Sunday, February 10, 2008

Total Truth Tuesday: You tell me...

For this week's edition of Total Truth Tuesday, I want to know what you think. So, you guys give me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Seriously, I can take it.

Did I waste my education?

I was having a conversation with a good friend a while back about the value of educating a woman who will eventually stay at home with her children. It was an interesting discussion, completely amiable, between a SAHM and a working mom. Both mothers of daughters.

Through this discussion the question was asked, "Is there any point in going to college and spending money on an education if you're planning to stay at home and raise kids?"

At the time, I couldn't really articulate my thoughts eloquently on the subject. When it comes to debating a topic, I know two speeds. They are: politely restrained and out for blood. Just ask my husband. He'll be glad to tell you which speed is my favorite. (Hint: It isn't restraint.)

And since this is a very good friend and truly was a friendly discussion, I didn't lock and load and throw all my effort into this argument.

But, this was certainly not the first time this conversation has come up in my life. A year or two ago I was given a child-rearing "manifesto" by a more conservative friend. In no uncertain terms, it stated that girls should not receive education beyond high school since the Bible "says" women are to raise children and care for the home. (Click here to read my opinion on that myth.)

I realize people on both sides of the educational fence could say I wasted my education. Some feminists might say I am wasting my education by staying home with my kids when I could be "contributing" to society. More conservative folks would ask why I bothered to go to school and get "educated" when I clearly should have been pursuing more domestic training.

But, here's why I think it is important for a woman to be educated whether or not she plans to stay home later with her children.

1. Things don't always go according to your plan. Have you read this guest post on Rocks in My Dryer's website? It is a beautiful and heartbreakingly honest post from a self-described "wife without a husband and mother without a child." A woman who planned to get married and have children. And a woman who found that life had other plans. Imagine if she had decided to forgo education because she planned to have kids one day.

2. There is more to learn in higher education than academics. I think higher education can mean a variety of things. I want to make this part really clear, I don't believe an "education" has to mean learning in a traditional college setting. But, I do think attention must be paid to learning things about the world outside. Whether it be apprenticing or traveling through Europe or mission trips or a traditional college degree or anything in between, learning about other people, places, and cultures is important. How can I, as a mom, impart a sense of wonder about this big huge world to my children if I've never seen how big it is? I was an English major in school. Not necessarily the most practical of degrees. But, is what I learned wasted on my time at home? Of course not. I learned about people, relationships, history, art. I got the opportunity to travel and live abroad for a short period of time. I learned self-reliance. I learned to be a part of a community. All of these things are an important part of raising thoughtful, articulate, and well-rounded children. For that reason, I cannot look at my education as wasted.

3. Perhaps most importantly, being a SAHM means so much more than just staying at home. Whether you like the term SAHM or Homemaker or something loftier, you have to recognize that this "job" entails much more than sitting on the sofa watching kids play all day. Yes, there are days when I color in coloring books or play Barbies for 80% of my day. And, of course, there are times when my days feel like nothing more than glorified babysitting. But, my job is much more like family CEO than anything. I balance the books and manage all the bills. I am responsible for finding educational and entertaining activities to keep my children happy and busy. I am a conflict negotiator between two emotionally high-strung and often irrational individuals. I am responsible for making healthy meal choices for my family (which may occasionally include cupcakes for breakfast, but, hey, I'm doing my best here!). I am wardrobe consultant, hair stylist, laundress, housekeeper, teacher, chauffer, accountant, event planner, cultural ambassador, Sunday school teacher, and more. And I am better at all of these things because I didn't simply give up on learning about the world after high school.

Perhaps what frustrates me most (and tends to make me feel the most self-conscious of my decision to stay at home) is the notion that I am "just" a mom. The notion that I am wasting my time, my education, or my resources on my children is a frustrating one for me.

And, if you're saying to yourself, "me thinks the lady doth protest too much" - well, you're probably right.

I'll admit that, some days, I am my own biggest critic when it comes to convincing myself I'm not wasting away at home. But, in my (albeit rare) moments of clarity, I know that my education ultimately contributes to my ability to be a good mom to my kids and that, in the end, the only thing I'm really wasting is the time I spend worrying about what other people think about my choices.

But, what about you? How do you feel about higher education and raising children? What would have done differently in this particular area? What are decisions are you thankful you made?

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