Perhaps your Mother’s Day to-do list looked a little like this:
▪ Get flowers.
▪ Prepare family brunch.
▪ Grab last-minute gift from the mall.
If you added pick up mortar board and gown, your mom might have been among the six mothers amid 682 graduates participating in Sunday’s commencement ceremony at the University of Puget Sound.
There’s no Logger hall of statistics to see if that’s a record, and it’s not the first time graduation fell on Mother’s Day. But UPS spokeswoman Shirley Skeel said it’s a growing trend worth saluting.
“I’m not sure it’s so unusual any more,” Skeel said. “I suspect more mothers are going for second careers and the second income never hurts. It’s great to have some older students on campus. The younger students learn from them and vice versa.”
Cathy Tollefson has first-hand experience sharing the journey. The 55-year-old mother of two is one class shy of completing coursework for a master’s in education. Her daughter, Olivia Michaelson, graduated Sunday with a bachelor’s in psychology.
They didn’t study together, but occasionally would turn to each other for support, like when Tollefson needed help deciphering Excel spreadsheets for her statistics class.
“It was pretty overwhelming,” Tollefson said. “Olivia had already had that experience in her undergraduate classes, so she was able to help me. It was like, ‘Oh, good,’ this (college expense) is finally paying off.”
Although Tollefson, an associate editor of Arches, the school’s alumni magazine, could have joined her daughter in the student procession, she decided to opt out having already had that experience.
“Technically, I could have walked, but I didn’t want take the day away from Olivia. I figured it was her time to shine.”
Michaelson said she values her mom’s accomplishments as much as her own.
“I think I’m more proud of her, which sounds kind of strange because its been a long four years,” Michaelson said. “But she has done so much to get here. She works full time. She’s been doing internships and working with hospice on top of everything else. She’s been a wonderful mom. I’m just so happy to have her here so we can share the day.”
Another graduating mom, Nora Seimears, 36, also had her daughter nearby. Hiding between her legs actually. Clara was 8 months old when Seimears began studying for a master’s in occupational therapy about 2 years ago.
“It was hard having a daughter and going to school at the same time,” Seimears said. “The first semester, I didn’t know if could make it. I cried every night. It was hard not seeing her all day.”
But gradually, with her husband’s support, she settled into a routine. And Clara adjusted as well.
By the second year, Seimears said, there was less separation anxiety.
“She would say, ‘Momma go study, but momma come back, right?’ ” Seimears said.
When asked what she would advise mothers considering a similar path, Seimears thought for a moment, then smiled as she watched Clara dive into her snack bag.
“It’s not easy. It’s very challenging. But in the end, you’ll be glad you did it,” she said.
Drew Perine: @we3perines