Have a degree? Female? You are shirking your duties if you choose not to stay in the workforce.
“I do consider any Harvard Law School degree obtained by a woman who then chooses not to use it in any sort of professional capacity throughout most of her life a wasted opportunity. That degree could have gone to a woman who does want to spend her entire life using it to advance the cause of women – or others in need of advancement – not simply advancing the lives of her own family at home.”
Aw, feminism. All about choice- only so long as you make the right choice.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a full-time mother, but you don’t need an elite degree to do it”
It’s true, you don’t need a degree to be a sahm mom. But I thought education was not just for utilitarian purposes? That’s what I hear every time I point out that often college actually is NOT the best economic choice, misbegotten studies notwithstanding. Only when that’s the argument you need, I guess. Otherwise, a dog could stay home and take care of your kids. That’s from some advice given to a female grad student who was considering giving up her grad program in order to stay home with her son:
I voiced some of my struggles with being a mother in grad school such as feeling constantly torn between two worlds. “What you need to learn,” she explained, “is how to compartmentalize your life. When I get on that plane I am Dr. X, then when I get home I can be mom again.” I tried to explain that learning to compartmentalize my life didn’t appeal to me very much, what I was trying to do was integrate my life. Live it as a whole. Not have to sever various aspects of myself into this or that context.
Then she told me all the dreadful things that would happen if I left the program to stay home: “You will become intellectually stagnant.” (I’ll forget how to think? Is that what happens to everyone who doesn’t have an advanced degree?) “You will only have friends who talk about diapers and you’ll be bored out of your mind.” (Um….who do you think I hang out with? And how insulting is that to SAHMs?) “You will wake up in 10 years and realize you don’t know who you are.” (You are your career, she seemed to say. If you’re merely a mother, when your kids go to school, you are no one.) But to me that mindset seemed very odd because my identity must be found in Christ, anything else will be ultimately unsatisfying. If my identity was wrapped around being a respected professor, it would be just as misplaced, if not more, as if my identity was founded on my role as a mother alone.
Anyhow, I tried to explain to her that I just didn’t feel like I was being the mother I desired to be while I was trying to succeed in the graduate program.
“Oh, you’re just experiencing guilt because of cultural norms of motherhood.” (“I am?” I thought. “Aren’t almost all American mothers working mothers? Isn’t staying at home the exception, not the rule? Isn’t the pressure I’m feeling concentrated around having a successful career to define me instead of the unimpressive role of merely being a mother?”)
“You have no reason to feel guilty. Your son doesn’t need you with him every minute.”
“It’s not that I feel guilty, necessarily.” I explained. “When my son isn’t with me he’s with his dad or his grandmother having a wonderful time. He’s happy and coping very well when I leave for class or to study. But I am miserable. I MISS him.”
“Well, your son will be around forever. But this is your one chance to do this program and have this opportunity.”
This statement seemed completely upside down to me. “But…my son won’t be almost two forever. He’ll only be almost two RIGHT NOW. And…I wasn’t aware that medieval studies was going anywhere…”
“You son is almost two? At that age they just want attention. It really doesn’t matter at all whether they get that attention from you or from someone else.” And then there was the real kicker: “At that age, a dog could take care of your child.”
The HG received similar, though less shocking, advice from her profs when they learned she wasn’t going to pursue grad school because she wanted to devote her time to marriage. She understood, she kept explaining, that one could be a wife and a grad student at the same time. But she was about to be a new bride and she couldn’t be the kind of wife she wanted to be if she added new grad student to her schedule. That assessment was based on her understanding of herself and the way she would approach grad studies and new husband and how she really wanted to spend her time, and while her profs were not obnoxious about it at all, they were all genuinely nice people who really cared about the HG and loved her as a student, they would not accept that she knew herself best. There wasn’t a lot of respect for her assessment of herself and what she valued most in life.
The irony there is that one of those people later admitted she wished she’d taken time off to homeschool her kids, and when the Striderling was born 11 months after the wedding with all of his severe and life-threatening drama for the first year of his life, grad school would have disappeared from the HG’s radar altogether. Admittedly, something nobody could have foreseen, but since none of us can predict the future, we might have a little more respect for the choices being made by the one that future most concerns.