I am in the bathroom, knee deep in my child’s excrement, failing miserably at coaxing him into the tub to scrub him down. Meanwhile, half of his room carpet is covered in poop, and I know I have that whole situation to deal with, as soon as I manage to clean my kid.
While this is happening, I can’t help but wonder, what did I sign up for? I am educated woman. I took several Advanced Placement and honors courses in high school. I graduated cum laude from my alma mater. I am (well used to be) fairly well read and cultured.
My brain, once used to pen in-depth reports on a variety of subjects, now ponders the benefits of bribing a child to use the toilet. Days spent discussing the merits of various philosophies have morphed into fights with small children over how much television they can consume. I was one of those people who loved school, who loved learning, and valued a college education as the cornerstone for success.
Post college, I wasn’t making huge waves with my career, but I had a job, was doing what I love (writing) and making a modest income. I felt proud to utilize the skills I learned as an English major.
I had no intention of giving up my career when I became pregnant, but for personal and financial reasons, I quit my job shortly after returning from maternity leave and became a stay-at-home mom.
Over time, I got back into writing, and while I don’t make a ton of money, I am happy to have the chance to do what I love. I understand, however, that not all professions afford women the same flexibility, and many of you reading this may have little to no connection to what you studied.
You may be in the thick of motherhood, covered in spit up, tears and last night’s dinner, wondering if you squandered your Ph. D. Or maybe, you worked at a top law firm and now you host mommy and me play groups every Thursday. Perhaps, you graduated top of your class and today you stare at a bottomless laundry pile.
In these moments, you may wonder, does my degree matter? Does all that education — all that time and money spent to become an expert in something — does it matter? Did I waste my time?
Let me assure you, loudly and clearly:
Your degree was not a waste.
While there is no required curriculum for parenthood, and having a degree doesn’t necessarily make one a more fit mother, pretty much anything you studied in college or beyond can be applied to raising children.
Were you a student of medicine? Count yourself lucky when you have to analyze strange rashes.
Perhaps, you received a law degree? I wish I had your litigation skills when dealing with my hard-headed children.
Never miss a parenting story — sign up for the TODAY Parents newsletter today!
Business major? I challenge any Fortune 500 CEO to run a family as smoothly as some of the mothers I know.
All of you art majors are well suited for the years of projects to come.
Did you study psychology? Your children’s behavior will have you grateful for that insight.
Whether your degree was in philosophy, math or ancient Chinese calligraphy, the knowledge you gained shapes the way you move through life, and if your life involves staying-at-home with your kids, you are using that knowledge directly and indirectly every day.
But, even if you feel your degree has nothing to do with your current life as a mom, having one is important reminder to yourself and your children that you are more than their caretaker. Talking about your education helps shape a picture of you that includes all facets of your life. Whether you earned it twenty years ago, or while taking night school while your kids slept, your degree is a concrete example achieving a goal. No matter what path your children take, you are model of success. You are showing your children that hard work matters.
A college education opens doors, many of which will still be there should you decide to return to the workforce. Several of my friends have already resumed successful careers in law, business and other fields after taking time off — often years — to be home. My own mother, was at home for many years before returning to work as a registered nurse, a role she still holds today.
As I ponder my own return to career life, I am grateful for my education. I know it may serve me well long after my kids are grown.
And, if you don’t have a degree, or wish to pursue another discipline, know that it is never too late to learn something new.
This post was first published on the Today Parenting Community.