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Mother U.

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It was a Monday morning. We were getting ready for another grueling school week. The kids were moaning about the injustice of heavy backpacks and state laws.

I told them I went to school and survived. Put your shoes on, spit-spot.

My oldest son asked how many years I spent in school. I told him 20 years—13 years spanning kindergarten through 12th grade and 7 years of college. I waited for the oohs and aahs and hearty congratulations to pour in.

They considered my lengthy sentence for a moment. My son asked if they had to go to college, too.

I said no. They would be adults and it would be their choice. If they wanted good jobs they should attend, however.

“But mom,’ my second-grader noted, ‘You went to college but you don’t have a good job.”

He noticed.

I thought about launching into a defense of stay-at-home motherhood. I am important! Don’t you watch Oprah or read blogs, son? Isn’t my life enough of a shining example of Goodness and Work?

But if I put myself in his shoes, he sees a person who must wipe people and things in a never-ending loop of clockwise motion. He sees a van operator who drives in a similar loop to school and store, sometimes in her pajama bottoms. He loves me and appreciates my cuddles and bedtime prayers and the matching clean socks always at his fingertips. He takes socks seriously. When he’s sick, I pour sports drinks and arrange crackers on a plate. I kiss his forehead. I help him with homework, making sure when I have him spell “creak” it is not the water type. It’s the spooky haunted house floor type.

I didn’t have to go to college to learn any of the above skills.

Were my college years a waste of time, money, effort? It would be easy to argue my semester in Ancient Athletics has not enhanced the lives of my children, my spouse, myself unless I am a future contestant on Jeopardy and the category is Gladiators.

What is a triton and net?

What does my college education mean to my children? Should it mean anything to them?

I am proud I earned a degree and thought of life beyond age 18. High school didn’t kill my love of learning. My parents are going to love hearing this, but I wasn’t necessarily in college to get a good job someday. Otherwise, I would have never majored in English. I went to college partially because I was expected to go. All my friends went to college. I wanted to leave home and assert independence. I felt unfinished.

I still do. I am still learning. My life as a stay-at-home mom isn’t a job. It’s continuing, continuing, always continuing education.

I hope I never graduate.

(photo is my great-grandmother, who had a BS in Social Work and was a mother of 5)

gretchen
Author: gretchen

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Comments
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  • comment avatar Heth February 16, 2010

    “a never-ending loop of clockwise motion” So true.
    Wonderful post Gretchen. And a lovely picture of your Great Grandmother.

  • comment avatar Julie February 16, 2010

    Exactly!

  • comment avatar Mama Bird February 16, 2010

    Spit-spot! You do kind of remind me of Mary Poppins! What a lovely post. I laughed out loud when your son noted that you don’t have a job. Ha! When I’m struggling to raise just one, I remember your full house (and counting).

    I always assumed I was going to college as well. Even if not for a good job, just because, I like the way you put it: to be finished. Truly I think I’d still be undercooked, and much more bland, if I hadn’t thrown myself into the pressure cooker of social and educational stew that is college.

    I love the way you write. It’s poetry. So, I’d say your degree is being put to great use – in entertaining us all!

  • comment avatar Jessica February 16, 2010

    Oh, Gretchen…..I have these thoughts every. single. day. and try to push them to the back of my mind. Thank you for putting it into words, and for making what we do sound better than my mind tries to make it sound.

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver February 16, 2010

    Brilliant, and so well said. I’m delicious-ing this post for future reference. It’s a keeper.

  • comment avatar Jim White February 16, 2010

    Wow! Gretchen!

    I totally agree with everyone else’s comments!!!!! You sure hit the nail on the head!

    I’m not a stay at home mom (Or dad for that matter) But Amy is well on her way to becoming one!

    Where I do see eye to eye with you is; going to school and studying and getting a degree and now what…… even years later, is what I studied then so important now? Are the day to day things I do today learned from what I was taught back then?

    I agree I hope I never stop learning until the day I’m taken home!!!! and I can’t wait to start learning from my unborn child in the future as you have for the past umteen years!
    Thanks G

  • comment avatar JoAnn February 16, 2010

    Great post, Gretchen!

    Oddly enough, I use my degree every day. Luckily, I majored in Social Work, so it’s pretty easy to see how that happens with a spouse and a preschooler around. 😉

    (And, there wasn’t much of a paycheck when I really WAS a social worker, anyway, so it’s not like I miss *that* very much…).

    To be honest, when I was younger, I focused on my studies so that I could leave the farm. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. I knew there were bigger and better things out there, and college was my ticket. (Graduating as close to the top of my class in High School was my ticket to college, so I set my sights early…) I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  • comment avatar Mary @ Parenthood February 17, 2010

    I went to university but my husband dropped out. Now he does most of the work and I do most of the baby-raising but without the degree I’d be a completely different person.

  • comment avatar amyptucson February 18, 2010

    I went to college because I was expected to, also to learn how to think, write, analyze… how to live on my own and take responsibility.

    Face it, I was nowhere near ready to decide what direction to take in life and work. I was so immature when I graduated from college, never mind when I started!

    One of the sad things about graduating was realizing I would never again be surrounded by thousands of peers, all in one spot, with whom I had at least something in common.

    It would have been a completely different life had I not gone. How you explain that to an SP I don’t know!

  • comment avatar Kristin February 18, 2010

    I will wish I had majored in home economics. It would be so much more helpful than my liberal studies degree with a health minor which says, congratulations you have a degree and still aren’t qualified for anything!

  • comment avatar Beth - Total Mom Haircut February 18, 2010

    Absolutely. Whether or not I ever use a specific skill I learned in a class, college was crucial to my education as a person. I feel more well-rounded as an individual, and as a mom, I suppose. And boy am I still involved in the “continuing education” that is motherhood.

  • comment avatar Ann February 19, 2010

    I love this post, Gretchen. I totally relate.

  • comment avatar Shannon February 19, 2010

    I could’ve written this (though not as eloquently)–but yes, I am in possession of a mostly unused English degree which I cherish and don’t regret a bit. When I tell my kids to do what you love, I’ll be able to back it up!

  • comment avatar Ann Kroeker February 21, 2010

    Hmmm…is this a place for English-major-moms to unite?

    Love your final lines:

    “I am still learning. My life as a stay-at-home mom isn’t a job. It’s continuing, continuing, always continuing education.

    “I hope I never graduate.”

  • comment avatar Jenn March 1, 2010

    This summer I will finish up my masters degree and then I would like to settle and start a family. I have felt very selfish for wanting to be a stay-at-home mom when I have kids because a part of me will feel like all this time spent on education will be a waste. But I figure as long as I’m happy, that’s all that matters.