Rolling into the end of the first week back at nursing school and I…am…whipped. I also realized something last night, something important that I want to bounce off the rest of you mamas out there. See, I’m 32 years old. My oldest son starts high school this year, which means he’ll be a sophomore before I have my nursing license in hand. If I continue my education any further, we’re going to end up going to college together.
I realized last night that although I’m excited to be going back to school, I’m also embarrassed. Embarrassed to still be a student at this stage in my life. Embarrassed to be seeking an associate’s degree to begin gainful employment at the point where my peers have completed their education-or, if they haven’t, are looking at graduate degrees while building their career.
My kids’ pediatrician is my age, and one of the girls I went to middle school with is a dermatologist with her own practice. And here I am.
Now, intellectually, I know there’s nothing wrong with this. I slipped in and out of college as my kids were born. I worked for a number of years in a job that allowed me to work from home from the time my youngest was born until he was in second grade. I’m not the oldest in my class by any means-there are a number of women who are re-entering the workforce after staying home with their kids, and many more who are switching careers like I am.
I have three beautiful, fun, well-mannered, well-rounded children. I’m celebrating my 12th wedding anniversary this year. We own our home, and while money is tight the fact that I’m working sporadically while going back to school isn’t killing us financially. All in all, I’m in a good place in life. And yet part of me feels like I have something to be ashamed of, and that, I think, is due largely in part to the way I feel I should measure my success.
At this point, I feel like I should be as financially sound as my friends without children, as well-educated as those that spent their twenties getting doctorate degrees and MDs, my house should be as clean and organized and decorated as Home and Garden, I should be as crafty as all those moms out there that actually have…well…talent (because God knows my daughter sure didn’t get her crafting skills from me) and as engaged in my kids’ classrooms and education and activities as moms who have one child they’ve been at home with since the day they were born.
And I wonder why I’m stressed.
Right now, I need to take a step back and think, really think, about what success means-and make it personal to ME, not to anyone around me. For me, right now, success means doing well enough in nursing school that I pass my licensing exam and have no trouble being accepted into a bachelor’s and, eventually, nurse practitioner program. It means keeping the house clean enough and organized enough that I’m a raging, raving mess by the end of the week. (I learned last semester that a messy house and an empty fridge really stress me out. You don’t even know.)
It’s having time every night to sit down and eat dinner with my family, and being able to watch an episode of something on TV and tuck my kids in at night. It’s taking Princess C to dance and going to Open House at the elementary and high school on Open House night. It’s seeing the boys do well, and mastering homeschooling to the point where Princess C both enjoys herself and learns at the level I know she’s capable of. It’s saving up enough money to take a vacation someplace besides our parents’ houses, and maybe actually get that rickety garage pulled down sometime before Mother Nature does the job for me.
These are my goals, and they’re the ones I need to use to measure my success-not anyone else’s. It’s past time I stop expecting myself to be perfect and start expecting myself to be me.