Forget the guilt. Be present. And most of all, model a healthy life balance for your children. These are among the suggestions student mothers have for parents (or prospective parents) considering pursuing graduate medical degrees at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS).
We talked to four mothers of children under the age of 13 who are in the Doctor of Chiropractic, Acupuncture and/or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine programs at NUHS to find out how they are managing the demands of a rigorous medical education with the responsibilities of young children. They shared their experiences and advice for moms who aren’t sure if they can “do it all” (hint: they said you can!).
1. Be Sure It’s What You Want
The student moms say it’s important to know where you want to be at the end, even if the path getting there changes along the way.
“I want to be a chiropractor who shows we have a place in the medical world,” said Sarah Montesa, mother of a five-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. “I felt that NUHS would help me do that.” She considered other schools but said that “NUHS admissions counselors talked about competency, while other schools talked more about their campus.”
Jasmine Morris is more philosophical. “If your dream is to complete school, then apply. Help will come as soon as you take the first step!” advised the naturopathic student. The steps to what she calls her “passion and purpose in life” took turns through serving as an Air Force captain specializing in nuclear weapons and beginning a masters in health care administration program. “I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was three,” said the wife and mother of three children ages 12, 10 and eight. But it wasn’t until she saw a documentary at church that mentioned naturopathic medicine that she found what she was seeking. “I had started changing my diet and was looking into healthy living, but hadn’t even heard of naturopathy until then,” she recalls. That moment changed her direction. She said when she attended National’s Student for a Day program, “I felt a sense of peace” and she knew it was the right place for her.
Naturopathic student Priscilla Jackson agrees that “when you want something, you find a way to manage.” When their family doctor recommended surgery for her toddler daughter, she sought a second opinion from a homeopathic doctor. “I saw how her health improved, and we started making our own lifestyle changes,” she says of her family. With a bachelor of science in industrial chemistry and an associate degree in podiatry, the Puerto Rico native moved from Costa Rica to Lombard, Ill., to join her sister who graduated from NUHS’ Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program, and her brother who is in the Massage Therapy program.
2. Ask What Your School Can Do to Help
All four of the moms chose NUHS’s Chiropractic Flexible Track option or Naturopathic Flexible Track Option that allow students to complete Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the curriculum in either a five- or six-term track instead of the standard four terms. Students slow down and take less credits per term, but the total number of credit hours remains the same, so there is no additional tuition expense.
“National had more flex options and non-traditional students like me,” explained naturopathic student Janice Joerges, mother of three children ages 10 and under. “It was important to me to be able to experience my kids’ lives,” she said. “I didn’t want to trade being a mother for being a student.” While she decided not to live on campus, seeing the playground equipment outside the Lombard campus’ student housing made her feel that she was not alone as a student parent. “Even the students who aren’t parents are supportive,” she exclaimed. “I feel loved and welcomed by them all. They accommodate my schedule for group projects, if I need to pick up my kids,” she explained, adding, “I never have to feel bad about taking care of my kids.”
Sarah Montesa agrees. “There is no shame in going at a slower pace so you can have a balanced life.” She said that she feels she is learning more by having the extra time and can take advantage of opportunities such as a clerkship at a Chicago hospital.
For Priscilla Jackson, having on-campus apartment-style housing for families helps her make efficient use of her time. “It helps just being able to walk back and forth from class to the apartment to grab a snack, take a nap and have more study time, since I don't have to take time to commute,” she noted.
Jasmine Morris added, “What kept me here are the professors. They applaud and encourage me, knowing I have children.”
3. Be “100% Present” at School and Home
Another area where the moms agree is that success in both school and parenting depends on being completely present. While Montesa said that she still feels a “guilt factor” about time spent away from her children for school commitments, “I try to make up for it by being as present as possible when I’m with them.” She seeks “experiences” that she can have with her kids to make their time together special.
Jasmine Morris says she goes into “Mommy and Wife Mode” when she is home and “Study Mode” when doing school work. “The hardest thing is the mental struggle feeling that I’m slighting them,” she admitted. “But my kids know I have a purpose and I’ve learned that it’s OK for me to be in this place.”
“I’m one hundred percent there for each,” Joerges explained, adding, “I’m a better student because I’m a mom and a better mom because I’m a student.” Priscilla Jackson echoes the sentiment. “Dinner time is our time, then play after dinner and bedtime stories,” she shared, admitting that she may fit in some studying when the kids play at the park.
All of the moms make use of the local public library by studying while their children attend library programs. “The kids have fun and I can study!” Joerges explained, but added, “Don’t forget time to just be you and have fun. It models a healthy attitude for your kids.”
4. Share Your Passion and Commitment with Your Kids
Morris’ children tell her, “Mommy, we know this is your dream.” She feels a sense of peace because, she explained, “My kids know I have a purpose.” They are also learning to be more independent. Her 10-year-old son enjoys cooking, and the oldest helps with the younger children.
One surprise for Janice Joerges was that she “didn’t expect how excited they are when I get home!” But when her daughter wanted to be a naturopathic doctor for Halloween, she knew they understood what she was working toward.
Sarah Montesa’s daughter says she wants to be a doctor like her mom, and both kids are proud of her and see that she is working hard and fulfilling her dream. Their mom is very clear about where she is going. “I foresee our life being a beautiful thing.”
Come visit National University of Health Sciences before August 31, 2019 to learn more about our programs and earn Double Tuition Credit!