How I Wasted My Education When I Became A Mother

I was that young woman who graduated college and had my first baby a year later.

graduation-1

This meant I spent four years working my way through university, keeping down jobs, interning for no pay, and pushing every limit I had to graduate summa cum laude…

Only to become a stay-at-home mom.

Among all the marks against an educated woman, the choice to seemingly do nothing with one’s education ranks pretty high. In those early years of motherhood, I’d frequently be asked if getting a college degree was worth it, since I was “just” staying at home with kids. Did I really need to attend a university to be a stay-at-home mom?

These inquiries were framed as harmless curiosity. But I knew better. And like so many other women, it was all too easy to feel diminished and insecure. However much I wanted to defend my choice, when I was honest with myself, I didn’t know how to answer.

Being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t the intention of my education. And although I never believed it, motherhood was often presented as a hindrance, even a barrier to advancement in many of my courses. Could all the resources, time and money that went into a college education really be justified when my days consisted of diaper changes and the alphabet song? Or was it actually a waste?

As time passed, however, and more of my friends became mothers, it became obvious that this scrutiny wasn’t exclusive to women who stayed at home with their kids. This same test of worthiness and adequacy was being pitted against every woman who had a child. I’d listen to the frustrations and tears of working moms and stay-at-home moms and hear the same insecurities.

You see, when it comes to women and education, our society loves to put us under a microscope and carry out an inquisition.

Will this woman, by virtue of her ability to be a mother, be productive, profitable, ground-breaking, reliable and ambitious enough to merit her education? Will she put it to good enough use?

Or will it go to waste? Will she just pop out babies?

Our society worries a woman will sacrifice too much for the sake of her children. She may prioritize care-taking over time dedicated to her profession. Her thoughts may be too wrapped up in a teething baby to make the same contributions as man.

And regardless of a women’s childcare choice or commitment to her profession, she spends an insane amount of energy fighting against these insinuations of inadequacy.

As these sweeping pressures became obvious, I realized I was in fact wasting my education.

I was wasting my education by allowing this destructive nonsense to have any hold on me whatsoever. Because it’s this constant testing against women that is the waste. Not our choice to be mothers.

So here’s how women everywhere can ensure that we are putting to good use the education we receive.

We need to redefine exactly what society sees as “waste”. Because caring for children, or any human for that matter, is certainly not waste.

We need to confront false ideas that women only be mothers and pressures that women cannot be mothers if they seek real success. Advocating equality in the office, lab and legislature is half the battle. The other half is elevating the value of care-taking to the same level as salaried pursuits. Young children need educated caretakers, and unless we value that care, we’ll go on committing the same injustices that have been perpetuated upon humans for millennia.

And ultimately, we need to acknowledge that raising children is a task worthy of a woman’s – or man’s education. Not only will our education enhance our ability to nurture and teach children, our experiences as parents furthers our knowledge of the world.

A short while ago, I was contacted by alumni relations of my alma mater. They wanted to know what I was doing five years after graduating.  When I was a new mom, I would have shrank from that question. But in light of my education, I stated without hesitation that I was a stay-at-home mom.

So what are your thoughts? How do you put your education to use as a parent?

9 thoughts on “How I Wasted My Education When I Became A Mother

  1. I think it is important to remember higher education is more than subjects learned and degrees earned. Learning to be a critical thinker is a valuable skill for any life situation, even and especially parenting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this! So often we emphasize all the wrong things when it comes to education. The ultimate purpose of learning is not to obtain prestige or a big pay check. You nailed it, “Learning to be a critical thinker is a valuable skill for any life situation”. And it’s something we must teach our children from the very beginning.

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  2. I walked away from an award winning education career and have a Ph. D. level of education. I know my career is waiting for me, but right now my kids are my priority as it is just me and my husband. Our closest relatives are a 5 hour plane ride away.

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    • “I know my career is waiting for me” – I know so many incredible women who are kicking butt in their careers after taking time to stay at home with their kids. I LOVE hearing stories both of women who worked throughout their young motherhood and those who took time to be home only to pick their professions back up again later…it gives me hope that our world is allowing women to make the choices that are best for their families! Thank you for sharing.

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  3. I got a little teary eyed when I read this. when a was still new as a stay home mom, I allowed the destructiveness of other people’s opinion and expectation destroy me. 9 year later, I’ve realized that there is no greater gift to society than an educated mother teaching and raising her own kids. our education allows us to raise children who are open, tolerant and positive contributors to society. Education begins at home and continuous there even when they are already involved in formal schooling. ignorant mothers raise ignorant children. you cannot give what you do not have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I’ve realized that there is no greater gift to society than an educated mother teaching and raising her own kids. our education allows us to raise children who are open, tolerant and positive contributors to society” – your words got me a little teary eyed. Such a beautiful perspective, Maria! Thank you for this.

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  4. Thank you for this! The ability to make a conscious decision about how we show up in the world as humans comes from being informed about how the world works! I am so grateful for the knowledge I have gained in college and proud to pass it on to my children.

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