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The, "It's a shame to waste such brains/talent/education" comment."

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
How do you feel when well-intentioned friends or relatives say something to the effect of, "It's wonderful that you are staying home with your children, but you are such a smart woman and so talented and you were on such a great career path, that it is too bad that you can't do something with all your talent and education.?"

My knee-jerk reaction is of course to kick them in the knees, but then I must admit a little longing slips in. I feel lucky in that I found a career I loved, felt very well-suited for it, loved almost every minute of work, and though the pay wasn't much, felt like I was genuinely contributing to my community. I was a librarian and every time I go to the library and see the librarians at work, I get a little choked up.

I worked part-time until dd was 18 months old, but it was a compromise that we decided we weren't willing to make any more. Too much juggling of schedules, too much stress, not enough family time. I currently volunteer at a small library of a local non-profit family-oriented organization, but I am not working with PEOPLE, which is what I loved.

How do you feel when you get those comments? Mixed feelings out there?
post #2 of 22
I tell them that even humble farmers know to choose the best of the year's harvest to use as seed for next year's crops.

Motherhood is only a season of our lives. I feel what I'm doing at home as a mother is critically important to the next generation.

I don't want someone else doing this work and am blessed beyond comprehension that we can live on my husband's income.

Debra Baker
post #3 of 22
That's a tough one because trying to explain something to people who have a completely different mindset from you (and me, it so happens ). I am finishing a master's degree right now and have not gotten comments like that, but I do wonder about it myself sometimes.

All I know is that raising my two kids for the last four years has taken every bit of intelligence, creativity and yearning to learn that I have. I feel more confident and prepared for parenting because of the education and career path that I have taken thus far. This does not mean to say that you need a master's degree to have kids! But it has made sense to MY life and my family.

Maybe I'll restart a career when all the kids are in school, maybe not. It doesn't mean that it was a waste.
post #4 of 22
Sometimes I must admit I get those longings. Now that my husband isn't working, I have mentioned getting a job to him and he gets upset by the idea. He says things like a job outside the home has nothing to do with my self worth, and even at my best job I'd come home crying some days from the stress.

Then I think about how my education, skills, knowledge and creativity were all wasted at most of my jobs anyway. That was my number one complaint about my life before I had a child. How in the world would things be any different if I were to enter the job market now? Other than maybe now I'd be a little more assertive about what I want, but that means I probably wouldn't even be able to get a job. At least I know I'm doing something important and worthwhile now!

Corriander, I completely agree with you and Deb, I love the statement about the farmer and the crop.
post #5 of 22

that is in considerate of them!

i'd tell them you have the most important job in the world.

tell them you wish you were even more qualified.

your education and talents will be passed on to your child

what could be better than that?
post #6 of 22
I've been thinking about this a lot since I read MamaLeah's post. I think that this shows how our society values children and childcare. Just think how the world would be different if you had to have a PhD in early childhood education in order to work in a daycare center? If this were the case then no one would ever make the comment, "you are wasting your skills and talents by *just* being a mom." It would be seen as the peak of experience and talent.

I guess it all really comes down to money, which is how our society measures value. Whoever is paid the most is the most *successful*. Therefore a job that is unpaid is by definition unsuccessful, even a failure.

OK I'm still thinking about this ... Anyone have anything more to add?
post #7 of 22

I LOVE "motherhood is a season in our lives." Great sentiment and very well put.
post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so far for your thouthts. I agree with what you all are saying, and yet, I don't feel settled on the issue.

I agree with Sleepies that it is rather rude. I think I might have a rude family.

Is Motherhood a season? I mean, it's going to change and lessen in intensity, but it is not going to end. And when I started out, I thought I'd stay home till the kids were all in school. Now, I'm thinking about needing to be available through grade school, through adolescence, through high school. So instead of 5-10 years out of the paid workforce, we are looking at 20. If we stop reproducing now, I'll be 50 by the time #2 is out of high school. And we want to have a #3. Maybe I'm not cut out to stay home all those years. But am I not being there for my kids if I don't?

Yes, Coriander, you are so right about what we choose to reward and value as a society. And it isn't always about money. My mom always says that she grew up believing that how well a woman ran her home and kept her family healthy and happy was the measure of her value. So, it was easy for her to wholeheartedly embrace her role as caretaker of the home and family. She never struggled a bit with all this, though now I think she has some regrets. And for me personally, it is not about money. It is about feeling there is this wonderful part of who I am and what I have to contribute to the world that has been left to wither away to nothing. Yes, what I am doing is a great contribution to the world, I believe that. But it is only part of who I can be.

Oh and for me to, raisng just one child has stretched me to limits I'd never imagined before. I am growing, learning, developing so much as a person. It has been the greatest humbling experience of my life. I don't think it is un-stimulating. At all. I learn every day from my daughter, from you all, from other moms, from books and magazines.

Obviously I have a lot of thinking to do. I value everyone's insights so much, so please keep sharing!
post #9 of 22
I get these comments, too--especially from former coworkers. For a long time, I didn't know how to respond. Then, when I really started thinking about how happy I am being at home compared to when I was working. At the office, I was usually bored and frustrated, and constantly constrained by other people's agendas and expectations. Now, I am using my talents and creativity in ways I never dreamed, and I really feel like I'm accomplishing things. And I don't feel like I'm just a mother--I'm also a dietician, a professional organizer, a personal shopper, a gardner, a chef, a financial planner...and the list goes on and on. For the first time in my life, I don't feel defined by a single aspect of my existence (job, school, etc.).

When people ask me if I think I'm wasting my talents, I tell them that I finally feel like I'm doing something that ISN'T a waste of my brains/talent/education.
post #10 of 22
Are they saying that only stupid uneducated people should care for children??? Are these people with children? Would they really want a stupid person, with no education or talents, to raise THEIR kid???

I'm lost. Most of my old friends envy that I meet a great guy, I have kids, and I have the luxury to to stay home or not. But then again, several of my old friends are nearing 40 and are still single and childless. The fact that they make big bucks is just not compensating for knowing they will most likely not to get to have these experiences.

How about saying:

"I am very blessed and I am doing what I want to with my life."

Then start making new friends who share your priorities and values.
post #11 of 22
dang linda u beat me to it! my reply was gonna be to ask those asking why u are wasting your life if they would prefer the morons raise the children....lol. its true u dont get much chance to use skills u learned in "higher learning" to raise your children, but on the other hand u get the opportunity to develop new ones!
i too get that longing feeling to get writing again....i get ideas i would love to approach an editor with, but i know i cant lessen my focus just yet....in a few years things will change, my kids wont need so much focus and i will be able to do them. ironically many of my writing ideas come from the way in which i now view the world - as a mother.
post #12 of 22
MamaLeah, I know how you feel. I was on a career track in the sciences when we decided to have a baby. I knew then I would stay home, and left just as several promising opportunities were coming my way. DS is over a year old now, and there aren't many days that I think about working outside of the home, but every once in a while I do. I might see a great show on PBS about the field I was working in, know some of the scientists on the show and think "that could have been me". Or give a lecture in my nieces science class and enjoy it so thoroughly I think "I could do this all day every day!!"
It sounds to me like you might enjoy getting back into work one day, and I think as your children get older your days will shift into a different routine and you will find time for your interest in the library again. I LOVE books, what a great place to work!
baby waking, must go!
post #13 of 22
You've gotten a lot of great comments. But here's a thought...

If you don't want to stay out of the workforce completely until you are 50, could you work part-time as a librarian? Even just an evening or two a week, when dh could be at home with the kids?

You probably wouldn't be doing the career thing, but you could keep your hand in doing something you love, and your dh could spend quality time with your little ones!

Just an idea...maybe for a few years down the road...

post #14 of 22
Interesting subject. I have a PhD which I just finally got after almost 13 years of university (and a BSc and an MSc along the way). I just finished my post-doctoral fellowship and the next step was going to be a "real job". Finally, a nice big fat paycheck after years and years of student poverty. And then I go and decide it's time to have a baby, lol.

I credit my education with being able to fully research parenting as a subject that can be learned and not something that every idiot with a uterus is born an expert in. In that sense, I don't feel my education has been wasted as it has already made me a better parent. I think the idea that parenting doesn't require brains is an unfortunate result of too many idiots out there reproducing and not enough credit given to what is involved in being a GOOD mother. As stated here, it is very demanding and fulfilling! Anyways, through this career climb of mine I may have been poor and at the bottom of the academic totem pole, but I was happy doing what I was doing. I enjoyed going to work each day. How many people can say that?

When I realised that I was going to want to stay involved in my baby's life for alot longer than a standard maternity leave, and that I want another child too, maybe even three, I realised that my career might end up on hold forever. In science, if you are out of the loop for too long, you'll never get back in it. I was worried about this b/c I admit I really defined my self-worth by my level of education and what I'd achieved in my life academically. My father, who is my educational guru since birth, was the one I thought would consider my education wasted (not to mention the tons of money he put into it!!) and yet to my surprise while talking to him a few weeks ago he said I should devote at least a year to my baby (his first grandchild, lol). That made me feel better about my decision.

I'm sure it will bother me if people make comments about a wasted education. My answer will be "I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. Why should I change anything?". I don't know when the call of science will beckon me back, or if I go back what on earth I will do. I'm leaning towards skipping research altogether b/c there is no such thing as part time in research. I might end up becoming a teacher. We'll see.

But yeah, it is an issue I think about all the time.
post #15 of 22

Boy have you struck a chord, obviously with a lot of us. I love the sentiments everyone has shared.

I too am a librarian, was a school librarian (media specialist) before Eli was born. And I loved it, but wanted to be home with Eli, and so I do some parttime library work from home. And I miss it a lot, but I can't imagine missing Eli's growing up, and we are even thinking of homeschooling... so future employment looks shaky at best. And even if he goes to school, I love the way our family lives as a result of one of us being at home- no rush, nice meals, a nice homey home.

I was a sociology major in undergrad and one of the things we learned is that sociologists determine "career status" using a formula that relies on gender- the more women in the field, the lower the status. This obviously annoyed the hell out of me... but think about it- early education professionals and elementary school teachers (mostly women) are much less valued than college proefessors (traditionally men). Same is true with nurses and doctors, cooks and chefs, etc. Because women are the primary caregivers in most families, that role is considered less valuable.

I could digress in all sorts of directions here- this is an issue I think about a lot (as friends go back to work full time and put tiny babies in day care) but I guess most people have already said the most important thing: no job is more meaningful, rewarding, or important than parenthood.

Anyway- I felt like I could have written your post- thanks for starting this discussion

Ps. I am also volunteering at my local library- doing storytimes- which is so rewarding- and Eli gets to be a part of it too. If you are doing something similar- it would be great to swap ideas.
post #16 of 22
When I was in college, I was graduating with honors from the #1 ranked business school in the country. All my friends were on the fast track to consulting firms, investment banking, etc. Even then, when they asked what my plans were, I told them that I would work for a few years and then I wanted to have children and be a SAHM, which is exactly what I did. It frustrated them to no end that here I was getting better grades than they were, and "all" I wanted to do was be a SAHM. They too thought it was such a waste. The reality was that I was in school because I enjoyed it, not because I had big career aspirations. I enjoyed the learning process, I enjoy academia, and I enjoyed the social aspects. I wasn't there for the same purpose they were, but I do not feel for a minute that any of it was wasted. I got a great education and ejoyed myself immensely. By applying that enrichment to my personal life rather than a "professional" one, I am in no way wasting any of my brains/talent/education. Do I write marketing plans as a SAHM? Thank god, no. Do I consider my marketing classes a waste of time? No way. I am using my whole being, my body and my mind, to serve myself and my family, instead of a boss. This being was greatly enhanced by all of my experiences - personally, professionally, scholastically, and otherwise.

I am lucky enough that my immediate family all appreciate that the most important job you can do is to raise your children well, and I don't hear any concern from them that I am wasting my education or brains. But, well meaning friends and acquaintances are always commenting on it. I don't go into the long spiel that I did above. I tell them that I am happy what I am doing right now, that I may or may not go back to work in the future, and that I wouldn't trade a minute of anything I have done so far, because otherwise I wouldn't have the baby and the life that I do.
post #17 of 22
I get that comment too - because I "dropped out of the workforce" right after graduation - I chose to be a mom full time - not just for a mat leave.

I wish we could get paid for being moms - but then the question of standards and assessments would come into play - imagine someone telling you that you won't get paid because they did not see you changing enough diapers that day?

I think being educated makes for knowledge of possibilities - it opens the world up - including knowing that motherhood it very important.
post #18 of 22
I think Carolyn's idea (add some part-time work that you love back into your life) is excellent. I know that I LOVE being a mom, and that it is incredibly rewarding, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally, well, wonderful.

However, I did spend a lot of time doing other things that I LOVED before having kids, and I believe that it is really important for me to still have time for all of the other stuff that I love to do, paid or not. I think it is critical for parents to create time and space for their own pursuits, both for our happiness, and for our children's happiness.

It can be dangerous to prioritize family at our own expense. My goal is always to try to help my child, my partner, and MYSELF all get what we want. I think this is especially difficult when one accepts without questioning that it is noble to sacrifice for our children (something I am particularly guilty of).

What I am trying to add to this discussion is simply the notion that if you MISS your life pre-kids, then it is very important to find a way to make room for that life to continue. I think it will help us be better parents if we know how to make ourselves joyously happy while we help our children get what they want from life as well.
post #19 of 22
I also am a librarian (how many of us are there on the boards?) Right now I'm working part-time, and my husband also is (as a college professor) and that works for us. I have another librarian friend who is subbing one night a week for the library in her town.

about being there for them when they are older a friend (also a librarian now ) who has grown children says from her perspective it would have been more important to be there for them after school when they we teens and she wished she hadn't been working full time.

But as a librarian you could get into a school library if you wanted to and be home during afternoon/evenings.
post #20 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for your thoughtful posts. I have enjoyed reading all of them. I still am not settled on the issue, but hearing from all of you helps me think. And I'm so excited to hear from other librarians!

My mom was a SAHM and I feel I know firsthand the benefits of having a parent waiting for you at home when you get out of school. The warm cookies, the quiet conversation, the knowledge that I was accountable for my whereabouts and activities.

So...maybe part-time once the kiddos are in school. But...that's not going to give me a chance for a great career. LIke I said, I worked for 18 monhts after the birth of our daughter, and from my experience, there is a limited amount of responsibility you can take on, and thus a limited amount of contribution you can make. And, most part-time positions require evening and weekend hours, which take away from family time at home, which is what I'm trying to avoid. I don't know what the right decision for me will be, but luckily right now, I know that my place is at home, so I'll worry more about the future when I get there.

Thanks all again!
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