Part-time architect, full-time mom
You can call me Emily. I am also known as wife, daughter, sister, niece, and granddaughter. Additionally, one of my favorites is accepting the label of “Mom” from my own three children and any one of the 80+ students in my cohort who so choose at the Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning (CAP).
Being a nontraditional student may not be for the faint of heart. It requires much support and encouragement from those who love you the most. For me, that is my husband and children. After graduating from high school 16 years prior, I still had fond memories of the year I had completed at CAP, and I had never forgotten about it. Though I was completely grateful for the gifts I had been given, including some of which were marriage, children and a successful direct sales business, I found myself feeling unsettled and longing for something that could fill that creative and academic piece for which I longed.
When I say it was perfect timing for me to return to school, I truly mean it. From the outside, it might have looked like a terrible time to fulfill the remaining four years of the 5-year accredited degree I was coveting. My children were 10, 8, and 6 years old. My husband had a busy teaching career with upper level biology students, outside trainings, was about to start his own classes, and was a two-season varsity coach. My family depended on my financial contribution from my home-based business. But from the inside, everything was working out to make it doable. My youngest was going to be starting 1st grade. CAP informed me that all my credits were still viable, and I could basically start back up, right where I had left off so many years before. Some medical issues were being resolved and soon, my husband was going to be getting a raise in the form of a new job, which required a move.
Now, two years after returning to school, I look back at what has been completed and remain grateful. Much was required of myself and my family to make it possible for me to complete the second and third years of the program. The curriculum requires that I drive from Fort Wayne to Muncie, Indiana 5 days a week. Over the last two years I have taken a couple night classes in order to fulfill requirements which kept me from home until as late as 11:30pm, assuming the drive was seamless. I have driven through every sort of weather to make it to class, including several icy journeys home that turned the normally 75-minute drive into one that was 2.5 hours. I rarely did anything besides study and projects on the weekends.
I do not say all this to draw attention to what “I have accomplished and overcome” in any way. Moreover, I am hoping to be transparent about just how involved and cumbersome it is to be a working parent and spouse while pursuing a degree. I am being honest. If you want to do this, it will be difficult. It will result in missing family functions, much less sleep and sparse unhindered time with your children. However, the good news is you can still do it. You can do difficult things. You can accomplish much in the face of challenges. You can make short term sacrifices for long-term gain.
My family and the Lord are the ones to get the credit for anything successful over the last couple of years. I went from the wife and mom who did all domestic activities around the home, primary caregiver of the children and rarely missed a school function, to a full-time student doing none of my former duties. My husband and kids have band together to complete all household cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and, yes, even cooking! In order to complete all the required course work and spend any spare moment I could manage to create with my family, I had to give up on all other things that were not important to the goals.
It truly has been a pleasure and I find many silver linings in this atypical path. It never fails to amaze me that the moment I am in studio and really start to miss my kids more than ever, a fellow student will come up and ask me something one of my children would, such as “does my head feel warm to you,” “do you have any Tylenol,” or “should I see a doctor for this rash?” My efforts to advise are often followed with gratitude from the student in the form of a smile and a “thanks, Mom.” I have even been rewarded with “you’re the best mom ever!” upon showing up with treats for my section. Do not worry. I took that with a grain of salt. I have listened to roommate and relationship issues, talked about faith journeys and more, with those in studio. These are opportunities I treasure and know are far more important than the paper I could be writing instead of lending an ear to their challenges.
Today, my day-to-day schedule looks completely different than it did two years ago. I work full time as an Intern at Elevatus Architecture during the summers and as many hours as possible, which is not many, during the school year. I have appreciated the generous and flexible support from my bosses and colleagues as I navigate the traitorous water of this crazy life. I have learned so much on the job and am always encouraged to ask questions and get involved in the process for full understanding. Though I immensely look forward to graduating in May of 2021, I will continue to take advantage of all the little nuances of being a non-traditional student as I gather additional life experiences and share those already gleaned with those around me. We all have busyness and chaos of some kind. The goal is to make positive things happen as the excitement takes us to new people and places.
Mom (aka Emily Hower)