Dec 1, 2015

Why I Don't Regret Giving Up My College Education

Note: this article is part of a series inspired by this conversation. The series is not meant to imply that motherhood is any holier than any other vocation, but instead to offer different perspectives and encourage those who feel that they are swimming against the cultural tide by getting married and having babies.

By Laura Vandercook

I went shopping with my mom for maternity clothes when I was about six months pregnant. She had come to town for a visit and was kind enough to take me to Target. I looked younger than I was and remember getting several looks from a lady also shopping and hearing her say, “Tsk, Tsk. Teenagers.”

I had gotten married at nineteen and dropped out of college to pay the bills while my husband was in school. From a financial standpoint that was the wisest decision I could have made at the time, but it was difficult for some of our family members. Many of them had completed college before marrying and had enjoyed the benefits of their degrees for many years in their chosen fields. I was told that I would regret not finishing my degree, that living with a husband who had a Master’s while I was a college dropout would become difficult. I would feel inadequate. I would feel that I had wasted my money. The effort that it took to get all those A’s in college would create a feeling of regret in me.

Our first baby came along three years after we married. To say we were excited would be an understatement! It was an extremely hard first few months with a new baby, in a new town (we moved less than two weeks before she was born), with no family around. What I lacked in knowledge and experience, I made up for in youthful persistence. My baby was born seven weeks early, and all those parenting books moms read before they have their children, well, I had planned to read during those last seven weeks that I was supposed to be pregnant. Oops. Did I have a lot to learn? You bet I did!

I was so enamored with my new baby and loved my little family so much. When we got pregnant again shortly after my daughter’s first birthday, I couldn’t have been more thrilled! Not everyone thought that way. I was told that I was robbing my oldest of a chance to be an only child for a while. I was told that I was robbing my new son of special time that I would have been able to give him had my oldest been older. I was told that my oldest wasn’t even old enough to help out, so I was robbing her of having the opportunity to learn to be a helpful older sibling.

If I were to tell you that it was easy, I would be lying. Isn’t that true of all parenting, though, no matter your age or the number of children you have? No one ever promised having children would be easy.

I recently had a conversation about serving your littlest neighbors with another mom friend. We talked about how becoming a mom changes you in a way that nothing else can. When I became a mom, it was the first time in my life that I was compelled to continually look to my neighbor’s needs above my own.

I often tell mothers that having children stretches you. I am not talking about the marks on my skin, but rather how there is so much to learn when it comes to being a mother. I now have three children, all very different from each other, and somehow I am to train them up. Each age has its own difficulties. When my oldest was an infant and I was learning how to care for a tiny preemie, I remember someone telling me, “Remind yourself that in three months, you won’t even remember this problem. Of course you will have new problems, but put each one in perspective. Children grow quickly and by the time you get this down something else comes up.” My oldest is now eight, and the reality of it is that I am still learning and growing. My daughter might not change every three months, but as she gets older, the issues that arise are different. For me, the thing about parenting is that even when I am in the midst of hard times, these kids give me such joy.

With each lesson learned as a mom, I grow as a mom who can better serve my children. When I look back on the last eight years of my life, there has never been a day when I wish that I had waited to get married and have children rather than pursue a career or obtain a degree. To say that I put a financial burden on my family by not getting a degree is just plain false. The last eight years of staying home with my children have been worthwhile for more reasons than just finances. Staying home with my young children has been worthwhile because God entrusted to me with three little lives, and as their mother, I am to serve these little neighbors of mine. And through this vocation of motherhood, I am blessed by their lives. They bring me joy and laughter. They teach me to look outside of myself. When I do not serve my neighbor well, and I sin, I am also taught to continually turn to Christ for forgiveness won for me on the cross.

Was all that hard work in college a waste of time and effort? No. My grades in college showed that I was a hard worker and dedicated to learning. Having children did not change these characteristics in me any more than they do for any other woman. Intelligent women are no less intelligent because they are caring for little ones. Intelligent women use their intelligence to be the best moms they can be. Since getting married, I’ve become a wonderful cook, good at keeping a house, and fantastic at sticking to a budget. I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of children’s stories, but that isn’t all. I’m also taking a Latin class online. I’ve taken a class on classic literature online, and started a classic book club in which we’ve read several ancient classics and some more modern classics. I’ve headed up a group of mothers, volunteered, read several theological books, and lots of books just for fun. If that isn’t enough, I’ve also learned and grown as a person through caring for my children and my husband. With so much to learn in our lives, there isn’t time to be driven insane by diapers! No! Those diaper changes were a chance to teach my kids to spell their names as we sang them while I cleaned them up.

What others might see as menial tasks not fit for an intelligent, young woman, I see as an opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow. I’m not perfect at these menial tasks and some days I might see my vocation as a burden. At these times, I can come to my Savior and repent of my sins and know that in Christ I am forgiven.


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Laura Vandercook and her husband David have three kids, Allyssa, David, Jr., and Kaytlin. Laura enjoys talking about classical education and theology with her friends over freshly baked cookies.

Image: "Mother and Daughter by a Window" by Carl Vilhelm Holsoe

8 comments:

  1. One of the smartest moms I know was a teenage mother and is pregnant with baby #7. . . she's not yet 30 :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I married at 24 which was young for my family and had kids while my siblings traveled all over the world in their 20s. I have not regretted it. As I get to the end of the child raising part of my life, I am happy to think that I will get to share travel or whatever else we do with the man I love best. I also earned a Master's degree which I have never used to earn money and heard many of the same comments Laura received.
    Laura's experience reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    “I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love & duty but as a profession that was fully as interesting & challenging as any honorable profession in the world and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.” - Rose Kennedy

    ReplyDelete
  3. I married at 28 and had my first child at 33. I have a master's degree and work experience. I would give it up in a second to have ten more years with my husband and children.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you so much for sharing this article. It is exactly how I feel expressed in such a great way. I love my vocation as mother to my 8 children. I look forward to more that you write. Do you have a blog?

    God bless,
    Carrie :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do, but it isn't a good one. :) It is http://lauraakamommy.blogspot.com/ I usually don't share it with people because it is just random ramblings.

      Delete
  5. Thank you so much for sharing this article. It is exactly how I feel expressed in such a great way.

    ReplyDelete

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