I've been thinking a lot this week about education. I want to finish my bachelor's degree, but I can't decide on a major. I also can't decide which university because it will most likely have to be completed online. That's not a big deal. I finished my associate's degree almost entirely online through the local community college. I just want to make sure it's a good program and a good fit . . . and that it doesn't steal all of my money.
This has also reminded me of the general attitude people have towards mothers pursuing degrees who are "just moms" and "aren't going to use it anyway." The sentiment has always annoyed me, but I've learned to let it roll off of my back. Mostly because I know that someone that ignorant couldn't do my job, nor do they understand what it requires.
I served an 18-month mission for my church instead of attending school during that time and had only completed a quarter of college by the time I was married. It ended up taking me eight years to finish my AA degree. Eight years and three kids later. Sure, I thought about quitting. That would have been easier. And yes, I'm fully aware that no degree is required to run my household or raise my children. But the only reason a requirement doesn't exist is because there is no employer there to pay my salary either. So I didn't quit. I kept going. I graduated with high honors because it mattered that much to me. And I'm going to tell you why.
Motherhood doesn't come with an instruction manual. There isn't a program or field of study that can adequately prepare you for it. The salary forever remains at zero. There is no health or dental insurance, no sick pay, no paid vacation, no retirement plan, no gym membership, and no union to fight your battles for you. And motherhood is hard. If any mother ever tells you it's easy, she's lying . . . either to spare your feelings or her own. So, I'm knee deep in a job that pays me nothing and that I could never be adequately trained or prepared for. And the grouchy women at the grocery store give me the evil eye when my toddler throws a tantrum mid-aisle. They look at me as if I obviously should know exactly what to do every time . . . as if I were getting paid to prevent this from happening.
About a month ago I was walking into a grocery store. I only had my two little girls with me, so relatively it was a piece of cake. A woman was coming out of the store with eight children in tow. She had two little ones in a double stroller in front of her and was pulling a cart heaped with groceries and two more little ones. An older child was helping push the cart and three more were walking alongside. I felt the need to tell her she was doing great. I'd say that I didn't know what possessed me to say it, but I believe in a God who directs His children to make each other's burdens lighter. I looked her right in the eye. She looked exhausted, almost haggard, but not unfulfilled and certainly not unhappy. My feet stopped moving. I said, "Good for you."
"What?" she said, looking confused.
"I said, 'good for you.' You're doing great. Just thought you should know."
I watched the tears well up in her eyes in two seconds flat. And it all came pouring out. "Some lady just told me I obviously had my hands way too full and that she felt bad for me. It made me feel like I was doing something wrong. Maybe I shouldn't have brought all of my kids in here after I'd taken them on a hike. Maybe it was too long of a day. But I needed groceries and I thought they were behaving relatively well....." She went on and on.
"You don't need to apologize to me. I am number two of eight children. My family life was amazing. I just felt like I should tell you that you were doing a great thing."
Silence. "Thank you so much."
It was an uplifting and wonderfully inspired conversation. And then I suddenly felt the need to find whoever the other woman was and give her a piece of my mind. I didn't, of course. And even if I had, she wouldn't have understood a word I was saying. Just like the people who think I'm just a mom and don't need a degree aren't going to understand what I'm saying.
Mothers have as much reason, if not more, as everyone else to receive a quality and well-rounded education. There is no program that will teach me all I need to know, but there are plenty of classes and fields that can better prepare me for the tough job I have in store. And not just a tough job, but the most important job if you want to know my true feelings on the subject. I will fight anyone who tells me that motherhood is an inferior position in this life. And I will annihilate them in that debate because I'm that certain that I'm right.
I came across a quote yesterday that firmed up my resolve to sit down and write this post. It's from S. Michael Wilcox:
There is no accomplishment which will require greater dedication, intellect, and the refined emotions of the soul than to raise a child to dignity, independence, and holiness in a decadent and fallen world.
What the mystery woman couldn't see, or refused to see, was that this mother of eight young children was doing everything she could do to raise successful adults. What kind of mother takes EIGHT children hiking . . . and then to the grocery store!? A good one. What kind of mother kills herself trying to get an education that will not only serve her well, but her children too? A good one. What kind of mother manages to finish her grocery shopping through a 30-minute screaming fit? A darn good one.
These mothers, in fact most mothers I know, are using every ounce of restraint and smarts and devotion that their souls can muster up to accomplish the task before them. Motherhood is not only a job, but a process of refinement that does as much for the mother as it does for her children. Saying we're "just moms" is about as ridiculous as declaring that so-and-so is just the CEO. He doesn't need any special training or education. As a matter of fact, you probably don't need to pay any attention to him at all. His position is inferior at best. Give the training and the resources to someone that matters more to the company. Right. It's absurd.
So can I just announce that the world, as a whole, is grossly underestimating its most powerful group of women. What happens inside the walls of these homes will do more to shape your countries and this world than anything that is happening outside of them. Respect the mothers. Support their education. Share your wisdom. Lend a helping hand. Tell them thank you. And realize that you're dealing with those who are tougher than tough, yet softer than soft. You're dealing with women who are strong and educated and refined and talented and smart. You're looking at hands that work and lift and pray. You can't possibly understand the depth of what's required or given. So give a smile or a hug or anything that will instill faith and uplift. We're more powerful than you know. Plus we're nice to look at.