she had 5 kids at home, had to commute 2 hours to the university where she was going to school, and she stuck with it and graduated the same year I graduated from college. I haven’t had time to read fiction for a while so…

What books are on your nightstand?

How to Forgive Others

A couple of Thomas Friedman books (The World is Flat)

What Happy Couples Do

Kitchen Table Wisdom, Stories of Healing

Who comprises your support system?  My family, both immediate and extended, my neighbors, friends, and the other non-traditional students in my program. 

What inspires you, creatively, academically, spiritually or emotionally?  I love looking at the sky at night, watching the phases of the moon.  It sounds weird, but I find it calming. 

 If a prospective student who is also a mom contacted you and asked for advice, what would you say?  Try to stay balanced.  It’ll be hard and there will be periods where you can’t be balanced, but make sure you’re present for those important events in your children’s lives, and are there to listen at night when they need a listening ear.  And get sleep.  All nighters aren’t worth it when you’re older.