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Mom Triumph: Going Back to School

Niccole Footit
mom of: Emma, 2, and Jack, 6 months
hometown: Omro, WI

Making the decision: When my husband lost his job last year, we sat down and had a serious talk about our family's future. I was a stay-at-home mom, but we decided that I should go back to school so I could further my job options with a degree.

What I'd like to pursue: I've decided that I want to be a photographer. I make a little money now by taking photos of friends, but eventually, I'd like to work for a newspaper or magazine, and that could be tough without any training.

Taking the plunge: Last September I enrolled at the nearby University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and I'm working toward a bachelor of fine arts. I was able to get financial aid (government grants and student loans), and my husband now has a full-time job with benefits  -- he works in morning radio  -- so we're able to handle it financially.

My course load: I'm full-time, taking four classes. I was afraid I'd have to reteach myself all the things I'd forgotten since high school, and that I'd have trouble fitting in with the rest of the students because I'm older. But so far so good.

How I handle childcare: I'm out of the house three mornings and two afternoons a week. My mother-in-law and my grand-mother take turns sitting in the mornings, and with my husband's early-shift schedule, he's home in the afternoons. It's ideal because he and the kids get one-on-one time together. Plus, I never get criticized for not taking care of household stuff. He's amazed that I get anything done, so I even get a little appreciation out of it!

Squeezing in schoolwork: I get a lot done after the kids' bedtime and sometimes before they get up in the morning. It can be tough balancing everything, but I know I'll be happy with the end result. I just have to keep in mind that it's worth it to be tired so that I'll be able to tell my kids how important college is, because I went myself.

What I love: I'm having so much fun learning new things and meeting other people with the same interests. I think we all need to get away sometimes, and this is really an outlet for me.

What I worry about: If my kids wonder why I'm not there for them when I'm at school. As they get older, I'll explain that I'm not only bettering myself but helping them in the long run. I hope they'll respect me for that.

Words of wisdom: Since I'm always switching back and forth between mom and student, I've learned to study as close to class time as possible. When I started, I was working too far in advance, which was counterproductive. I'd read something for class and then read a book to my daughter right after, so it was hard to retain the textbook info. Now I've got a good excuse to procrastinate!

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