“I’m too smart to just take care of kids all day.”
“I sacrificed too much to get this degree to not use it.”
Have you heard moms saying things like this? It troubles me that so many women believe they have to have a paying, prestigious job in order to use their education and engage their passion. I’ve said in the past that such an assumption is intellectually lazy.
If you have to be paid in order to do what you love, how much do you really love it? If staying home with your children would prevent you from using any aspect of your skills, how meaningful are those skills, really? In my 20s, I had my dream job–teaching Jane Austen to bright, engaged high school students. I loved it. I pinched myself to make sure I really was being paid to read 18th and 19th century literature and talk about it with a class of kindred spirits. When we had our second child and even that part-time job became too complicated with my mothering duties, I closed down my little teaching business and focused my energies on my children and my home. I did not stop reading Jane Austen or studying the literature and culture of Regency England. Now, toddlers can’t really read or appreciate the greatest novelist of the English language (cute board books notwithstanding), but they can appreciate quality children’s literature, carefully selected by a mother whose standards were formed by reading the best of the best. Reading and studying Austen and the culture in which she lived has shaped my mind and given me insight into the personalities and motivations of the people around me. It’s also inspired me to take my first steps into writing, which I’ll tell you about some other time. I did not abandon my love of Jane Austen just because I wasn’t being paid to teach about her anymore.
I’ve seen this same ability to bring one’s training and passions into home life in friends who are scientists, mathematicians, nurses, musicians, lawyers, a writer, and artist, and a French professor. It probably won’t look like that dream job, but a mom who really loves science will engage her children in looking at the world with curious eyes. She’ll use her knowledge base when she reads up on vaccines, diets, or gardening. A mom who steps down from a job involving statistical analysis can use her logical training in analyzing parenting philosophies and setting up reasonable budgets. She’ll be able to share her love of numbers with her kids from a young age, helping them enjoy the math of everyday life. A highly trained classical musician might not be able to continue a grand concert career after staying home with her children (though music can lend itself well to fulfilling part-time job opportunities), but she can open the world of classical music to her children, exposing them to all the great composers, teaching them about harmony and basic music theory as they play and sing together in the home, and giving them a solid foundation to become musicians and music appreciators themselves. I could go on and on, but hopefully you catch the vision. Hopefully you’ve already seen it in your fellow stay-at-home moms! What we do when our children are small is not a reflection of what we might always be doing with those passions, but it can be an exciting time of using those passions in a different way.
As women privileged to live in an era where our opportunities for education and training are as accessible as they’ve ever been, we should joyfully embrace the opportunity to explore our God-given passions and talents. We should never think that the choice to embrace our calling as mothers means we must reject our gifts and interests. Rather, I encourage us all to develop a vision for embracing the passions we’ve been given and and to bless our families, communities, churches, and friends with them in the context we find ourselves at the moment. Three cheers for the intelligent, well-educated, passionate, stay-at-home mom.