Erin at the bearing blog has just taken a little finger and inserted it into one of the greatest sore points of my life, as she responds to the question:
“Why would a young woman spend three or four years to get a specialized degree that she won’t ever be using?” In other words, is education wasted on the at-home mother?
Full disclosure: due to a matter of tyranny, the women in my birth family were not permitted education beyond high school because “a woman’s just gonna get married and have kids and she doesn’t need college.” It is one of the reasons I left home young, although – having done that and needing to work to survive – I never did manage to finish the bachelor’s degree. I have always felt keenly the disadvantage and lack of confidence wrought by what I feel is missing in my education, and I am all too aware that – should anything, God forbid, happen to my husband, my earning potential is woefully inadequate to maintain a modest home and see my sons through college.
Whether a woman plans on raising her children herself (as I did and it was a great privilege) or feels she must work outside the home, it seems to me there is no question but that education – to whatever degree or trade level required by those gifts a woman feels called to enhance – is an absolute necessity.
Erin has a PhD in Engineering, and is for now a stay-at-home mom. She has answered with a very long and thoughtful response that I think bears a full reading, and I almost hate to excerpt any of it because the whole is pretty elegant, but here is a small bit:
Motherhood can be sanctifying even if it is nothing but self-sacrifice and submission to drudgery; but a rich interior life—contemplation, analysis, reading—builds sanctification and satisfaction at the same time. When a woman’s works as a wife and mother inspire her mind to reach surprising conclusiions, and when her contemplation animates one’s works as a wife and mother, then she is a more integrated person. And, probably, a better wife and mother, and a better intellectual, than she would have been otherwise.
A great irony: because I was not making oodles of money when I became pregnant, it was possible for me to stay home; it would have cost me more in clothing, travel and child-care than it was worth, for me to stay in my job. The cut to our income hurt – for a while we had to roll coin to get a haircut – but it did not devastate. Had I been pulling down serious money – and, I suppose, had we been more materialistically inclined – my income loss might well have thrown us for a loop.
It is a truth that for some married couples, the woman’s income has become indispensible. So…on some level, the sore point re my lack of a degree is mitigated by the realization that my limited earning potential actually freed me to experience the joys and satisfaction I have known at being able to stay home and raise our children.
Still…it is a lingering wound, the lack of a degree. Had I to do it all over again, I would have had a little less pride and accepted some serious financial aid – or had the courage to take out loans while I was struggling to keep body and soul together- to make sure I completed my education.
UPDATE: Heh…check this out…a stay at home mom doing a number on Dean and O’ Donnell.