College Was To Be My Dowry

College Was To Be My Dowry September 24, 2013

My dad told me he was going to pay for my college education as a dowry for my future husband. He said it would be wrong to settle my future husband with debt wracked up for my education when I was going to be a stay at home mom and would never work outside of the home anyway. This is what came to mind when I read the recent viral post Six Reasons Not To Send Your Daughter To College.

If I was only ever supposed to be a stay at home mom, you may be wondering, why did my parents bother to send their daughters to college? Oh, they had their reasons. Part of it was that both of them were college educated and came from families where college educations were highly valued. But in a community where sending your daughters to college was sometimes suspect, they definitely had reasons they brought up to justify their decision. In other words, it wasn’t a given.

First, my parents pointed out that there was always the chance that my husband would die, or turn out abusive, or become disabled, or be out of work. If this happened and I absolutely had to take a job, they said, they didn’t want me working at Walmart. Besides, if I didn’t marry immediately I could work until I did and maybe earn some money for a downpayment on a house. I’m very thankful for my parents’ position here, and should Sally ever decide that what she wants to be is a stay at home mom, I would likewise encourage her to get a degree first, “just in case.”

Second, my parents also told me that it was important to be intellectually matched with your husband, and that since our husbands would be college educated we should be too. Otherwise, they said, we might not be able to connect on the same level. I do appreciate that they put this sort of emphasis on being on the same intellectual playing field, though I also question the classism inherent here and would point out that I was still suspected to submit to my future husband, intellectual equal or not.

Third, my parents said that a college education would help qualify me to homeschool my children. I was to be my children’s primary teacher, after all, and my parents were quite insistent that a college degree, regardless of the specific area of study, was indispensable for this task. Again, I’m really grateful that my parents took this position, especially given that there are Christian homeschool leaders who do not.

And then there was the dowry bit, this idea that my college education would be a gift from my parents to my husband. Because apparently paying for my college education as a gift for me was totally out of the question. Anyway, good on them for seeing college as something important and worth investing in, but, come on, really?

I suppose it may seem curious that I would head off to college without any plan to ever have a career, but I did. What did I study, you ask? Quite simply, I chose a degree that I felt could transition into a way of earning extra pocket change as a homeschool mom. My plan was to offer tutoring and camps to others in the homeschool community, and perhaps to write curriculum for homeschoolers, curriculum I would test on my own children. This sort of thing didn’t count as having a career outside of the home, and would, I felt, serve as a good intellectual outlet and bring in some extra cash. Interestingly, my close in age sister did the same thing, also choosing a degree that would allow her to transition into something to do on the side while keeping her house and raising her children. So while we weren’t majoring in homemaking, we majored in things we felt would help us in our careers as stay at home homeschool mothers.

It turned out that the concerns about sending daughters to college put forward by various Christian homeschool leaders were well merited. College corrupted me. Or, rather, it gave me a chance to form my own views and get outside of the box. And that’s the same thing to some people, I suppose. You may wonder whether my parents have since changed any of their positions mentioned above. The answer is yes, and no. For one thing, college choices have narrowed to Christian college or local state college while living at home (I’m not sure which option is better, to be honest). For another thing, my mother told me she is no longer pushing her daughters toward college, and that if one of my sisters decides she wants to be a stay at home daughter, she won’t try to dissuade her. But at least my parents aren’t flat-out barring my younger sisters from attending college, and for that I am grateful.

I remember a summer day years ago when a homeschool mom we didn’t see very often came over to talk to mom and found out that I was to be sent away to college in a few short months. This homeschool mom was horrified. She insisted to my mother that college would ruin me, and would make me unsuitable for being a wife and mother. She was extremely adamant. And indeed, there are girls I grew up with who, based on these ideas, were kept home from college. Some are my age and even older, still living at home, waiting, I suppose, for someone to come marry them. As for me, I will forever be grateful that my parents believed that there were actually good reasons for sending their daughter to college—even if one of them was that college was to be my “dowry.”

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