Friday, December 3, 2010

Why Education Is Important Even When You Stay Home

I was talking to a college-aged young woman in our neighborhood recently about school.  She likes college; she's busy; she's stressed out; she finds it strange coming home for holidays and having to report to her parents her schedule.  I asked her what her major is.  She said she wants to be a pharmacist, but the chemistry is killing her.  This is a bright young lady.  I have no doubt she can be a pharmacist.

But, I wonder, doesn't she want to get married and have a family?  She, too, has grown up believing that "the family is ordained of God.   Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan" and "that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. . . .  By divine design, . . . mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."  I contemplate, wouldn't it make it kind of hard to be a mother and a pharmacist someday?

Why do we do this to our girls?  Why do we ask them what they want to be career-wise when they grow up, when really we (or some of us) hope they will simply be able to stay home and be a fulfilled wife and a mother?  Turning to ourselves, why did many of us set off on this fake career journey knowing that deep down we just wanted to find our dream guy and eventually raise a family?  Do we need to spend all that time and money on education if we're going to "just" stay home?

Well, I don't know.

But I do know there is inherent goodness in education. From a scriptural or religious standpoint, in Doctrine and Covenants sections 88 and 109, we are encouraged to seek out of the "best books words of wisdom" and to "seek learning even by study and . . . by faith." We know that whatever intelligence we gain in this life will be an advantage to us in the next (D&C 130: 18-19).  We also know that "the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth" (D&C 93:36).
I also know that if something happens to my husband, I need a backup plan (maybe it's a new husband, maybe it's a job).  I also have a hunch that someday I'm going to be learning chemistry and physics and calculus and all sorts of other hard things anyway, so I may as well get a head start on them in this life.

Most importantly, for my circumstances, doesn't education also also make me a better, well-rounded, enlightened person with a better capacity to serve my family and community?   Education gives us more to think and talk about -- more than pop culture or gossip.  It helps us feel balanced.

I had a discussion the other night with my husband on how college has helped me become a better person and mother.  I actually had a really difficult time thinking of examples at first, but once I started looking at specific cases, I can see how I have used my education:
  • Stress Management:  Relaxation, and deep breathing techniques -- ways to stay sane!
  • First Aid:  Taking care of family members and teaching Cub Scouts
  • Child Development:  Let's just say I wish I would have paid better attention in this class.  I regrettably admit that I felt too proud to be there.
  • Social Hygiene:  That was BYU's name for Human Sexuality.  It came very much in handy when I got married, but was totally embarrassing to me while I attended (although the teacher was very tactful).
  • Utah History:  Fun to teach my kids and volunteer with them at This is the Place Heritage Park
  • Geography, Geology, Environmental Biology:  Fun with kids and Cub Scouts
  • Education/Teaching:  That's a no-brainer
  • Behavior Change:  Helpful for myself with weight loss as well as family situations
  • English/Writing:  Helps me so I don't look quite such a dork on-line and in other written situations.  Helpful for proofing my husbands' schoolwork and my father's book.
  • Leadership Opportunities:  In college I had a couple opportunities to attend leadership workshops.  These  still prove useful in church and community service.
  • Consumer Health:  Helpful in discerning unscrupulous health fads
  • Statistics: Taught me that you can interpret numbers any way you like, so be wary of what you hear
  • International Development:  Helps me remember that most of the people around the world don't live like we do.  I can teach my children not to feel so entitled.  I hope to take them on some humanitarian "vacations" when they are older.
  • Religion Classes:  At LDS Church schools you are required to take religion classes 7 of your 8 semesters.  Not only did this help my personal faith and knowledge grow, but it helps me in public teaching situations.  When I was asked to teach Sunday School, you can bet my New Testament class came in handy!
  • Computer Classes: I'm almost young enough to be a digital native, but I still need some help!
There are still many topics that I would like to learn more about, that either I didn't take in college, or now I realize the benefit:
  • Sewing and Pattern Design:  What a fun hobby to keep me busy!
  • Cooking:  Why doesn't my caramel turn out like I want it?  Why won't my whole wheat bread get a lighter texture?
  • Horticulture:  What is wrong with my garden, my grass, etc.?
  • Business/Economics:  Even just a basic class would have been helpful here.  Darn stock market.
Some of the topics I mention are "general" classes, which seem very beneficial in daily life.  What about serious math and science majors, though?  Is that education for naught when you end up staying home to raise a family? I'm not sure since I did major in Health Education, which now clearly has helped me in my role as a wife and mother.  My sister-in-law, Emily, is working on a PhD in Chemistry.  I'd like to ask her how/if studying zucchini root can help her as a wife and soon-to-be mother.  Maybe the actual knowledge isn't that practical, but the learning surrounding it is?  I know she has helped my brother with his math!

What about all that time spent in college?  I ask, is it really that much time?  You can earn a bachelor's degree an approximately 4 years.  That doesn't sound like such a huge amount of time when you can be raising children from anywhere between 18 and 30 or more years.  I think the trick is if marriage and family do present itself during those 4 years, take it if it's right, and feel good about it.  After all, isn't our first priority our families?  You can still keep learning, too, on your own!  You can even go back later if you want.  You can even go while you raise your family, but just be careful not to over-do it.  Balance -- it's good for your health.

I talked to someone recently about her education. She said once her kids are older, she wants to go back to school.  What she wants to do with herself now is totally different than what she studied when she was younger.  She knows more about the world and has different ideas on what she wants to do with herself.

Speaking of going back to school and careers, I recently listened to this Conversation with historian, Susan Easton Black.  Her story is fascinating.  She became a single mother of three, and with the babysitting help of another mother who could no longer have children, Black was able to return to college and become a professor.  She made the best of her situation and has made wonderful contributions to society.

Now I know there are some who are anti-college for various reasons, and that is fine.  There is plenty you can learn on your own, especially in this day of access to so much information.  College can just give you the opportunity to focus and teaches you what you didn't even know you should know (you don't know what you don't know).  Wherever you get your education, though, you should.

Back to the topic of our girls, maybe so they won't feel like they're "wasting their education" when they do settle down to have a family, we should not ask them in a career-minded way what they want to be when they grow up, but ask them what they want to study.  Maybe that way they'll feel they're taking their education with them, rather than leaving it behind with the career they didn't quite have.  Perhaps we can also emphasize that the first priority is to be a wife and a mother; self pursuits, including education and career, and even hobbies, are secondary.

Converstation with Julie Beck

I just finished listening to this "Conversation" with Julie Beck and her daughters.  It was really fantastic.  I wish I had the transcript so I could jot down a couple quotes.  In the conversation, they cover motherhood, experiences that made Sis. Beck who she is, running the Relief Society, the importance of not getting distracted from those important things we need to do, and much more.  Definitely worth listening to.