The past two years have been the hardest two years of my life. When I say hard, I literally mean hard…physically and emotionally hard. The type of hard that can drive you crazy. The type of hard that keeps you so busy it can make you wonder if you are loosing your identity as a person. The type of hard that makes you want to warn all others who might be entering a similar situation to flee as fast as possible. I can’t complain too much about it because it was mostly self-inflicted. I had some input into the situation and maybe could have had some things work out differently but I made the choices I made for one simple reason: I love my wife.
It all started just almost four years ago. My wife had recently given birth to our third son, Luke, and we were talking about the future. Did we want to have a fourth child was seriously on our mind. At some point over the weeks we were talking, she made a decision. Three children were enough. I think for her that matched her family experience as she came from a family of three children. I was on board with her decision as well, except for the fact that now our family would have only five members, which for someone analytical like myself means that we would have an uneven number. Four or six is a much more logical number. For instance, whenever we ride a ride at an amusement park, someone would have to be a single. That bothered me.
One of the questions I had for her was what did she want to do once all three of our children were in school. I could see the look of concern on her face when she thought about the future. She was pretty sure she wanted to work somewhere and in the past has had several different types of positions but none of them were what you would call fulfilling. At some point in our discussion, she decided to share with me one of her dream jobs. “You know, something that I would love to do, is to be a nurse.” Great! I loved that idea. Go for it. She would be a great nurse. She is a really good mother and is wonderful at taking care of our special needs son. (Now, when I am sick she thinks I am a baby, so that attitude might need a little work.) Working as a nurse would give her a rewarding career, flexible schedule and good monetary income. Think about all the golf I could now play!
The first two years were relatively easy. She was working on her basics which required here to only take a couple of evening classes. Those evenings I would meet her as I was leaving work and she was heading to class. We would meet in the parking lot, exchange the children, give each other a kiss and head on head out. I’ve always enjoyed cooking so feeding the boys those nights was no bid deal. She did have to spend some time studying but all in all it was not that disruptive to our normal family routine.
At some point during those first two years, she was able to complete her CNA certification which would allow her to work as a nurse tech. We both agreed that it would be a good idea for her to find a part-time opportunity to use that certification. It would give us a little extra income but more importantly, it would give her some great experience. It was not long before she was able to acquire a position at the local hospital in the emergency department. It did not take long for her to fall in love with emergency medicine.
Year three was when reality set in. It was the beginning of her actual nursing classes. If you were to take a look at my transcript you would see that I have attended classes in some capacity at five different colleges or universities and have received three degrees. What she had to endure in nursing school was nothing like I had ever experienced. Classes four to five days a week with each one being four to eight hours long. Complicated projects, constant paperwork and wicked hard tests and on top of that trying to work one to two night shifts at the hospital each week. For a single person that would be a lot, but for a married mom of three, it is almost impossible.
So here I was, completely swamped. My days included getting the boys ready and to three different schools on time, taking conference calls on my drive in to work, some days leaving a little early to pick them all up from school, maybe stopping by the store, cooking dinner, completing homework and putting them in bed. I felt like a single parent. I’ll admit, I did not always handle it gracefully. There were times I complained and was grumpy. I know that she at times felt I was unsupportive. Many days it felt as if school or work was more important to her than her family. In a lot of ways I was doing the job of a mom and a dad and I know I was not good at it. I had feelings that I had never felt before and I did not like them.
It all came to a boiling point a little over a year ago. The reality of her words still sting. After all our years together the table had flipped. She revealed to me how she had also felt like a single parent many times over the years, specifically around the time our son was diagnosed with autism. She would spend hours in front of the computer researching and learning as much as she could for our son and I admit I did a terrible job helping her in that area. On top of that, while I was working on my masters degree, she was supporting me and taking care of our children. She can remember feeling that I loved school more than my family. Everything I was now feeling she had already experienced. Those words were completely devastating. If I had made her feel the way I was feeling, I had been the worst husband ever!
It was at that moment I had to change my attitude. Just as she had sacrificed in the past for me, it was my turn to sacrifice for her. If it was my turn to be a single parent, then that is what I would have to do. I began to remove responsibilities from her and take them on myself. In the past all school related matters she handled. Now, it was my turn to take care of the boys’ school related issues. I would be the one to take care of all the laundry. I even hired a cleaning service to clean the house. Many of the activities had done in the past I would have to stop as well. Even this morning, as I write this while eating pumpkin pie for breakfast, I really wanted to go deer hunting but it was more important for me to be here to watch the boys so she could sleep after working last night.
The good news is that for the past year, she has been just as busy but our relationship has been dramatically improved, all because I chose to truly support her in her quest to achieve her dream. I had to decided that whatever I wanted would have to wait because my desire for her to complete her dream was more important than my other desires.
The even better new is that she only has six months left until graduation. We are already planning a celebration.
I am so proud of her. She has accomplished so much. It has not been easy for her to put up with school, family and my insecurities but she has done it and now has the finish line within her sites.
If you are thinking about nursing school, be prepared for the challenge. If you are thinking about nursing school and you are married, please make sure your spouse is ready for the challenge. If you are married and you have children, proceed with all caution. My wife’s instructors warned her, if you are in nursing school, you will most likely lose your friends and if you are dating, you will be single when you are finished. My warning would be, if you are married, your spouse may have to hang on with both hands.