Let me clarify what this post is not. This is not a post in which I judge working mothers. Five weeks after my son was born I went back to work full-time until after he turned one. Daniel needed to finish school so I needed to bring home the bacon. I don’t think that made me a bad mother, nor do I think that other moms who need to or choose to work outside the home are bad mothers. However, this is a post in which I explain why quitting grad school to stay home was the right choice for me. This is a post in which I challenge our culture’s views on the value of motherhood.
My husband had just finished his thesis and graduated and our son was almost 18 months old when I applied to and was accepted into a graduate program with stipend and a tuition waver. I was really excited about the opportunity. I had been pretty miserable being away from my son, Benjamin, 9-10 hours everyday at work and I thought that my program would allow me more time with him since I could do much of my studying at home.
I was also motivated to begin grad school because a) I loved what I was going to get to study and b) I felt like I needed to use my academic skills (I graduated from a very prestigious undergraduate program) and move toward a career path.
Because that’s what you do if you’re a well-educated, intelligent woman, right? You have a career! You make an impressive salary! You definitely don’t just stay home, right?
So, I began my program during the summer session. My classes were inspiring. I loved the course material. I was getting good feedback from my professors. But…I just wasn’t happy.
When I was in class or in the library I missed Benjamin so much and I wished I were home with him. When I was home with Benjamin I felt anxious and preoccupied: “I really should be studying right now! I wish he would go to sleep so I can finish my readings! I need to go back to the library!” I couldn’t just relax and enjoy the precious hours with my boy.
I started to think more seriously about my program and what exactly I was going to do with my degree. After all, our current economy isn’t kind to teaching positions in the humanities. When I graduated, how would I get a job? Would I have to move? (We had just moved back to our hometown for my program and were blissfully spoiled by having two sets of grandparents in town.) What about having more babies? Wouldn’t it be impossibly hard to get tenure while mothering more than one child? And if I wait to have more babies until after getting tenure…my fertile days might be over. And perhaps most importantly: do I really need a prestigious career in order to be happy?
Toward the end of the semester, I met with the Director of the program and explained that I was seriously considering leaving the program to raise my son and just work part-time. The director voiced his concern that I was throwing away a great opportunity: great program, full-tuition waver, stipend, not the sort of thing you just walk away from. “You can be a mother and an academic,” he claimed. He described a female faculty member in another department who had 3 children and yet had a successful career. (I later discovered that the female professor’s husband stayed home full-time to raise their children.) Anyhow, he said he would give my number to the only female faculty member in our department who had children (she had one child) so she could explain just how to do it all.
When she called me, she described her life a little bit. I was admittedly shocked to hear that she commuted to Florida from…..Pennsylvania. Every week, leaving her son with her husband for the week and going home for the weekend. I don’t blame her. Different things work for different families and jobs in the humanities are hard to come by. But, for me, that lifestyle would be miserable.
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.
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 academia is 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.”
“A dog could….what?!” I refrained from saying, “You are out of your ever-loving mind! You have successfully convinced me to stay home with my kids because your entire perspective on motherhood is absurd!” But I didn’t say that. I think I mostly just stood with my mouth open, too shocked to speak a real sentence.
Because of course, I knew she didn’t mean that literally a dog could raise my kid. No, indeed. What she meant was far more offensive than that. She meant that the day-in-day-out tasks of motherhood are such meaningless drudgery that an intelligent, well-educated woman with potential to succeed in a prestigious career should never lower herself to merely raise children. Such work requires neither intelligence, creativity, engaging challenges, nor the unique attention and love that only I, as their mother, can give my babies in the daily tasks of mothering them. Staying home with my babies has no real value. There would be no paycheck, no performance reviews. Diaper changes and feedings and kissing boo boos and tucking them in at night: those things can be done by someone else, while I reach my true potential and gain respect in my field.
I was appalled. The thing is, the professor wasn’t a bad person. She wasn’t trying to insult me. She was trying to help me. She felt sorry for me. (Poor young mother! She got landed with this kid at 23 and now she’s having to give up her dreams and throw her life away!) But I think her perspective was misguided.
At this point in the conversation, I tried to respectfully explain that I thought I had made up my mind as to what I would do and I would let them know as soon as possible so that they could give the funding going to my tuition waver and stipend to someone else. Because I had made up my mind. I had made up my mind to embrace the daily grind of motherhood. To discover it’s not drudgery at all, but something meaningful and beautiful, using every ounce of my intelligence and creativity to do it well, challenging me at every turn. This work of motherhood is my vocation, my privilege, and my joy.
It’s been almost two years since I quit grad school. During that time, I’ve had another precious baby and never regretted my decision once. Not for one second. Because I can’t imagine that life could get any better than this.
YES. I am so glad you wrote this!
So beautiful and inspirational! Thank you for challenging cultural norms!
Tried to find the video for “Times Are Changin’ Back” and settled for this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2uWcukaSpg&feature=related
That’s not what challenging cultural norms are.
Katherine Grimm Bowers says
Well, there goes our plan to have Bonnie raise Pip will we live the rock-and-roll lifestyle. Thanks a lot, Haley.
Hahaha. Bonnie would be the best nanny.
Kaitlin Martin says
Thank you for your post. I almost want to write one myself on why I want to stay home with my child.
I have three children four and a half and under. I am so grateful that I am able to stay home with them and only work a few hours a month in the evening (from home). At the same time, I’ve spent the last four and a half years trying to fiure out what ELSE I was going to do…what career would be mine. It is only in the last few months I’ve settled into satisfaction with exactly what I do now. Despite what our culture tells me, I dont need any other career to be complete…my kids are enough! There may be other things I want to add down the road, and I’ll know when the time is right. For now, things are great the way they are. Thank you for sharing this post, I very much enjoyed your perspective!
you know i love this story…so absurd and amazing. glad to see it in writing!
and i know your precious children are very blessed to have you and Daniel as parents.
Wow, Haley. This is beautiful, and powerful. I’ve been picking up Wendell Berry lately, again, after leaving him off (unintentionally, OF COURSE) for a few years.
I’m actually reading an essay right now, about feminism, the body, etc, etc, in What Are People For.
I must say, you’ve captured the essence, the truth, but it has left me very emotional, hearing it from you, another woman.
No offense to Mr. Berry, not being a woman and all, he is still dead-on. 🙂
Thanks. Seriously. This is very important, what you’ve written.
Amy, as usual, your comments remind me that we’re kindred spirits. Wendell Berry changed my life. I read the essays in “Art of the Commonplace” a couple of years ago and I was amazed at how he articulated things I have believed deep down but couldn’t express. I think I’ve read exactly the essay you mentioned about Feminism and the Body. Amazing. I want to read it again and then we should discuss.
Thanks for your encouragement. Your opinion means a lot!
Thank you so much for phrasing this so beautifully! I myself actually finished two undergraduate degrees and a master’s degree in software engineering before my husband and I had our first baby when I was 23 – and now I “only’ stay at home with my beautiful son. It’s so hard to let yourself feel worthy when you’re “wasting” your education and not “appreciating” your talents. But as my husband points out, my talents are just as well served at home, with my baby. After all, he’s got to learn to be a fantastic engineer, just like his parents! 🙂
P.S. I’ve never even seen your blog before today, but my wonderful mother-in-law linked to it on Facebook. Needless to say, I think you just may have me hooked. 😉
You are so right! Your excellent education has made you an even more interesting and inspiring mother. Also, I think my college education was important even if I never have a job that uses the skills I developed because what I learned makes me a better person and helps me enjoy life more deeply and made me a life-long learner and lover of the true, the good, and the beautiful.
Mama Bear Matters says
I am so thankful to discover your blog! I am looking forward to regularly visiting your site. As a Catholic homemaker like you, (oh and I spent a lot of my childhood in Baytown, Texas : ) Don’t Mess with Texas!) I’m sure a lot of your stories will resonate with me.
You have a beautiful family and you did the right thing by listening to your heart to become a stay at home mother. Taking care of your children and your home is your ministry! What a blessing! I’m glad to know that you don’t regret your decision.
It is a shame that so many stay at home mothers often feel devalued and under-appreciated for choosing and WANTING to be a homemaker.
I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment about leaving grad school and resigning from your professional journey to pursue your life’s calling as a stay at home mom. I, too, happily gave up a lucrative job and my professional career as a corporate paralegal to become a full time stay at home mom to my son.
Many people, including many mothers, protested and discouraged me from leaving my work. They argued, like the female professor, that I would “lose” my intellect. As if becoming a stay at home mother somehow automatically erases my intelligence! Absolutely not, in fact, being intelligent and an academic will only help us to raise children who love learning. I’m sure your children are so bright, much of that certainly has to do with how smart their mommy is!
The important part of our stories is that we didn’t let anyone dissuade us from putting our family first, no matter the sacrifice and costs!
I think you and any other stay at home mothers here will find great support in my community blog called MAMABEARMATTERS.COM
This website is dedicated to connecting and celebrating all the hardworking and selfless stay at home mothers. I want to reach out to women like you who are clearly so happy to be and proud to be homemakers!
My long term goal is to create a supportive mentorship network for stay at home mothers, and I think you would be a wonderful mentor for the program Haley!
I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to add a link to your post above on my site. I believe many women will find great value in your story about putting your family first!
Blessings to you and yours,
Founder of Mama Bear Matters: Celebrating Stay at Home Mothers
Thanks, Khristine! I will check out your blog and thanks for linking to my post.
Its a beautiful post and so true! thanks for sharing it! in our family my husband and i are very lucky to be able to work part time and spend the rest of the time with our daughter, i woudnt change it, this way it give us space to earn a living and put our skills to practice (even tho i dont work directly in my career) but also be at home when she needs us to do homework, take her to extra activities, etc is the quality of life that counts and that it makes you happy! we are very blessed
Keep up blogging your post are always inspirational, xx
Karen, both parents working part time sounds ideal! My husband would love to be more a part of our children’s day and not only see them before breakfast and for dinner and bedtime and we hope to make that happen someday. Thanks for the encouragement!
Loved this post! I was working on my PhD when I “threw it all away” to bring up three amazing little souls. Best decision I ever made.
I like to think about it like this; jobs and school are temporary, my children’s souls are eternal. All flesh is grass, fading away, and if the love I pour out on my kids can lead them to the Father then I can touch eternity with my ever fading hands. They are too important to give that up. I cannot imagine out-sourcing the care of my children except out of the most dire need or circumstance. You are a great momma from all that Elizabeth Martin has told me!
Thank you, Katrina. What a beautiful perspective on motherhood.
LOVED this post!!!! I’m a university graduate and have encountered the same nonsense when people discover I stay home with my children. Thanks for this post!
You’re welcome! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Jen Lehmann says
Love this! I have an MA and there are some people in my life who regularly insinuate that I’m not using my talents to the degree I should be by being a SAHM. They mean it in a nice way, but really, I think my education degree and my MA in Children’s Literature are being used quite well with my daughter at home. 😉 I’m glad I was directed to your blog! We’re Lutheran, but it looks like we have many similar viewpoints.
Oh, Jen! What I wouldn’t give for an MA in Children’s Lit. That sound so wonderful! I took one class in college on British Children’s Lit that met at an amazing library full of stained glass windows and a professor who studied under C.S. Lewis. It was heavenly. I kept all the books and I can’t til my kids are old enough to enjoy them.
Jen Lehmann says
Yes, there were many times during that program when I sat back and thought, “Reading Charlotte’s Web and Harry Potter is my homework??” It was amazing.
Elizabeth P says
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. What a wonderful article. What a wonderful story. You write so well and I have enjoyed reading your articles/posts but this is by far the best. Bravo. For making your decision and not regretting it and realizing what you wanted to do and doing it. I’m sure you would have made a great professor but you seem to be a greater mother. Round of applause…
What an encouraging comment! Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for giving me such great affirmation. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story and I really appreciate your kind words. 🙂
THANK YOU! Thank you so much for writing this! I just stumbled upon your blog and this was the first post I read. I recently graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Biology and I can’t tell you how often I had to deal with this sort of mentality. I know I’ve had to give up some things to stay home with my children but I have also begun to develop talents that I had neglected during my studies. It requires a lot of creativity and knowledge of child development to be a successful SAHM and I have recently revived my dream of writing a novel.
Children change so fast and even though I am with them most of their waking hours I feel like the time is flying past me. I can’t imagine missing this for anything. There will be time to continue my studies later but my children won’t always be with me.
“I can’t imagine missing this for anything.” That is exactly how I feel, too, Laurie! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
I found you through Pinterest (post on 10 books to read to your daughter) but I’m poking around, I’m so glad I read this one-I don’t feel as alone. I only possess a BA in English, but I’ve been through the struggle to accept that staying with my kids is right for me. Actually for me the biggest part of the battle has been other people, particularly my opinionated mother in law. We are low income, but have multiple reasons why me working would complicate our lives and not contribute much financially to make it worth the difficulty. I am happy with my kids, but sometimes feel that I’m pretty alone in wanting this. (Do you know how many articles there are supporting working mothers? I had trouble finding much supporting raising your own kids. There were a lot saying God wants you to raise your children, which I’m not argueing against, but I was hoping for more than that) I do not have a problem with working mothers either, but I wish more people supported my choice instead of assuming I must be boring, stupid, or lazy for making it.
I think many women discover they do want to be with their babies after having kids but do feel the pressure of using their degrees or skill sets or can’t make it work financially. Like you, we figured out that it wouldn’t be terribly helpful financially for me to work and put the kids in daycare. It’s hard to feel confident in your role when you have people in your life speaking negatively about your choices but remember that YOU know what is best for YOUR family 🙂 I hope you can find a community that encourages you and your husband in the decisions you’ve made for your kids!
I have a question – as a SAHM myself, I find myself, battling myself, about working. I worked from the time that I legally could until I found out I was pregnant. I was excited to stay home then and even now, I don’t liek the thought of not being with my two young children. Yet, I still find that I feel guilty that I don’t bring in a paycheck. I still feel “less than” for not monetarily contributing to my family. I have a hard time with being financially dependant on my husband. Any words of wisdom or maybe a different perspective for me?
Amanda, I’ve been thinking about your comment and actually wrote up a whole post I might run next week on the topic. I have felt this same way. In a nutshell, I think the different perspective must be that value is not defined by money and that in a family, everything must be “ours” not “yours” and “mine.” Because our society is so focused on the individual, we often bring that individual competition into our marriages and family and the scoreboard is often career success. The life of the home has to be respected and valued as a common goal for all members of the family even though they might be contributing in a different way. I’ll link to the post when it’s done. All the best to you and your family!
Thank you for this post. I am currently pursuing a PhD in a science field that doesn’t include a lot of women, while my husband is finishing his master’s degree. I have been told I have a “bright future in industry” and the like, and that motherhood can wait. I’ll by 28 in December, and I’ve had several doctors tell me that if I don’t have children by the time I’m 30 I never will (multiple medical issues for which I’ve had surgery, and I take birth control to reduce the chances of increasing infertility, sounds counterproductive, I know). I do have a female professor who is supportive of my want to have children at this point in my life, and who herself had her first child in grad school, but even she has admitted that I “shouldn’t tell anyone of my plans”. I want to be a mother, and after reading this post I cried. No, I bawled. My husband desperately wants (many) children, and I worry everyday that I’ve already waited too long.
Thank you for sharing this, Maggie! The University is such a difficult place for women who want families. Especially since everyone advises women not to have kids until after getting tenure and by that time, not everyone is still able to conceive. I’m so glad you have a professor who understands and is supportive of your desire for children. My prayers are with you that you and your husband’s desire to start a family is fulfilled!
Haley, my friend showed me your blog and I loved it. I’m in your exact same position in many ways: mother of a toddler, gestating another and considering going back to grad school next fall for an MFA in Creative Writing. While I am hoping/praying/reasoning with God that it will be the right thing and the right time, I may have to come back to this post again come April 2013 for some reassurance.
Also, I’m totally putting you on my blogroll.
Thanks, Laurie! Best of luck on your decision about your MFA. And thanks for adding me to your blogroll 🙂
I love it! There’s so much beauty and truth in this; you express it all so well!
Also, I just must note that the photo of your two little ones at the top is *adorable!!!*
Thank you so much, Deirdre. And I just love the sweet moment that’s captured in that photo. They really do love each other and it’s so fun to watch them grow together. And thanks for your email! Response coming soon 🙂
I stumbled upon your blog and this post while doing some googling, trying to figure out if staying home is possible…
i could relate so much to this post. i graduated from a prestigious undergrad, prestigious grad program and landed a full-time faculty position where i teach what i love. sounds ideal right?
except i’ve found more and more this year that it kills me to be away from my daughter, who just turned one. right now her daddy is working part time so she is with him when i am at work–that does help to know she is with her father and not with just anyone–but i miss her. even with professor hours–only on campus three days a week–i miss her. i feel distracted, torn between these two parts of my life.
right now its not possible, until my husband finds full-time work. but i think it something we want to move toward. i know my friends and family will tell me i’m crazy–giving up a full-time dreamjob that i likely will never get again to change diapers and wipe runny noses–but i feel like God’s put that yearning on my heart. i’m just not sure how its going to happen yet
Mediocre Mom says
Love this. I have an undergraduate degree in Biology and, at times, I feel like my brain is drying up being home with my three girls. But in a few years, they’ll all be in school. And perhaps then I will pursue an advanced degree. Because there will still be science programs in a few years. But my babies won’t be babies then. Thank you for this!
So grateful for this article! well said. I gave up my “dream” job when my son was 5 months old. He is 18 now and everyday I thank God for that VERY difficult choice. When your grown son says to you, “I love my momma!” that is worth ten graduate degrees. Blessings to all of the SAHMs.
I am LOVING your blog. SO much. Thank you for writing so eloquently what so desperately needs to be heard.
That is so encouraging, Julie. Thank you!
Marta Pisco says
Thank you for this great post. In many ways I went/still go through the same situation as you. With the difference that I was 10 years older than you when my son (also Benjamin!) was born… (“you’ll be too old soon!”)
Today I’m the happy mother of two – my son is 4 years old and my daughter Tamar is 15 months old – I manage to work a bit, but mainly I ENJOY my kids and my family life. Your blog is very inspiring!
Wish you all the best, warm greetings from Amsterdam
Thank you, Marta!
Mrs. McDonalds says
As a working mother, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. While I may work, my children have always been taken care of by a Mother who desires to stay at home with her (and usually other peoples) children. I love that my Daycare Mom is always kind, loving, and patient. Not to mention she has an educational degree, so it’s like sending them to preschool everyday. It also helps that she’s a part of our parish, and emphasizes our faith.
I love my work and can’t imagine being a SAHM. But I am also blessed with a wonderful kind Woman who treats my children as her own and I’m glad that my job allows her to be at home to do exactly what she can’t imagine doing, leaving her home.
Oh, and yes, both of our husbands are content with BOTH of our choices also.
It sounds like you’ve found a wonderful situation for your family! I am definitely not of the mind that every woman needs to stay home or that it’s always the best choice for every family.
Thank you for writing such a lovely post!! While I’m not a mother (yet- God willing I want to be a home schooling mom one day :)) I was raised by a wonderful mother who gave up being an RN to stay at home to raise and school her children (I’m the oldest of 6 kids who all came about within 8 years) and I loved having my mom at home with us! While it’s not for everyone, I’m beyond grateful that she and my dad chose this life for us – her presence has made a huge influence on my life for the better.
My mother also stayed home with us (worked part-time). I didn’t realize then what a gift it was. I hope I can be that kind of influence for my children!
I just wanted to let you know what you voiced for me. I gave up a promising career (with a hefty paycheck) to stay home with my little girl. I have felt guilty about MY need to be with my girl and forfeiting my career for a ‘job even a dog could do’. Not only guilt over the loss of my paycheck and working ‘status’, but the feeling that I wasn’t living up to my potential. Which is daft. I have had this guilt and sort of negative view of myself for NEEDING to be with my child. My husband has been nothing but supportive and has never made me feel this way, honestly it was mostly self inflicted. But reading this made me feel justified in my decision. Thank you for that, really, you don’t know what that means to me.
Thank you so much for leaving this comment, Courtney. I’m so glad that this post was meaningful to you and encouraged you in the choice you made!
I wanted to let you know how inspiring I find you, your family, and your blog. I am getting married soon and we have discussed having a family. I want more ban anything to stay home and my fiancé wants the same thing. I worry about the opinion of my parents who have paid for my education. (I am working on my undergrad and want to do my graduate program after) You give an excellent voice to all young women who what to stay home with their new families! Plus your posts on twilight crack me up every time I show them to someone. Thanks for being you!
Thank you, Katie! I hope you and your soon-to-be-husband will be encouraged and supported for the decisions you make for your family.
For the love of sweet puppies, I am SO happy I stumbled across your blog! I just subscribed via email because I haven’t read a post yet that I didn’t 100% relate to and love.
Congratulations on being able to stay home with your sweet babies! I, too, have been blessed in this regard, and every day, I thank God I was able to switch careers from being a therapist at a psych hospital to being a full-time stay-at-home mother (and author). There is nothing like being there for all the tiny milestones as well as the big ones. And, for me, putting both my 2-year-old son and 5-month-old daughter in daycare was just not an option (I already went through that when my son was born and I swore I would never do it again–although the Catholic daycare he attended was simply wonderful). It seems like more and more women are choosing to stay home. In fact, most of the women I went to grad school with are now stay-at-home mothers. I haven’t spoken to a mother yet who doesn’t desperately wish she was at home with her children.
Now that I have had the chance to compare both lifestyles, I can say unequivocally that staying home with my babies is more fulfilling to me than a lifelong paid job–because this is a career. I just don’t get paid with money!
Thank you for your beautifully candid posts–they’re truly inspiring 🙂
Thank you, Jessica! Now with our third little one on the way, I’m so grateful that I get to be home with my kids. I know that I am so lucky to have this time with them! This week everybody was sick and I was thinking, what would I do if I were working full-time and couldn’t take them to daycare all week because of colds and fevers! Nightmare! Made me grateful once again.
I just burst into tears at the end of this post. It’s probably the hormones, but this was just incredible for me to hear.
I’m 9 weeks pregnant, and prior to the pregnancy, I was gun-ho about getting my academic butt in shape and heading back to school for graduate studies in Theology. It’s not that I don’t want to do that still, but finding out about “Jellybean” (as we’ve taken to calling him or her) has put a new spin on my life, obviously.
I’ve always thought that I would love to be a stay-at-home mom (my mom is one!), but with my husband headed down the long road towards becoming a fire fighter with an actual salary, I’m nervous about depending on a single income. At the moment, I’m the one with the full-time job, and I hate it! (I don’t hate that I have to work, I hate the job.) And today while I was at work, I had the revelation that I don’t want to come back after maternity leave. I want to be with my baby (praying that everything turns out well…).
I still feel so up in the air about the whole thing, but your courage has given me hope.
Congratulations on your pregnancy, Laura! I hope you find a solution that works for your sweet family.
Thank you! Me too…
My daughter chose not to go to grad school, even though she could have done it for free, and all her history professors were urging her to do grad school. She chose to get married and start a family.
She got a lot of pressure from her professors, including a female prof sent to talk her out of what they saw as essentially committing suicide of the mind. The lady prof explained she could do it all, that she had and her family hadn’t suffered, etc, etc, and my daughter just kept saying that she wanted to make marriage and motherhood her priority at that time and she did not feel that she personally would do a good job of balancing both of them.
She still keeps in touch with her professors (four years and two kids later), and that female prof admitted to her a couple years back that she wishes she’d taken time off and homeschooled her children. I had to wonder when she reached that conclusion.
Wow! Terrific apologetic!
Now that more educated women are staying home with their children and that there is, hello, the internet to facilitate communication, there is absolutely no reason for anyone’s mind to stagnate intellectually.
But that isn’t even the most important thing about staying home with one’s kids. It’s just what struck me first. The most important thing is raising one’s kids. It doesn’t have to be you who does it, of course. Your son was doing great with his dad and grandparents.
But why should you not apply your powerful education to educating your tabulae rasae? Not that they’re really blank tablets, of course, but they’re definitely tablets. You have a chance now to be the biggest influence on your children, the next generation. Through them, should you be so blessed as to have grandchildren, you will have an effect on the following generation as well.
If you are doing what God calls you to do, it is nobody’s job to second-guess it. Women (and men!) need to support each other, not pull everybody toward the same life path.
So much wisdom in this comment, Melissa! As you said, I am thrilled that my education can contribute to my children’s education and that I can share all I’ve learned as I get the privilege of raising them.
The Old Wolf says
Beautiful post. How you refrained from spitting in Dr. Dingaling’s eye is a mystery to me; that rarified, infuriating, condescending attitude so commonly found in dusty, ivory towers is the main reason I’m glad I never pursued a career in academia. Bless you and your family every second of every day.
sayin' i love you says
Hi, I found your blog through Dwija´s interview. I had something similar happen to me when I had my first son. When telling my (then) boss that I decided to leave so I could stay home with my baby, he said “is that what you went to college for?” I didn´t respond and was happy to leave about a minute later. I think what the woman said to you is so much worse and as someone else commented “how did you not spit her face?”
“Is that what you went to college for?” haha! I was actually thinking just this morning about how much my education has enriched my motherhood!
This is great! I remember the morning I was supposed to take the GRE I had just had a positive pregnancy test for our second child. Even though grad school had been a dream of mine for ten years, I didn’t go and, 8 years later, still do not regret it!
I’ve never had regrets, either!
That professor’s comment about a dog being able to raise your child blew me away. She has no idea what she’s talking about if she thinks just anyone could raise a child at that age, or any age. The importance of parents being active and involved in a child’s life when they’re young and the brain is still developing cannot be overstated or emphasized enough. It’s a crucial economic investment that stay-at-home parents are making in being there to raise their children, who will grow up to become the involved, productive citizens our society/country need. I consider myself a staunch feminist, and to me part of supporting women having the freedom do what they want with their lives, regardless of if that’s to have a career, pursue graduate-level education, and/or focus on home and family. Anyone who thinks you’re limiting yourself or wasting your education by choosing to stay home with your children can go take a long walk off a short pier. Your children, and ultimately society, will benefit greatly from the education you’ve received. How much better would the world be if all children were raised by well-educated parents?
Amy Caroline says
I have a very similar story. I quit the masters program to stay home and homeschool my kids. I found out that one of the professors later used me as an example of someone who wasted their life in one of her classes.
I felt truly sorry for her and her one daughter in that moment.
Omg, your article just helped me feel better about myself.
I just started a two year program online, and I have a beautiful 13 month old daughter. Since I’ve started the course I have been so stressed that really I am suffering and so is she. I’m feeling exactly how you felt. Wishing she would go to sleep so I could study, playing with her but not really being with her because I’m thinking about this course. People telling me not to give up so quickly that I have to make sacrifices to have a career. No doubt I do, but maybe I don’t want to sacrifice happiness for two years, which I know is not long, but it’s
Long when it comes my child. I don’t understand why the world today things being a stay at home mom/housewife is such a pitiful waste of time. I mean isn’t that the point of having kids, to raise them? I understand their are people built for careers, that’s what they do and love. So why can’t people understand that their are also people like ourselves who are nurturers by nature and we just want to love and take care of our babies and husbands! I’m so happy I found your blog, I think I love you for writing it!!
Thank you, Alicia! It’s so hard to juggle school and motherhood. I feel for you!
Hey there, a friend just pointed me at your blog. I also left Academia for similar reasons, though I waited longer. I had gotten my MA and PhD and was struggling as an adjunct because there are no jobs for aspiring English professors and I can’t move across the country for one. (Though I did consider commuting from MA to CT like your prof who flew between PA and FL. Yup. Crazy.) Her response to you was insulting to those of us who stay home, but not surprising; it reflects her ignorance. After I had my first baby I was told by a professor that I would “never amount to anything.” I thought I had to prove him wrong, but now after years of disappointment and anxiety I realize that by leaving I’ve just chosen the better part. (And who knows, maybe my path will go back to Academia one day. But not now.) I’ve just started homeschooling. Have you ever considered homeschooling? Just curious.
Thanks for stopping by, Chrissy! We’re actually getting our feet wet with homeschooling our oldest (preschooler). I was homeschool some of elementary school and middle school and for a while we’ve planned to homeschool our kids. Not committing to forever, haha, but it seems like the perfect fit for us right now. Here’s a little post about why we’re excited about it. I’d love to hear about your experience. I feel so new at this!
Oh, excellent! Your reasons for homeschooling mirror my own. I missed my daughter so much when she was at school. We are brand new to homeschooling, but so far it has been a blast and my daughter doesn’t miss school at all. I always looked at learning as an ongoing adventure, so homeschool fits. Anthony Esolen was a professor of mine, btw — he is one of the best teachers I have ever had. I am going to have to pick up that book on children’s imaginations and read it!
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It would be cool to have you as a friend.:)!
im typing.with a phone so pls excuse my typos.,…:)
I love this article. You hit the nail on the head. It’s not about the type of mother you can be, but the type of mother you want to be. I have plenty of friends that couldn’t imagine staying home with children. However, almost every blog I read is related to being a homemaker. Years ago it was unheard of for most women to do anything except care for their children. Now days, with the exception of a few people, if you tell people your goal is to be a stay at home mom they look at you sideways. I have worked outside the home and never found it very fulfilling. I recently have only been working part time because of a health issue. I am working with a 4 month old right now and trying to get pregnant myself. I look forward to taking care of my own kids after taking care of so many other people kids. I do think I want to run a home childcare business with an assistant. However, I want a career that revolves around my life. Not a life that revolves around my career. Even when working I always found myself being pulled towards home and caring for my house. I did take out a student loan and get a masters degree. I regret the choice now though, because paying the student loan back has been a real struggle and I wasn’t able to find the type of work I wanted. I think if I hadn’t been so worried about other peoples responses, and truer to myself, I wouldn’t have taken out the student loan. I am hoping though that I can still use the degree for something at this point once I figure out what it is.
I think having a blog where you frequently wright is a great way to stave of “intellectual stagnation”, although being a SAHM definitely doesn’t cause that. If I may ask, what did you get your Bachelor’s in? I understand if you would rather not say.
I got my undergrad in “Great Texts” which I molded to be very medieval studies-ish. 🙂
This is such a wonderful post. Thank you! I completed my PhD after I had my first daughter, and then went on to work part-time then stayed at home completely after the birth of my second. I know my choice is perplexing to my major professor and to my classmates, but I haven’t regretted it for a single second. I too had similar comments come my way, things like “You’ll be so sick of the baby talk that you’ll be dying to write” and “they (babies) just sit there before they crawl, you should be able to do a lot.” The amazing thing to me is that I’m in a field related to early childhood development. So no, you do not lose your intellectual capabilities, you use it differently as a mom. Outsmarting my three year old is far more difficult than publishing, that I can promise! So glad I’m not the only one who made similar choices. Thanks again for sharing!
This was written awhile ago, but of course I came across it while searching “should I quit grad school?” This is my first semester back after having Harvey. I thought I would be pumped to kick it back in to school gear. But not so much. I steal away to the library for a few hours a week (which is just not enough to be able to stay on top of my school work) and I dread it. The entire time I’m thinking about what is going on at home and wishing I were there. I also feel guilty when I’m at home that my mind isn’t completely focused on my son. Instead I’m wishing he would take a nap longer than 20 minutes so I could read a boring chapter from my textbook. It just seems ridiculous! I can’t find any joy in life like this. So thank you for this post and I’m glad I found your blog. It’s brought me some measure of peace in the decision to leave grad school.
This was so well stated and I’m so glad you wrote it!!! I too quit my career (and finishing my masters) to become a SAHM…much to the disappointment of my parents. I don’t think I have ever disappointed them as much as I did when I made that “terrible” decision. I commuted when my first daughter was born so she was asleep when I left and getting ready for bed when I got back home. I bawled the first day I left and everybody said it would get easier…no, I bawled every day for the entire school year! I left all of the stability and our little family moved back to our hometown so we could afford for me to stay home. I have now had the blessing of raising our 3 daughters and I don’t regret my “terrible” decision for one second!
This was written awhile ago and reposted so not sure if anyone will see this. This professor sounds terrible and I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. I did want to challenge the idea about the cultural norms in society. Cultural norms that see being a SAHM as the best thing and the most ideal type of family is very prevelanf in the U.S. Even though according to stats more than 50% of mothers work, there is still an overarching attitude in society that being a SAHM is better for kids and the better option. The attitude is basically that you shouldn’t work unless you “have to” ie your husband doesn’t make enough money which in turn makes husbands whose wives work feel inadequate. These attitudes and beliefs contribute to the guilt of working mamas. It is also extremely hurtful and demeaning. It perpetuates inequalities between woman and men in the workplace. I could go on and on about how women but more specificity moms/expecting moms are discriminated against in the workplace.
As a woman currently in the struggle of working full time to support our family while my husband earns his Master’s, this hits so close to home. Thank you so much for the pure embrace of your vocation as a mother, and for writing this post! This is so encouraging to me as we consider our next-steps after his defense. What a beautiful testament to motherhood!
I know I’m a little late to the party, and certainly not original judging by the other comments, but somehow or another I came across this post being shared on Facebook a while back and it got me hooked. I got my BA and my MA (Rhetoric/TESOL), and I taught for a bit too (and loved every minute of it). But I went that route because when I came up for air after my BA, there was still no man in my life, so I decided to keep doing what I loved until God put someone in my way. I knew, since starting college, that I personally had two choices: I could be that super-awesome professor and do something amazing with a career, or I could take all those same skills and do my best to marry a godly man and raise a batch of kiddos. Both options seemed equally challenging — but in sixty years, which would be more fulfilling? Aaaaand that’s what answered it for me (well, that and God putting someone in my way, haha). So thank you for writing this, and from such a thoughtful, nuanced position.
I’ve been following you on Instagram and on the blog for just a few years, but I found this post by Googling “quitting grad school to be a stay at home mom” in the middle of the night. It may just be the sleep deprivation after another night working after my husband and 10 month old son asleep, but I bawled my way through this. I know this was written years ago, but thank you for helping me to feel less alone.