New Babies, New Beginnings: Getting a Degree in the Midst of Motherhood

Life is full of changes, challenges, and new beginnings. Nancy Vanderbilt (’21 grad) experienced a pivotal moment that altered the course of her life when her twins were born.

By: Lainey Nielsen & Jake Hreha

Life is full of changes, challenges, and new beginnings. Nancy Vanderbilt (’21 grad) experienced a pivotal moment that altered the course of her life when her twins were born. While Vanderbilt and her husband were eager for the arrival of their twins, they were not expecting them to be born five weeks premature. Vanderbilt and both babies made it through the delivery process safely, but the twins needed to spend the next several weeks in the NICU to be observed.

“The nurses and the staff there were incredible,” Vanderbilt says. “It meant a lot to us to see someone caring about our babies in that way.” The love and care these nurses displayed during one of the scariest moments of Nancy’s life inspired her to pursue a new career in nursing.

Being a Student and a Mom

Vanderbilt previously had worked as a legal assistant, but after her experience with her twins, she felt led to go back to school to become a registered nurse. “I love taking care of people,” Vanderbilt explains. “My experience with the twins opened my eyes to the idea of becoming a nurse and getting to care for people on a daily basis.”

Over the next few years, Vanderbilt became a college student again and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and became a certified registered nurse. In pursuit of becoming a nurse practitioner, she chose the IWU-National & Global Master of Science in Nursing Program to help her achieve her goals.

“I was looking for a program that had a focus on Christ,” recalls Vanderbilt. “I looked at IWU’s curriculum and absolutely fell in love with it. What I’m doing as a nurse is more than just the physical process of taking care of a person. There’s a spiritual aspect to it, too.” It was important to Vanderbilt to find a source for higher education that not only prioritized professional growth but spiritual growth as well. She knew attending college at a Christian university would equip her to care for patients on a deeper level.

A Program That Works for Student Mothers and Student Parents

During her time in the master’s program, Vanderbilt continued to work full-time while also balancing her role as a mom. “It was awesome for my kids to see me push through,” she says. Vanderbilt was able to set an example for her children by stepping out in faith and pursuing her goal. Despite the challenges, she worked hard, persevered, and never gave up on her passion. After graduating from IWU’s MSN program, she is now a Surgical First Assist Nurse Practitioner.

“There were times where I wanted to just let it go, especially when I was in classes and clinicals,” Vanderbilt remembers. “It was tough. There were some late nights, crazy times, and I may have missed out on a few things – but it was very well worth it.”

Student moms shouldn't feel guilty or give up on pursuing a degree. A student mom is capable of spending quality time with her family and spending time on her education. Moms who are undergraduate students, masters students, or pursing another type of degree have the opportunity to be a healthy mom and a healthy student.

There are challenges that come with being a student and a mom such as how to handle child care, what to do when a family member is sick, or how all the household chores will get done. That's why there are programs in place that fit with your schedule. Child rearing isn't easy so it is important to find a program that prioritizes the well-being of you as a mother, encourages your professional pursuits, and boosts your self esteem.

Caring for your family members and being a good mother is the goal of many moms. While it's impossible to be the perfect mom we often strive to be more than just a good parent. One of the best ways to be there for our children is to set an example. As your child grows they notice what you do and how you live your life. How you like to spend your alone time, how you act compared to other moms, how you handle other challenges, and more. Our children notice how we behave and what we do, so pursuing a degree as a mother shows your children that facing challenges is a good thing and we can pursue growth despite those challenges.

Are you feeling called to something different? If you have a passion, we want to help you achieve your goal. Our programs are flexible with your schedule – which means you can balance your education with your current commitments and responsibilities. Check out our programs here.

Lainey Nielsen

Copywriting Assistant, IWU-National and Global

Lainey Nielsen is currently a Senior at IWU studying Strategic Communication and Business Administration. She is passionate about storytelling and building connections with others. Lainey enjoys being outdoors, exploring local coffee shops, and spending time with family and friends.

Jake Hreha

SEO Copywriter, IWU

Jake Hreha is a graduate of Ball State University, where he majored in advertising with a concentration in media presentation and design. He is passionate about design, and in his free time he enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading.

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