For the first several years of my adulthood, I was a stay-at-home mother. I had been raised Mormon, and I felt it was very important to stay home with my children. However, as much as I adored my children and the time I spent with them, I was also isolated, frustrated, and a little bored. I decided to go to graduate school when my children were very young. It was 1996 when I made my decision to start school the next year: I planned to apply in 1997 for the 1998 school year. In the spring of 1997, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with my third child. Graduate school was postponed, but only for one year.
I had three very young children (5, 2, and 1), and I was unhappy both with my own identity as a stay-at-home mother and as person. I was the most unhappy about my community (or lack thereof) of friends; my relationships were limited, at that time, to the community my geographical location (a small town in Northern Missouri) offered me. I was surrounded by mothers who were more interested in scrap-booking, cleaning their houses, and decorating than I was. I also had concerns (in hindsight, correctly so) about being completely financially dependent on my husband. I had a BA in creative writing, but what would I do if my marriage fell apart or something happened to my husband? How would I support three children?
Indeed, while I was in graduate school, my marriage began falling apart in earnest. My ex-husband had worried that this would happen. However, I have never viewed graduate school as the thing that ruined my marriage. Graduate school saved me. I certainly would not have been able to leave my husband and then support myself and three very young children if I had not gone to graduate school. Attending graduate school, while I was still in that marriage, certainly made the difficult years that followed easier than they would have been if I had been starting my newly single life without that graduate education.
I was fortunate that while I was in graduate school, I both attended and taught classes only twice a week. That was one of the perks of being married to a professor, and to having small children: I insisted that I be given a schedule that would give me maximum time at home with my children. When I left my husband at the end of January, right before my last semester of graduate school started, I moved in with a grad school friend who had two young daughters. She had been making a three-hour per day commute from Iowa, and it was easier for her and for me to share a rental house, costs, and childcare responsibilities while we finished our degrees.