I’ve Been a Stay-at-Home Mom for a Decade, But Now It’s My Time — & I'm Doing Something Big

I’m going to nursing school.

I’ve probably said or typed that sentence more than 100 times over the last few months, but it hasn’t quite started to feel completely real. It feels exhilarating, exciting, hopeful … and terrifying.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a decade. For ten full years, I’ve devoted most of my time and mental energy to my home and my children. While my husband built a strong, successful career that could sustain our family financially, I kept everything moving within our four walls.

He couldn’t have done it without me, and I couldn’t have done with without him. We did a really good job balancing the zillion things that had to be just right to make it all work.

I am proud of the work I chose for the first decade of my parenting life. You’ll never meet a person who wanted all this more than I did. Who wants all this more than I do.

In a world where women have millions of options, I actively decided to play a role that seems to some to be very old-fashioned and traditional. Maybe it is. I chose it, and I love it.

But my babies aren’t babies anymore. My youngest is 3. She will be in full-time preschool in a year, and then what?

I have no desire to be a full-time homemaker. That was never part of my dream. I do household stuff because I live here, and squalor makes me anxious. But I never really wanted to be a housewife. I just wanted to be home with my kids.

Soon, though, there won’t be any kids at home all day.

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So, what’s a stay-at-home mom to do?

Start a new career, apparently. At least, that’s what this one is doing.

A few months ago, I was in the car with my mom and my husband, and we drove past a college. I don’t even know what made me say it out loud, but I said, “Maybe I should go to nursing school. I always wanted to, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it.”

And just like that, I couldn’t un-ring the bell. Two of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders had heard me say I had an as-yet unfulfilled dream, and that simply would not do.

They launched a full-on inquisition, and I tried my best to answer all their questions.

My mother quickly assured me that she would have made sure I had all the money and support I needed to become a nurse when I graduated high school. My husband started raving about what an amazing nurse I would be, vowing to “rock it at home” so I could focus on schooling as soon as I wanted to start.

I reassured them that it wasn’t lack of support, but incorrect timing. When I was young and thinking about my path in life, I wanted a family more than a tough career. I was nervous to be a plus-size medical care provider. I wasn’t confident enough in my early twenties to do a hard thing.

But none of those things are true anymore. I have my beautiful family. I am fully confident in my ability to learn a hard thing — and to do it in a plus-size body. The barriers I had put around myself have been lifted by time and life experience.

Maybe now was the right time to do a new thing.

My husband pulled into a parking lot and started tapping away on his cell phone. Five minutes later, he said, “We have an appointment tomorrow morning with the admissions counselor.”

Within weeks, I was enrolled.

I am 38 years old. It’s a two-year program. I will be a 40-year-old baby RN. The same year my last baby starts kindergarten, I will start the second half of my life as a woman with a career outside my home.

My reasons for wanting to be a nurse are many.

I think it’s work I’m suited to doing. I’m compassionate and intelligent. I am passionate about the idea that everyone deserves adequate medical care, and I want to be a part of that.

I want to be more than a mom now. I don’t want to be a nurse instead of a mom, or become a nurse because being a mom wasn’t enough for me.

I want to be a nurse AND a mom, because being a stay-at-home-mom showed me how fulfilling it is when you take risks and follow your heart.

Watching my babies turn into big kids and start to become who they want to be has also shown me that it’s okay for your heart’s desires to change. Instead of being with them 24/7, I can want to spend some of my hours providing an additional full-time income for my family. My kids are starting to dream big dreams, and a new career can help make them happen.

And if I’m being honest, I just want something that is mine. Nursing allows me to lean into my strengths, learn something I have always wanted to know, contribute to society in a way that feels right to me, and open doors for myself in ways that I previously haven’t explored.

It all feels a little bonkers. I’m not going to lie. I haven’t darkened the doorway of a classroom in almost 20 years, and I’m just going to show up to Anatomy and Physiology on Day 1 and act like this a totally normal Monday for me? I’m really taking this, “New year, new me” thing to another level in 2023.

It feels a little … imposter-ish. But the school knows exactly who I am, and they’re willing to take me on and turn me into a nurse. I’m not a fraud — I’m just nervous.

Want to know the most bonkers part of this entire thing?

My dad is joining me as a nursing student. In two years, he will be a 61-year-old baby nurse. One dynamic duo, coming right up.

I used to say, “All I ever wanted was to be a mom.” That used to be true. As luck would have it, life handed me three terrific kids and allowed me to realize that dream.

Now all I want is to be a truly excellent mom. For me, that means showing my kids that it’s never too late to dream another dream, follow another path, and embrace something new.

That’s exactly what I intend to do.

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