Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Chose This

I've been thinking about my current occupation for quite some time now.

Mother
Homemaker
Housewife
Stay-at-home-mom
Home Executive

Whatever you want to call it. I've been thinking about it. So I've had lots of thoughts about it, and one of them is this:

I chose this.

I'm really, really glad that I have chosen it, too. I'm not "not working" or "unemployed" for lack of a paying job. I am living my dream. I'm not here, doing the work at home -- the thrilling work of home and the mundane work of home -- because someone else told me I should be, but because I want to be.

Two items for your consideration:

1. As a conscientious young person in my senior year of high school, I had put some thought into what field of study I would like to pursue post-high-school. College, I felt, was a given. After some soul searching and number crunching, I decided that the best immediate course of action -- the one most likely to both earn me a living and fulfill me in a deeper way -- was to obtain a degree in education.

As our graduation approached, David, one of those friends in high school who was more than an acquaintance but not a close friend, asked me, "So, what're you going to study?"

"Elementary Education." I said.

"What?!" He was incredulous. "You're wasting your brain!"

Now I was incredulous.

"You could be a rocket scientist!"

"Yeah," I said, "but I don't want to be a rocket scientist."

I can't tell you how many times I've re-lived that conversation. Is it one's moral obligation to become a rocket scientist, if one can? (I submit No.) Is it a "waste" of a great mind to use it educating other minds? What about young minds? Minds so young they might not even remember how they were influenced?

And what, pray tell, would David have said if I had told him that my plan for a large portion of my life was to be a mother? A homemaker?


2. Just tonight I finished reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. Fabulous book. But one phrase I read yesterday still rankles, a little bit. Kidder is describing the background of Jim Kim, a major player in the book. Kidder clearly has great respect for Kim's mother, and describes how educated, how cultured she was:

Jim's mother had come from South Korea--a grandfather had served as a minister to the last Korean king--and she had studied at Union Theological Seminary with Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich and become a Confucian scholar, and ended up for many years a housewife in Muscatine.  A small, elegant woman . . . At every opportunity she took Jim and his siblings to Des Moines and Chicago so they'd know the world was larger than it seemed from Muscatine. She taught her three children, by example, the arts of debate around the kitchen table, while her husband, who had early morning appointments, went to bed grumbling that he didn't know what they had to talk about that was more important than a good night's sleep. She'd tell them to live "as if for eternity" and tutor them on current events, translating for Jim the images of famine and war that upset him on the TV news.
She sounds like a lovely woman. Like someone I could relate to.

Here's the bit that bothers me, in the writing: "ended up for many years a housewife."  Ended up. Accidentally. Unfortunately. For many years. Just for a while though. Not her whole life. Like she would rise above housewifery again, later.

Am I reading too much into this?

Is it really so unbelievable that Kim's mother would "become a Confucian scholar and [choose to be a housewife] for many years"?

I think not. Because I chose this. I choose it every day. Just like you choose your job, every day, whatever that job may be.

8 comments:

TC, Ashley said...

I love this post Alysa. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject because I feel the same way you do. I also feel that I chose to be a stay at home mother. I just had an experience the other day where I went to the doctor and I had to sign some forms for the new year since I had not been there since last year and under occupation it said "unemployed." It really got to me and I told them it did. I said to the lady behind the desk " I have two degrees and I'm a licensed social worker! I choose to stay home!) Of course I really should not feel like I need to explain myself but I did. Anyway, I have not seen you in awhile but you strike me as a capable hard working intelligent woman who could do anything she wanted to do. But in my opinion you are doing the most important thing in your life you could ever be doing. I don't want to ruffle any feathers of others who may read this comment but I think that if you are able to stay at home with your children that there is nothing more important that you could be doing. Being a stay at home mother is giving your children a precious gift. And I feel like they are giving me a precious gift as well. Being able to wake up every day and take care of them, to teach them what I feel is important and to watch them giggle. I would not trade these moments for the world. I also remember a quote that Sister Driggs actually said in a Sunday school lesson that has always stuck with me. She said, "We as women can have it all just not all at the same time." For me at that moment that was very profound because I think sometimes I forget that. I will have time later to have a career. My children are only small for a little while and I can sacrifice and devote my time to them now. I know you mentioned that you like to read and maybe you have already read this but I would suggest reading the book, "In Praise of Stay at Home Moms" by Dr. Laura. I love it and I have read it several times and it always give me renewed perspective and commitment to my role as a mother. Anyway, sorry this turned into a novel you just mentioned a hot topic for me. I hope you are doing well and good luck with your cute little family.

James said...

I choose it too. And love it everyday. And the more I learn the more I have to offer Lucy and all the future children that enter our home. I loved your thoughts on the subject. And thanks for your comments. Comments are always a nice treat. Ps. This is lauri.

Alysa said...

Ashley -- Thanks for the book recommendation! I had not heard of that one! It sounds like it is worth reading.

Lauri -- I figured it was you! :D It is so apparent how much you love being a mother! I love reading your posts!

Cami said...

I had a similar experience at about the same age. Did I ever tell you about it? My sister took me to visit her friend's family for dinner one Sunday evening. The mom wa a teacher and the son had just served his mission in France. The conversation turned to local mining operations which I found unusual and interesting. I must have said something that impressed them because they asked me what I was going to study in college. I said I did not know - that I hadn't decided. After we left the family and as we got into the car, my sister pressed me a little more on the subject asking why I had evaded the subject. I said it was because I did not think they would care much for what I wanted to "be when I grew up". When she asked what that was, I replied, "a mother in Zion". So here I am, for many, many, many years. I do not regret it!

Cami said...

I consider it a privilege to be your mother

Nichole said...

I love this post. I didn't know for sure that being home with my kids was what I wanted. When we were first married I didn't really have the choice because Chris kept getting laid off from multiple jobs. When we moved to Flagstaff, I made the choice. And sometimes I dream about being a teacher and having a classroom to escape to during the day. Sometimes when I'm pulling my hair out because my children just seem dead set on making our days miserable with their arguing and screaming, I look at the life of a working mother as glamorous. But then I realize how truly wrong I am! I am so lucky to be able to be at home with my kids. And it's NOT a "waste" of a brain to decide to stay at home with your kids. I use my education every day, even if it's not how I originally intended to use it!

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really, really appreciate this post. I'm so glad I read it this morning!

Jenni Elyse said...

Fantastic post, Alysa. I always wanted to be a mom, housewife, whatever. Unfortunately, life hasn't worked out that way for me, but I think being a stat-at-home mom is 100 times harder than working full-time at a paying job because you never get a break. You never have vacation or sick days. And, you literally work full-time, 24/7/365.

Rachel Nance said...

I had a similar conversation with my high school math teacher/ cross country coach. (Who by the way was a teacher, of course.) He told me I could, "do so much better." I love teaching. Teaching in the public schools was a challenge and it has its ups and downs, but teaching my boys at home....I LOVE it!