Before I had children, I’d write the monthly check to pay my college loans and I’d wonder if I’d ever get my money’s worth out of my college education.
Then, as I was transitioning from my career as a teacher to a homeschooling mother, I worried that the skills I developed in my career would atrophy and my hard work would fade into meaninglessness.
It took me several years to adjust from a lifestyle of measurable, consistent achievement to a more amorphous existence. It took me just as long to bid farewell to my love of a paycheck, pats on the back, and public appreciation. But, those appetites faded over time as other ones grew. I came to love the ongoing pleasure of seeing my dearest humans grow centimeter by centimeter, discovery by discovery. I began to love the freedom of creating the rhythms of our days, of feeling satisfied with relationships instead of output.
I like how I’ve become more human, really.
And yet those questions about getting my money’s worth and keeping my skill-set still lingered in my mind.
Until things like this started happening…
When our firstborn was 2 years old, she said she wanted to be a nurse. Not “become a nurse someday“, but to be one, now. Pronto. She wanted to introduced herself with, “I’m a 2-year old nurse.” And she was. She’d notice the slightest cut on anyone’s hand and ask about it. She mastered the application of Dora Bandaids by the time she was 3 1/2 years old.
I could tell that God had given us a child who would love the sciences. This helped me to see two useful things: that our daughter would love – and need – scientific instruction asap. What a thrill to access all of the things I learned earning my B.S. in Biology. When she was 4, I taught her how to set up an experiment with a control and a variable. We looked at things from the inside-out, and when she had complex questions about cells, energy, or heart chambers, I knew where to begin.
Now that she’s 11 years old with countless other interests, and followed by siblings who are miniature mathematicians, readers, musicians, writers, administrators, athletes, you name it, I can confidently report that every dollar and all of the hard work I invested in my college degrees (a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a M.A. in English Literature) has been worth it.
My higher education shaped me and my creative work as a mother. It provides the wealth of ideas, skills, and know-how that I give to my children every day. Because of what I learned in college, grad school, and my career, I introduce my children to literary themes from their earliest memory of conversation. I teach them how to speak from the heart, choose good books, read carefully, listen for details, and write persuasively and gracefully. I teach them how to work hard and ask good questions.
I never could have guessed that my education and career would be so valuable.
I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it would find its greatest value in my children, through motherhood.
Though I haven’t earned the dollars back literally, I confidently consider them well invested.
It is a great joy in my life.
Now I can see that we don’t go to college and build careers for money or promotion alone. If that’s the extent of our motivation, it will trap us. We go to college and build careers for insight and skills that we may use to love and serve people, as God allows.
Do you ever struggle to justify the financial and time investment of higher education and career with motherhood?
This may help: Today, take some time to jot down 10 ways in which your education and career have enriched you with content, perspectives, and skills that you could pass along to your child. What are your child’s dreams and ambitions? Look for ways that your unique education and skill set complements your child. As you begin to enrich the miniature scientists and artists around your kitchen table, you’ll get such a kick out of the way God has lavishly prepared you for motherhood.
It’ll be worth every dollar.