Jennifer's Personal Notes

Balancing Family and Training

My semester has ended, which is good because so many things on the website have been neglected during this round of classes.  For those who are new to the blog, I’ve just completed my second year in a PhD Program in Nursing.  The second year is a bit more intense.  In addition to classes I have the expectation that I will have a grant submitted for my dissertation research and my dissertation proposal accepted this summer.  I’m progressing well on both fronts, so no worries.  But I wanted to share a few reflections for those who have not yet begun their training.

One of the reasons I frequently hear individuals putting off training in midwifery is the belief that balancing family and training will be easier once the children are older.  I believed this too, until this past year when I finished a year of school with two teenagers. I can honestly tell you it was not as easy as balancing nursing school with two elementary aged children.  Why?

In elementary school I set the schedule because the options for the children were limited.  They wanted to play with neighbors, attend the infrequent movie nights and activities in school, and the school band/orchestra only had two concerts per year.  The children in the church had activities during Sunday service times. My children did not hold leadership positions anywhere.

But now my children have their own goals because they are aware of more opportunities.  Scouting is no longer just one night a week, instead there are monthly camp-outs and extra meetings for the youth leaders.  Playing an instrument involves the district honor band with weekly rehearsal and three performances each year; or the marching band with multiple after school practices and weekend game performances.  The larger schools mean friends are not limited to the neighborhood, and hanging out with friends involves rides to malls, movies, or other venues. The church youth group meets one evening a week — and adds additional activities on weekends.

All of this means either I or my husband must drive my children somewhere almost every day.  To accomplish all the goals of all the people who live in this household, I must plan that my schooling is essentially a job with very specific hours of work.

Your family situation may be different, but it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention that this seems to be the norm among the families I know with teen age children.  There is relief when one of the children begins to drive because the workload is distributed.

When my children were in elementary school I used to shake my head at the families that ate in the car on the way to softball practice; or would go from dance class straight to chess club in the evening. I used to think I could prevent my family from becoming that busy, but the reality is limiting it didn’t fit with who I was as a parent.  I want my children to set goals and try new things, to not be afraid of being committed to something. The difference is that when children are teenagers, that commitment to any group, organization, or team is a bigger time commitment than what it was in elementary school.


We have an early dinner together as a family 5-6 nights a week, and generally have only one place to go three to four nights a week. I know there are families that are busier, and other families do less. How your family balances it will depend on the number of children you have, differences in ages, and differences in their interests.

My point is, if you are putting off your training because you believe the logistics of being in school with a family is easier with teens, you might want to reconsider your assumptions.


Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)