5.18.2006

Mothering and Other Great Works

I have a BA in History and a half a Master's in Liberal Arts from St. John's College. It is a fabulous program, but I only have half a mind to finish it. It taps into my talents and interests, but my first semester being 6-9 months pregnant and the second semester having a newborn and no capacity to really discuss the Books that Have Shaped Western Civilization left me a little overwhelmed, and I have put it on hold again and again. The thing is, I yearn for academic learning, I have a fear of my brain turning to mush before I am out of the diaper-changing years (I religiously avoid soaps and talk shows because of this fear), and yet to sit down and read great literature and then take several hours a week to have interesting, thought-provoking discussions with other adults who have been reading, too, seems selfish and actually a bit unimportant right now. There is a big part of me that wants the degree because if I had it, I would actually be something, there would be actual documentation that I accomplished something, I finished something. I waffle between what I know is most important in the long run and what I crave right now; between book knowledge and life knowledge; between the thought that the best mom is the one who's satisfied with herself and the thought that the best mom is the one who gives everything she has to her children. I tell myself I can read all the Great Works and then some just on my own, but the real me knows that I won't unless I have to answer to someone. The decision to go back for the last year is one that dogs me at unexpected moments every day, and I know there is no one who can really tell me the right thing to do, but I just had to put it out there. Maybe it's just a question of timing, but it always feels like a question of priorities, and it's one of my innermost struggles. So, women of the blogosphere, let's hear it.

8 comments:

Camille said...

I just have to say, it's nice to know that other people out there feel the way I do. This is something that I also struggle with on a daily basis. I'm still working on my bachelor's degree, and I have no idea how long it will take me. In the meantime, I feel like my brain has already turned to mush, and it makes me so sad.

Occasionally, my husband comes home with a programming problem from work that he wants to talk out with me, and when I figure out how to fix the problem, I am so happy. Then, for days afterward, I cry, because I realize that the last time I felt so much joy was the last time I solved a programming problem. I miss feeling the joy of doing something well-- a feeling I always got at school, and even work.

I can't say what you should do, but I understand the struggle. I want so badly to work or go to school full-time, but I feel like that's selfish of me. I guess I did want to say in response to your comment that "the best mom is the one who gives everything she has to her children" that I flat-out disagree with that. You have to have something left of yourself, for yourself-- otherwise there's nothing to sustain you when you're taking care of everybody else. It's just so hard to find the balance.

Tess said...

GO!! now! I don't even have kids and I have that trepidation about going back for just a AA in business admin (which I realize is still school, and is still furthering my education, but it's not as sofisstikated as your brainyness) and I don't even have kids. I think that's why I feel such a rush to do it now, before I start a family, because I know that putting it off this long already, with no kids, would turn into never with kids. Do it for you, and your kids will be so proud of you too, later.

Angela said...

Well, I think ejjacashun is a waist of time, so that prity much isn't a dulim....dalimm....
prawblem for me.

I think you give your children the best, because they deserve it, but that doesn't mean giving them everything. You can still give your kids the best, and do other things in your life besides being a mom. I think this is a question of timing. Your children do come first if it's a decision between them and anything else you want to pursue, but there will be a time when you don't have to put one first, and timing will be such that you can manage two without giving one or the other less than it needs. I suspect with two little, energetic, serious dendrite-growth-experiencing boys, now is the time for them, and any other large feat, like finishing a masters would only take from the best that you can give them, and the best that you can give your studies. I think another thing we struggle with as intelligent, educated, and productive women is accepting that "just" being a mom is not a stupid job. I FEEL stupid at times because there often aren't any answers, and seldom clear ones; and zero to NO feedback, validation, or grading curve (unless you count not getting caught on security cameras beating the living cheese out of your child....). But this mom stuff requires all kinds of intelligence and skill not yet recognized as the mental and physical Herculean effort that it is. And just because showering daily has PHYSICALLY become a more difficult task than you can accomplish in some days, doesn't mean our brains aren't still rapidly firing and growing dendrites of their own. Just see my recent post if you need a good solid example. I mean, I've been stumped by a two year old lawn-squatter---but I AM SMART DA**IT.
In the same vein, I have been staying at home for 3 years now and after typing this, I have no idea if it's even remotely coherent, or if it even states anything I really think. I think I mentioned best and kids, but, uh, what was the question? It's my secret mission to make the dumpy housewife, spaghetti stained t-shirt and mismatched flip flops in Wal-mart, the new chic. And how do you like comments that are longer than your own post? Geez Louise.

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Well, I can tell you that my absolute hardest years were when I only had preschoolers. It is physically draining and mentally exhausting, and that's just getting them dressed for the day! But now my oldest is almost 13, and my youngest is 2. I want to just eat that little 2 yr old up. It goes by so quickly. I've tossed about the idea of going back to school, and I seriously do not think there is anything wrong with that (I've put my husband through two degrees). Some people are natural jugglers, but I am a one-ring circus gal - things at home do not go well when I am distracted by too many things outside the home. So I know (for me) this is my season at home. There will be time for other things later, but for now I only have six years with my oldest and I want to figure out how to do the best job with her (and all the kids) I can. I think if my kids turn out that would be the most "validation" I could ever ask for as a mom.

Code Yellow Mom said...

Thanks, ladies - I have a great supportive husband who always says, "Go for it!" and I know he'll do his best to pick up the slack, but he also fully admits that he doens't really understand the inner conflict about it all. I knew you would. Katherine, thanks for visiting my blog - your perspective is invaluable. I am quickly learning that I am a one-ring circus gal, too, as much as I used to pride myself on multi-tasking. Doing it in the office and doing with kids are two different circuses altogether. :) And Angela and Tess, thanks for your wisdom and encouragement. Timing is everything. I'm so glad I've gotten what school I could before family, and I look forward to going back sometime. It's just hard to see when that will be, so Camille, I'll cry a little with you in the meantime.

Emily said...

One suggestion from a complete stanger (I'm Angela's SIL and wandered over from her site) is to find a group of people in your situation (mothers of small kiddos) to help you through this time. I know it's easier said than done, but look into playgroups and start conversations at the playground. I joined a monthly book club with about 10 other women I'd met at a playgroup a few years ago, and it was really fulfilling. I remember feeling the same way: sort of like a boob / buttwiper. But the friendships I formed with other smart mamas made me feel so much better. We still call each other and talk about books and ideas - in between complaining about laundry and pottytraining. It's really been invaluable. You could even start your own club - advertise at the library and snag those storytime ladies! Again, sorry to pipe in - I do enjoy reading your site from time to time.

Morning Glory said...

I truly believe that if you nurture yourself as you grow in life, you will have something to offer to the rest of your family. Don't lose sight of you, but don't sacrifice your loved ones in the process. It's hard to balance and young motherhood is the hardest time of life, I'm convinced. Take the educational steps slowly if you need to, but keep having goals.

Nettie said...

I have felt the same way, especially as I watched my husband (who graduated from college about the same time I did)go on and get his doctorate. But, I really do cherish the time I'm spending with my kids now. I agree with Katherine, this part of my life is going by soooo fast. I know there'll be years and years I can spend taking classes and pursuing other interests. I do think it is important to show your kids that you have and pursue your own educational endeavors and talents. Besides, it is my reading, painting, sewing, gardening, piano playing side that helps sustain me! Btw, Thanks for visiting my blog. I love following visitors home and discovering their fun blogs. I'll be visiting again!