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by Kenia Cueto

Planning for the Unexpected Via an Education

Life is an unpredictable journey with a dose of unexpected curve balls at every corner. It is no wonder many moms find it difficult to return to college strapped with the multifaceted duties of home and work.

Most moms take on their role as parent and family supporter with pleasure and humility, leaving behind their personal needs. Raising their families comes first while their personal goals are set on the back burner. Instinctively, the thought of change or returning to college doesn’t cross their minds until the unexpected happens. Planning on starting an education shouldn’t take place during a life-changing event but, rather, planned strategically as a long-term goal.

Three Phases of Motherhood

When a young woman becomes a mom, she plans her life according to her new family. For most women, the transition into the three phases of motherhood comes naturally. The first phase of motherhood is somewhat of a rite of passage as she embraces adulthood and is forced to mature at a more rapid pace. The new assignments she takes on involve essential steps, which are the foundation for her family formation.

As years transpire, during the second phase, she finds that the ability to complete tasks and plan projects become second nature. What was once a scary or unfamiliar chore is completed without a sweat. Her family and those around her begin to rely on her expertise, her ability to multitask and her worldly experiences. In the third phase, the role of a “mom” exudes assurance, emanates power and the title “mom” is taken on with pride as she sees her family flourish.

Self-Awareness is Crucial

Attaining self-awareness of personal future needs during these three phases of life can prove to be a challenge. Moms find creative ways to balance family but tend to lose focus on planning for their personal future stability.

The strength moms possess are potential assets that can be utilized in the workplace should she return. Multitasking, organizational skills, time management and the willingness to get work done are amazing strengths moms can transfer into a work environment. Skills alone, however, are not sufficient without a degree in hand. Therefore, creating an academic plan based on the strengths one possesses can minimize many years of guessing. For example, if a mom finds joy in volunteering for her child’s school yearbook, she may want to look into a career in graphic design, journalism, communications, photography or marketing. A volunteer mom who spends most of her time volunteering in the school office may find pleasure in majoring in administration, education or counseling. Double dipping is a great way to utilize time wisely. Finding a degree that can benefit both at home and in the workplace will allow moms to feel less guilt or apprehension when investing time on herself.

The corporate world places little to no value on the time moms spend raising their children, fundraising or volunteering. Stay-at-home moms who return to the work-force struggle to be recognized as the competent, organized, strong women they have become. The devaluation of a stay-athome mom may not seem harsh during the healthy periods of life, however, the effects are felt when times get tough.

During a sudden life change, the mom must be prepared to take on the role of the breadwinner. Self-assessment at every phase in a mom’s life should take place with serious thought of what may occur in future years.

Where to Start When There is Fear & Anxiety

In recent years, women’s traditional roles as wives and mothers have been challenged. Educational opportunities for women are expanded as an increasing number of women are entering professional occupations.

With the advent of the internet and multimedia, college and university information is easily obtained. The online format for the non-traditional student was created predominately for the adult learner (moms) and their busy lifestyle. Online learning also created a more comforting format for the returning adult learner, as they no longer are required to feel the fear and anxiety of attending class with their younger counterparts or feel the pressures of matching their academic skills. According to Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest college student loan company, students 22 and older make up 58% of the college population. The choice to select online versus traditional format has been growing in leaps and bounds giving moms the opportunity to achieve their academic goals.

Due to the growing influx of returning adult students, the reputation of online schools no longer carry a negative connotation as its status has changed. Large universities, public and private, for-profit and nonprofit, have embraced these learning styles. Finding the proper, regionally accredited colleges, which assist and guide the non-traditional student toward success, is crucial. If needed, the moms must be willing to invest time in registering for foundational courses that will allow them to build self-esteem and prepare for more demanding course work. Finding a support system at home and with other similar students will also enhance scholastic performance. Fear and anxiety are normal feelings that can hinder academic success or propel the student to their final destination.

Mothers are their children’s first teacher therefore, her child will continue to learn as she steps into the academic world to become a leader and a living example of what a dedicated, focused and goal oriented student should aspire to become.

Kenia Cueto
Profession Education & Career

Kenia is an Education Counselor/Recruiter at Vanguard University of Southern California, School for Professional Studies. Read more about Kenia here.

by Liana Wong

Tell us a little big about yourself and your family.

I am a 35, almost 36, year old lawyer. I have been married for 12 years and we have 4 children; 4-year-old triplets, one boy and two identical girls, and a younger child. We call her Baby, but her name is Penelope.

What were your initial feelings when you found out you were pregnant with triplets?

I actually laughed really hard when we found out. We had spent three years trying to get pregnant, fertility treatments and things like that. For us to end up being pregnant with three was ironic and funny. My husband, on the other hand, probably did not speak for two hours after we found out. It was a little more shocking for him. First, we were told we were having twins and the next week they found a third one. We were scared they would find another one.

Did you take a maternity leave?

If so, how long? With the triplets, I had a very conservative doctor. She was a highrisk doctor that specialized in working with mothers of multiples where she places all of her patients on what she calls “home rest” at 16 weeks. So she basically told me that I had to be at home starting at 16 weeks and I needed to be upright, either sitting or walking or standing no more than 4 hours a day. Based on that, there was no way that I could get up and drive to work and drive home without having to lay down the rest of the time.

However, I was very lucky that I was an associate attorney back then and that my firm was great. They set me up with wireless internet at the house with a printer, computer, phone line and everything else. I was able to stay home reclining in my recliner and work as if I was in the office, which was just what I wanted to do. Then when I was 23 weeks pregnant, I went into preterm labor and was hospitalized for the rest of the pregnancy. I did some work from the hospital. My firm was very supportive. I could either work or not work but I wanted to do something. So I worked from the hospital, not much, but as much as I could for the next 7 weeks. Then I had my children and went to work part-time after 8 weeks and full-time 4 weeks later.

With my youngest daughter, since it was just one baby, we thought I was going to have a normal pregnancy. But I went into preterm labor again at 28 weeks with her and I was put on home rest again. I was lucky to stay at home instead of the hospital, especially since I had three other kids at the house. I worked from home with the same set up I used with the triplets for 11 weeks until I delivered her full term. I took a maternity leave with her but by then, I was a lot busier at work than I had been the first time. So I did some work from home during my maternity leave.

How did life adjust for you after having kids?

I think I just have a new work schedule now. Before I had kids, I was an early bird and I worked early. My husband also had a pretty demanding job. We just stayed in the office until we were done and then go home. With kids, I would like to be able to see them and so I would often get up in the mornings and send a few emails from home. Then I would get ready and get the kids up and dressed and sit down with them for breakfast and then go to work later than usual.

Dinner with my family is important to me. I go home for dinner with the kids and we read and I put them to bed. Usually after that, I fire up the computer and do some work. But I have the flexibility to work it out so I can see the kids for the times that are important to me.

Now that you’re working as a full-time attorney, how do you find balance between work and family?

I think that I work on balance everyday and each day is a different type of balance than the day before. I know there are some people that say, “I will work these hours and spend these hours with my children everyday,” but I feel like that does not work for my career and me. On any given day, I say, “Here’s what I have on my schedule for work today and here’s what my children have on their schedules,” and just decide what I need to do.

Sometimes I wake up and I would have a sick kid that needs to go to the doctor or sometimes I have work that comes up and I can’t make it home in time to have dinner with the kids. I feel like I don’t have this overall balance that works for me everyday. I’m finding a different balance each day and that works for my family and me.

Tell us about your blog and what encouraged you to start blogging?

The way it started was when I was placed on bed rest at the hospital. I would send updates to people on a weekly basis through email just to let them know what is going on with me and the kids and how things were moving along. After the kids were born, there were lots of people who still wanted updates on the kids and

how they were doing. But there were also people who I felt I was pushing things on them by sending all these emails. This was why I started the blog. It was mostly just to give updates on the kids so I wasn’t forcing my emails on them and they can just go on the blog and read or not if they didn’t want to. And it just kind of took off from there.

I don’t have baby books for the kids and I feel like the blog is each of their baby books. I posted stats from their appointments, pictures of them, things that they’re saying and doing. It’s really gone from something to update everyone else to being a way for me to record our daily lives; like what we do and what our kids are like and what they look like right now. Once a year I have the blog printed into a book so I have all the pictures and stories and posts in a coffee table type book. That way I can just keep it and have it and I hope one day the kids will love me for it.

What top advice would you share with a woman expecting multiples?

I would say to listen to your body and try to put aside all the other demands of life so you can just focus on those babies. I think it’s very hard for a lot of us, especially career women, to do this because they are usually driven and have a lot of goals and things they want to do. However, when you’re having twins or higher order multiples, it is a very stressful and hard pregnancy. Some people do great, but I did not. It is important to listen to your body and remember that it is a temporary state of being. Your job is to do whatever you can to keep those babies safe and you can worry about yourself and everything else later.

Could you share with us one thing that may surprise people who know you?

Well, it’s not such a big surprise to people who know me but I am a huge fan of modern country music. Never thought I’d say that about myself but sometimes I start listening to country music and I love it.

Anything else you would like to share that we missed?

Another mom once said to me that really stood out in my mind was that sometimes she feels like she’s a great mom and sometimes she feels like she’s great at her job. I think that’s just the constant flux when you’re balancing the demands of your career versus the children and feel as though you’re not doing everything that you need to be doing in one of those areas of your life. It’s important to remember the ebb and flow in getting your job done and taking care of your family. Don’t get too wrapped up in the daily balancing act. In the end, it all works out.