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Barnhardt family pulls together while mom earns her degree

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

Kim Barnhardt helps her youngest daughter, Rebekah, with her second-grade homework before the family of six sits down to dinner.

Homework help is a nightly event for the Barnhardt family.

“Sometimes it’s a couple of hours between all four of them,” Barnhardt said.

While the recent Tuesday night at the Barnhardt home may seem like a busy evening for any family it’s actually an easy one.

Barnhardt got off work at NorthEast Medical Center about 4:30 p.m. and didn’t have classes or homework.

She’s on winter break from Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, where she’s working towards her bachelor’s degree in health services management.

When she does have classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, it’s about 9 p.m. when she gets home.

“Some nights we’re up till midnight,” she said.

Barnhardt said she finally gets around to her own homework “when they’re in bed.”

With four children, school and a full-time job as Clinical Care Director for ICU and Intermediate Care Units at NorthEast, many wonder how Barnhardt keeps her sanity.

“My husband is absolutely my lifesaver,” she said.

Rick Barnhardt is a battalion chief with the Kannapolis Fire Department and he’s able to be home a lot with his 24-on, 48-off schedule.

“He basically said he’d do whatever it took for me to get through school. He cooks, he cleans, he’s the chauffeur to the ball games,” she said.

“It’s what she wants to do. I’m proud of her,” Rick Barnhardt said as he prepared chicken pot pie for the family dinner.

Balancing different schedules isn’t new to Rick and Kim.

“When we got married, she was actually in school then,” he said.

His wife also worked third shift at the hospital for several years. “Before, we actually only had one day together,” he said.

Kim Barnhardt started working at NorthEast Medical Center in 1989 and graduated with an associate’s degree from Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in 1993.

In high school, Barnhardt wanted to be a teacher but later changed her mind.

“I just knew I wanted to make a difference in peoples’ lives,” she said.

Barnhardt never thought she’d be in management, but she’s been in her current job for a year and worked as manager at the same department for two years before that.

“I always thought I’d be a bedside nurse,” she said.

She enjoyed bedside so much because “I’m an adrenaline junky. I always wanted the sickest patients.”

For Barnhardt, it was a challenge to find out what was wrong, help the patient get better and keep them from going downhill.

According to Barnhardt, management is a different challenge.

Barnhardt said she’s encountered a lot of people who say she won’t be able to finish school with all her work and family responsibilities.

“I’ve never been a quitter. Succeeding will be my reward,” she said.

Not having enough time with her husband and children is her biggest challenge.

“My kids get frustrated sometimes,” she said.

Surely, with such a large family and so many activities, the Barnhardts must have an in-depth schedule taped to their refrigerator.

Nope.

“I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl,” she said.

Things change too much from month to month, so the Barnhardts make arrangements when things come up.

Twelve-year-old Hannah has cheerleading, and the Barnhardts’ oldest child, Caleb, 13, is in band. Both children attend China Grove Middle.

The two youngest children, Rebekah, 7, and Sarah, 9, go to Bostian Elementary.

“We’re all in different places,” Barnhardt said.

Kim and Rick don’t ask other people to take their children to their extracurricular activities; they make time themselves.

“It’s not fair for other people to have that responsibility. They’re our kids,” Kim said.

Many might ask how the Barnhardts remember everything.

Kim admitted that sometimes they don’t.

She’s forgotten Caleb at band and another child at church.

But those times don’t happen often.

Kim has to balance nearly everything when her husband is working at the fire department.

“If he’s at the fire department, I’ll do spaghetti — something easy– or we’ll pack up and head for a fast food restaurant. I grew up in restaurants. I don’t know how to cook, so it’s not in their best interest to eat that,” she said.

While Rick finished dinner, Kim moved on to helping Caleb with his math homework.

As the two hit some problems dealing with exponents, she announced that there was a scientific calculator in her purse that Caleb could use.

The children all said they have slightly more responsibility now that mom is in school.

“I help watch my sisters,” said Caleb.

For Hannah, it’s helping clean the house and doing her own laundry every once in a while when mom or dad don’t have time.

Hannah said she thought it was great that her mom was back in school but misses her when she’s not at home.

To help make sure she gets plenty of time with her children, Kim Barnhardt takes a day off now and then to take them shopping or just spend time with the family at home, Hannah said.

Hannah said one of the best things about mom being back in school was getting to turn the tables and tell her to get her homework done.

Rebekah and Sarah said they help clean their rooms and clean up the family’s yard.

The chicken pot pie finished cooking and the children help their mother set the table.

The drinks were poured and everyone got a serving of pot pie.

As Rick Barnhardt was about to say the blessing, Rebekah spilled a drink.

As her husband wiped up the drink with paper towel, Kim Barnhardt tells her daughter “this is the second drink you’ve spilled today.”

“Third!” Rebekah announces to the family.

Kim Barnhardt only shook her head and said these things are a regular family occurrence.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com

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