Education and the stay-at-home-mother
As a society we have changed. In order to secure a livable wage, one must have a college degree. In order to advance in one’s field and make a greater than livable wage, one must have a master’s degree. These wages can be earned without the degree, but often they involve some great physical strain or peril in the type of work required. It is all too common in this modern American society to trust that he who holds the degree has the knowledge to judge what those lesser individuals can judge. He is held on a pedestal. He has this mysterious knowledge others do not have. My goodness, he is licensed in, something. It doesn’t matter what.
So they form the elite class. If Mrs. Obama doesn’t know how to feed her children, is there any hope for the uneducated masses?
They form the meritocracy. Instead of an aristocracy, where one is born into a privileged position, these intellectual higher-ups have used their merit to become the ruling class. They determine what our children should eat (Mrs. Obama’s lunch program), what they should learn (common core applied nationally), how many children they should have, even if they live in Africa (a la the cultural imperialism of Melinda Gates). That a person should be Ivy League education makes him or her the greater judge is absurd, especially since determining the needs of any human person requires creativity, flexibility and risk, and students at Ivy League schools are showing less and less of this.
What does this have to do with stay-at-home-mothers? The title of this post suggests a relationship of some kind. I met a mother once who advocated I become a stay-at-home-mother. I told her I wanted to work with clients in a therapeutic setting (I didn’t use such fancy words then). She told me I can use the skills I gain from any degree with my children. True enough. I can. I can be reflective, use smart words, guide and mold their development with appropriate rewards and punishments, but I will hopefully not be working with victims of trauma in that setting. Ordinarily, there are lots of more advanced skills and learned judgment that just simply are not used day-to-day in the rearing of a four-year old, two-year old and infant.
So what’s a mom to do? Study, I say. Read.
Imagine that. I tend to spend more time on the internet than is healthy simply because I do not have to hold my computer. I can hold my infant and use my eyes without requiring my hands, except for the periodic mouse scroll. I see Moms’ groups leading lovely bible studies focused on motherhood, but hear less about Moms’ groups engaging in academically rigorous study together. We do not need to be engaged in formal education or work in order to advance intellectually.
Perhaps it’s too hard to find a topic of interest. One mom may be deeply engaged in the field of psychology, another in politics, another in theology, another in art. Or a mom may have hated school and be deeply engaged in the rearing of her children, not interested in academics. All these mothers come together either out of values or necessity. They are stay at home moms.
Here I would propose a new program that can bring mothers with diverse backgrounds together, and assist in their personal and intellectual development: a book club, an intellectual, deep, stimulating book club. If interests are too diverse, I propose a book club focused on good literature (aka, not Fifty Shades of Gray or the Twilight series, unless you’re focused on the cultural impact of so many children reading the Twilight Series, and yes, I know this was, like, 7 years ago).
No time to read a book?
Then I say:
Our personhood does not stop when we have children. Sometimes we know this. “I need alone time” and whatnot. Some mothers practice this with greater gusto and determination than others. Some mothers judge the practice of it in others as being selfish.
The reality is, just as we need to maintain our health as much as possible by sleeping and eating, so we also need exercise, physical and mental. As human beings we need to push ourselves. This could be by creating a schedule that masterfully manages five children, homeschooling and an infant. It could be by applying coping skills, psychotherapeutic techniques in the home while still managing to get dinner on the table. It could be playing delightfully with little rascals while keeping the house clean. It does not have to be academic. But for many, we need it in some way. Read a book. Create a schedule. Play. We need it all. And we need to prioritize it.
Moms come together: relational development.
They read: intellectual development.
They do so without toddler interruptions: emotional coping by taking a break from chaos.
They learn: professional/personal development depending on the topic.
If reading great literature: empathy develops, which makes for a better mother.
If the topic is spiritual or good literature, the application of the topic/reflections to one’s life: moral development.
The deeper the reading the more we flex those brain muscles, the better adept we will be to meeting the chaotic and never ending needs of the little people in ours lives.
So start a book club! Make it a priority as you make sleeping a priority (which means sometimes other things take precedence, but by and large we maintain the effort to do it).