There's an issue on my mind that I've been running into a lot lately and I wanted to share my thoughts. When I was a freshman at BYU, I was on a date with a young man. We were ice skating and getting to know each other, and he asked what I was majoring in. I told him I was still uncertain, but that I had recently attended some pre-nursing meetings and was interested in applying for this highly sought after and extremely competitive program. His response was "if you're just going to be a mom, why do something so hard?" I'm sure his intentions were innocent enough, but the question bothered me.
I found myself encountering these same types of attitudes this month in defending a family member who is beginning her PhD program. "Why is she doing that if she's just going to stay home with her kids?" were the words that burned my ears. Then I read this article insisting that stay-at-home moms are not a waste of an ivy league education, and I can't help but speak up and add my voice to this issue. I can't believe, that in the twenty first century, we think any woman is ever a waste of an education. I find those sentiments, and those close to them, disrespectful and demeaning to both women and children. I can't believe that they've been expressed by conservatives who see mothers as the primary care givers and teachers of children or from liberals who believe strongly in individual dignity and the pursuit of happiness no matter what it looks like.
Getting my degree enriched my life as an individual and continues to enrich my life as a mother today. I didn't just learn sociological trends and how to code qualitative data. I learned how to work hard. I learned to love learning and value it. I learned how to be a better leader and a better teacher. I learned how to excel with teachers who had varying weaknesses. I learned what analytical thinking looked like and felt like, and how to smell the rat in an illogical argument. I learned how to manage time and finances hands-on. I learned how to succeed when you're on your own and no one is doing you any favors. I learned what it meant to be informed and level headed. I encountered those whose beliefs seemed shockingly different than mine, in a forum for positive debate and mutual toleration. Moreover, I learned how to finish something I started, even when it was long, drawn out, and grueling. Parents have such an astounding influence on their children that I'm aghast anyone would say these things are wasted.
The part that really irks me about the attitudes I've encountered is the word 'just'. "Just going to be a mom." Just? I can't figure out why we belittle the job of mothering. Sure, it is hard and often unpleasant, but there's nothing that holds a candle to raising the next generation of adults. My kids are not just my kids. They will be your kids' friends, their boyfriends or girlfriends, your nurses and doctors, your therapist, your contractor, your investment specialist, your airplane pilot, the spouses you hope your own grown children find and spend the rest of their lives with, and the mothers and fathers to your grandchildren. I see it as a high priority to teach them to be honorable, educated, and contributing citizens, who have confidence and competence and who know that people are what's important in life through my inevitable and substantial influence. My education is wasted? Not on your life.