“It’s never too late.” I’d heard it, I’d said it, but it took a while for me to believe it. It seemed too late for me to change careers. I had two small kids already. My oldest was 3 and my baby was 9 months when I first considered abandoning a teaching career to pursue nursing. I’d have to go back to school just to take the pre-requisite courses before I could apply to nursing school. How long would that take? How much would it cost? How would we adjust when I’d been the one available for the kids since I had the “family friendly” career? Would it be worth the hassle?
I tried to push the idea out. We had a great life, so why upset that balance? I could be happy teaching. Plus, I had no idea what it was like to be a nurse. What if I went through all of this only to realize nursing wasn’t for me? If I went back to school, how much would student loans set us back from our financial goals? For a few months, the uncertainty was enough to help me appreciate familiarity and continue teaching, but it didn’t last long. Something was nagging me to take the risk and give nursing a try. It had been twelve years since I was a college freshman. Making the decision to start over was daunting, but I knew that as scary as it was at 30, it would be even scarier to be 45 or 60 wondering what could have been.
My husband was supportive, assuring me that we could make things work. I felt guilty about what it would mean for my kids. I would have to miss field trips, and I’d be doing my own homework in the evenings. What about our future kids? We couldn’t expand our family while I was in nursing school. Putting the pressure on my whole family because I wanted to do something seemed selfish, but I knew it was necessary.
I took pre-requisite courses online and at night. I left teaching high school and took a position teaching preschool. During naptime, I did coursework for my pre-reqs. With no take-home work like grading and lesson planning, I was free in the evenings to study and explore new hobbies and interests like flipping furniture, running, and dancing. I was already coming out of my rut as I remembered that I brought value to this world outside of my role as a mother. Excelling in my nursing pre-reqs further empowered me. Being challenged and exercising a different part of my brain was exciting. I was renewed and invigorated.
When I finished my nursing pre-reqs, I applied to an accelerated BSN program. It would be fast-paced with almost no breaks, but I could earn my degree in almost half the time at half the cost. After a rigorous application process, I was accepted. I am now almost finished my first semester. It’s been an unforgettable experience. People always say, “If I could go back” as they fondly remember “the good, old days.” I get a second chance to do it! I get to go back to college, eat in the cafeteria, and have late-night study sessions at the library. I can appreciate these things now. I have a group of friends, and we lean on each other. Most of us left former careers and are starting over. Several of us have kids. We know what it’s like to feel stuck and do the soul-searching. We know how scary it is to leave stability and routine, and we support each other.
Roles have changed at home. My husband and I have shifted the balance of household chores and childrearing. When I have a lot to study, he does everything to keep the house running. There are nights when the dishes pile up because we’re both busy with school or work. We’ve all learned to prioritize, become more organized, and appreciate the time we have with each other.
There are nights when I don’t get to tuck my kids in. The first time this happened, I cried with one of my new friends in the library while we studied. We’ve had to lean on family a lot. There are days when my parents or in-laws graciously step in for us. It really is going great though, and my kids have demonstrated remarkable resilience. Whenever I doubt my decision, I remember that the same courage that led me to this path will carry me through it. I was made ready for this experience at this point in my life, and I feel more prepared than ever to give my best as a mom, wife, teacher, student, and in May 2020, nurse.
Alyson lives in Metairie with her husband, Patrick, their 6 and 3 year-old boys, and their Morkie, Beignet. After teaching for almost ten years, she left a career in education and is now a full-time nursing student. In her hypothetical free time, Alyson would enjoy flipping furniture, writing, and dancing. She is always looking for a racquetball partner and loves streetcar rides and playing board games with her family. A good cook, she is constantly on a quest to answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” but has thus far been unsuccessful.