Moms Like Us Spotlight: Liz

Name: Liz Wallace Tabak                                                 Liz Tabak 2015

Age: 46

Number of Children: 2

Marital Status: Married

College: Rose State College, Midwest City, Oklahoma. I am a dual psychology and women’s studies major.

Dream Job/ Career Goals (Or current career if you are finished with college): Earn my doctorate in psychology and work as a clinical psychologist with a specific focus on women. As an abuse survivor myself, I want to reach out to other women and let them know that it’s possible to reclaim their lives and their unique selves after abuse.

Why did you decide to go (back) to school? My husband’s social worker gave me a prescription to do something just for myself. I had planned on returning to college and the workforce after the birth of my daughter, but not long after that my son was diagnosed with a neurological disorder and two years after that my daughter was diagnosed with autism and later with a learning disability. Because we live in a rural community, the resources for disabled children aren’t as plentiful so I needed to be much more involved in their lives to make sure they received the best education and social development possible. During this time my husband became disabled due to his Air Force service, he was also diagnosed with PTSD and I became his primary caretaker. About two years ago my husband’s social worker saw that I was in severe burnout and suffering from depression and she gave me a prescription to do something for myself. Being a mom, I wanted to do something that would have long-lasting benefits for my family so I chose to return to school. 

Liz, Chris, and Kat TabakWhat is your biggest fear in terms of college? That my brain has rotted in the time I was away from college!! That I won’t be able to keep up with my younger classmates or even my older ones with better support systems. My kids, Christian 22, and Kat 21, are incredible as far as support and making sure the house runs smoothly so I can do schoolwork. But my life is incredibly busy, not only with my husband but with our ranch and now with two children in college. Our family including parents, siblings, and cousins are miles away on the West Coast and I never really had time to cultivate a real support system in our adopted state. Thankfully through school I have begun to develop a network of friends!

Do you associate with students who aren’t mothers? If so, how do you feel around them? The majority of my college friends are mothers but I certainly do associate with students who aren’t mothers. I am Chapter President for Alpha Eta Alpha, Rose State College’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter and quite a few members and two of my fellow officers are not mothers. Aside from that, I don’t think I’ve ever met a stranger and I’m pretty chatty so I’m interested in what’s going on in my classmates’ lives and they are interested in mine including my perspective as a mom. My son and daughter attend the same college I do, it’s a small campus and we are fairly active presence on campus. I think it gives my childless friends a chance to see another aspect of motherhood – that even when kids are grown, there still are some pretty awesome bonds and ways that parents and children can enrich their relationships.

Liz Tabak and FranciscaWhat inspires/motivates you? I think every mom is inspired and motivated by her children. Even though my children are older, I want to continue to be an example to them and show them that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. My service in Phi Theta Kappa has connected me with so many incredible women, the majority of them mothers, who show by their own example that it is possible to balance motherhood, college, and other responsibilities. My two dearest friends provide daily inspiration and encouragement.  My Alpha Eta Alpha teammate Francisca, who serves as Executive Vice President is a constant inspiration to me as she balances her “first job” – being a wife and mother, with her “second job” – working full time, and still finding time to be an A student and very active in the community! I am also awed by Cayli, a single working mom to two young children who continuously reaches out to support other student mothers and still manages to stay on top of her studies. 

Tell me a little bit of your story: I initially chose to be a fully online student when I returned to college, so that I could fit my coursework into my schedule; this has worked incredibly well for me. It does take a certain level of motivation to keep up with online classes but it is a wonderful option for moms who can’t make it to on-site classes. I also have lymphedema, a condition in which my lymphatic system does not work properly. In my case that manifests in my lymphatic system not draining properly, and the buildup of lymphatic fluid in my legs and abdomen, and to a lesser extent in my arms and face. Some days are better than others, but that was also definitely a consideration when choosing which classes might be better for me.

I returned to school as a sociology major but I enrolled a few days before classes began and the pickings were slim so my advisor put me in classes that still had some room. One of those classes was Introduction to Psychology, a requirement for my degree. My psychology professor was amazing and encouraging, she made psychology applicable to my daily life and she had faith that I could complete this journey. I surprised myself by finishing my first semester with a 4.0 grade point average. Thanks to my grades, I received an invitation to Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges; I accepted the invitation just to prove to myself that it wasn’t a hoax! Becoming a part of Alpha Eta Alpha, my college’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, has changed my life immensely. Chapter activity revolves around four hallmarks: Leadership, Scholarship, Service, and Fellowship, so the majority of our activities focus on enriching the college and surrounding community. As I became involved in the chapter, I also ran for offices within the chapter, first as Vice President of Scholarship, then as Executive Vice President, and now I am serving as Chapter President for the 2015-2016 school year. My son also serves as an officer in Phi Theta Kappa and my daughter has just begun her college journey and is working towards her invitation too. It is amazing to think that the simple act of returning to college has so radically changed my life for the better. The skills and confidence I have gained both as a student and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa have given me hope that I truly can achieve my dreams.

Favorite inspirational quote? “One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.”  ~ Albert Schweitzer 
Liz Tabak EWI award 12 May 2015

Any advice for other mothers thinking about going or returning to college? There will be challenges – really big challenges – but you can do this! Reach out to your college community and you will be surprised at how much support you may find. My school, Rose State College, has been instrumental in my college success, so many members of the faculty and administration have reached out to me and encouraged me, helped me to find my path, and opened doors for me. Reach out to your professors and campus faculty and make connections, they will often serve as your lifelines in tough times.

I would be lying if I said my school journey was easy. It seems like every major life crisis happens when I need to be preparing for midterms or finals, working on a term paper, or facing an immovable deadline. This semester has been a real challenge for me: I took my midterms recovering from pneumonia, my son had a neurological episode that resulted in a fall down a flight of stairs at school which required two days in the hospital, my daughter faced her first real challenge as a learning disabled college student, and my car was totaled by a hit and run driver. But I’m still standing! And thankfully there were also positive points during this semester to help me to keep going: I was named one of the Top Five Phi Theta Kappa Officers in my region, a finalist in my college’s Women’s Leadership Initiative Scholarship, and I earned first place in the Executive Women International ASIST scholarship for my state. I am thankful to be part of an incredibly supportive circle of friends, Phi Theta Kappa teammates, and an amazing college faculty and administration, this journey would be much more difficult without them!

Thank you SO very much for sharing your story with us Liz, you are such an inspiration to all students, especially moms in college! Congratulations on your success thus far! 

If you would like to share your story, please contact me via Ask Dianna at the top!

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