When my husband made the decision about which law school he was going to attend, a lot of factors went into his decision. He looked at things like school rankings, what programs were a viable option with his test scores and grades, and which city he wanted to live in. He flew to several schools for interviews, entertained several offers, and in the end accepted at his first choice school. We moved across the country and spent three years living off of students loans while my husband devoted all of his time to his schoolwork.
For most serious students, this is a typical grad school experience. It will not be mine.
I do not have the luxury of choosing my program based on school rankings, or which area of the country I'd like to live, or employment prospects, or anything like that. Because I am a mother, my choices are far more limited and based on entirely different factors. I'm lucky enough to live in a metropolitan area that is large enough to offer several choices of varying prestige and ease to get into. I'm not applying for the most prestigious of my options (that particular university only offers doctoral programs in literature, and I'm just not ready for that commitment level), but I did choose a fairly reputable school that I have a decent chance of getting into (cross my fingers) and, most importantly, that's close enough to home to make actually being on campus a realistic option. So those were the factors that went into my decision.
I recognize that other mothers in my position may not have even the small number of options I had to choose from. Their options might be limited to night school or online programs. But what I've come to understand during this whole process of choosing a grad school is that it doesn't matter how prestigious the program is. It doesn't matter if I were only going back to school online. What matters is that I am doing it. Because for me, going back to school is not about academic accolades or prestige. At least, that's not my main priority. For me, going back to school is simply about being a better mom. It's about sharpening my mind, setting an example, and developing as a person so I can be a better mom.
Choosing a program is about choosing a situation that works for our family, and that's my advice for any other mother out there thinking about grad school. If you have the luxury of moving your family, then go for whatever program your heart and test scores aspire to. But if, like me, you are tied down to your family responsibilities and are limited by time and location, don't let that stop you. There are options. It's just a matter of choosing to make those options work.