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08/06/13

O, Alma Mater

o-alma-mater

By Anne-Marie Maginnis

It all started one quiet Tuesday morning. I’d dropped my daughter off at preschool, and the baby was sleeping. The dishes washed, I settled down with a cup of coffee to check my email. Upon seeing a Princeton Alumni Survey in my inbox, I felt the warm glow of affection that always flows over me when I see the name of my university. Since I can’t donate large sums of money to Princeton, I thought, the least I can do is fill out the survey.

Soon I was clicking my way through questions about whether I’d published any articles in journals (no), participated in any political campaigns (no), gotten a graduate degree (no), spent time traveling (no). By this time, my chipper spirit was beginning to dampen, but I pressed on. Donated time to service (no), started my own business (no), current salary range ($0). Only one question on the whole survey applied to me: Do you have children? (Yes).

As I sent off the survey and sat back, I felt suddenly disappointed—and disappointing. According to the survey, which was in fact comprehensive and sensitive to a broad range of life choices, I was either dead or sitting in a zombie-like stupor in front of the TV, stuffing my face with Cheetos.

I knew my life as a stay-at-home mom was incredibly demanding, creative, and meaningful—not a narrow niche occupation, but a very real option for half of every class graduating from Princeton. And yet, my path was not even on this survey’s radar as a life choice. How was this possible?

As it turns out, a sizeable debate is raging regarding the growing numbers of Ivy League graduates choosing to stay home and raise their children. Several recent articles have questioned the value of this choice. One such thought-provoking piece was written by Kelly Goff of the U.K. Guardian, entitled “Female Ivy League Graduates Have a Duty to Stay in the Workforce.” In it she argues,

Any Harvard Law School degree obtained by a woman who then chooses not to use it in any sort of professional capacity throughout most of her life is a wasted opportunity. That degree could have gone to a woman who does want to spend her entire life using it to advance the cause of women—or others in need of advancement—not simply advancing the lives of her own family at home, which is a noble cause, but not one requiring an elite degree.

This type of thinking is regressive for women for many reasons. First, while I agree that “to whom much is given, much is expected in return,” to state that “advancing the lives of her own family at home . . . does not require an elite degree” completely overlooks the value of that degree to the woman herself.

If a woman at home doesn’t need an elite degree, as Goff argues, one wonders, does she need a college degree? A high-school degree? At what point is a woman not worth educating at all?

This perspective completely disregards the inherent worthiness of educating a human mind to know the world, to think independently, to judge accurately, and to live confidently. For these reasons alone, an elite education should be available to the best and brightest minds. To concede Goff’s point would be to reverse hundreds of years of progress in women’s rights.

Second, at the purely pragmatic level, insisting that elite degrees are pointless for women who want to stay home with their children overlooks the fact that many stay-at-home mothers resume their careers after their children are in school. In fact, this may be a more appealing solution than the insane juggling act of work and family that is normal life for many working mothers.

Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter touched on this issue in last year’s much discussed Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Slaughter explains how she was forced to re-examine her long-held belief that women can do it all—in other words, reach the top of any professional field without sacrificing their role as a committed parent. When she took a sabbatical to spend two years in her dream job in the Obama administration, she experienced for the first time what it was to work outside the relatively flexible schedule of a university professor:

The minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be. . . . I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: Having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: Having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.

Slaughter admits that there is no easy solution. Addressing mothers who choose to stay at home before embarking on a career, she points out that they do so at a cost. They give up momentum and forgo building a résumé optimal for competing in the workforce when they do re-enter it. Nonetheless, it appears that a growing number of women are choosing to sacrifice maximum career potential in order to stay home with their families. This does not mean they will never re-enter the workforce, but these women see something of equal or greater value in staying home to raise their children.

Third, it is simplistic to assume that mothers who spend part of their lives outside the workforce are not using their elite degrees in the service of society. These women contribute in myriad ways: fundraising, mentoring, volunteering, speaking, writing. And while it may appear that anyone can do these things, it is far more difficult for a working mother to add these into an already packed schedule than it is for a stay-at-home mother.

I worked full time after my first child was born, at a job I loved, with great hours, and with a dream child-care situation. Nonetheless, I found myself grocery shopping at ten o’clock at night, folding laundry while catching up with my child while making dinner. It is plain fact that juggling a full-time job, family, and the necessities of daily life leaves little time for a working mother to take on additional service and cultural activities. This is not a criticism, just a realistic analysis that working mothers and stay-at-home mothers serve their communities in different ways.

Lastly, perhaps the most meaningful way in which stay-at-home moms use their elite degrees is by raising their children to be well-educated, confident leaders of the next generation. When a mother with an Ivy League education stays home to raise children, she is making it her full-time job to invest the best that she has received, including her education, into these children. She is choosing to form a few people in a profound way, rather than to affect a broader audience with a smaller per-person investment.

These mothers are not sacrificing pay, prestige, and a stimulating career without good reason. They feel they are giving their children something they could not otherwise give if they were out of the house all day. This is not to denigrate mothers who cannot afford to stay home; they obviously serve their family, often at great personal sacrifice. Nor is it to criticize working mothers who choose to share their talent with the larger world. It is merely to point out that highly educated women who choose to stay home with their children have a unique contribution to make as well.

What they are giving is time. Stay-at home mothers can use their own intellectual and personal formation to transform quantity time into quality time, and thereby greatly enrich their children’s lives.

For example, when my daughter is driving me to distraction, I stop what I’m doing, pick up a book, and read to her. We read the entire Little House on the Prairie series in a couple of weeks, which I love for its sense of history and appreciation for craft. We’ve read the original translation of Pinocchio, all 347 pages of it, with its masterful appreciation for human nature and the struggle to improve. As my daughter is only four, I anticipated that she would grasp the plot, but to my surprise she picked up deeper elements in the stories than I ever would have imagined.

And that’s the thing. Reading these books to my daughter is a reflection of my own passion for literature—the very literature I majored in at Princeton, where my eyes were fully opened to the beautiful intricacies and art of books. But before I ever went to Princeton, my love for reading was ignited by my own mother. She read to us every night. Once I could read for myself, I devoured a book a day for years—which helped when I took the SATs and earned a perfect verbal score, one of my stronger selling points when I applied to Princeton. Now I am repeating that cycle with my own daughter.

Another example is music. Sometimes we turn on the radio and guess the composer. I’ve had a love of classical music since I was little because my own mother played it. By the time I got to Princeton, I really wanted to know more, and I began music classes with a curiosity and delight that I owe to my mother. She, in turn, had learned it from her stay-at-home mother, a graduate of Radcliffe.

My point is, when a highly educated woman is home with her children day in and day out, she weaves the riches of her education into their lives in continuous, subtle, living ways. This is a priceless preparation for a lifetime of learning. This gift is the transmission of culture.

Having received the wonderful gift of an elite education, I didn’t leave it behind. I carry it with me in who I am today. It enriches my life in ways that no salary can measure. It is worthwhile in a way no measure of productivity is needed to justify. Passing on this education to my daughter, a human being whose worth I know intimately, I see even more clearly that broadening a girl’s mind, filling it with beauty, is never, to quote Goff, “a wasted opportunity.”

We call the schools from which we graduate “alma mater,” nourishing mother, and I have always been grateful to Princeton for being just that. Now that I am a mother myself, however, and as I nourish the bodies and minds of my own children, I find yet deeper meaning in those words.

Comments

  1. Whitney says:

    Amen, amen, amen.

  2. Mary says:

    Yes! I would add that the attitude of Goff in this article is one that doesn’t seem to recognize the unpredictability of life. She would seemingly like to dictate to Ivy League graduates the amount of time they should devote solely to their profession, but making a choice about your education with such a narrow vision of what your future will be like is almost impossible for anyone, no matter where they go to school. And it is also, I would argue, unhealthy, as it connotes a sense of control over our lives that in reality we do not have.
    One could look at the example of women who “choose not to use [their degree] in any sort of professional capacity throughout most of her life” because of health issues or a host of other reasons besides mothering. There are so many factors beyond our control in our lives, and while for many having a child is a conscious ‘choice’ that they are able to make, there are many other circumstances where one is less free, and forced to be flexible with regards to career.

  3. JCGK says:

    Exactly! This piece is beautifully written and hits close to home for many moms, I suspect. I’m an elementary school teacher. I taught for 6 years. I am a better mother because I have that background. I have a child with ASD and one with severe ADHD and ODD. My education and experience prepared me in innumerable ways to mother these two boys. I was also a better teacher the 2 years I taught after having children because I understood children so much more. When people ask if I’ll go back to teaching, I want to yell “I TEACH EVERY SINGLE DAY!! I’m a MOM!!”

    • No.

      You imagine your children are broken.

      They are not broken.

      Yet.

      • Brit says:

        @Curtis: Serious? I think you need to read what JCGK wrote again. At no point is she referring to her children as broken. When I read her post, I thought to myself, “Wow! What a great mom!”

    • Jane says:

      Seriously? JCGK, I’m sorry, but asking you if you’re going back to teaching is reasonably interpreted to mean asking you if you’re going back to your teaching CAREER. After all, if I’m referring to someone with an MD practicing medicine, do I also have to pretend like you’re practicing medicine because you might put band-aids on your child’s cuts and scrapes from time to time? Let’s be reasonable here.

    • Sarah says:

      @JCGK: Very beautiful and inspiring response. Thank you for sharing. It is people like you who bring beauty, hope, and love to so many in our world. I hope to be a mother someday and I really feel that people like you are champions that encourage the rest of us to know that, no matter what happens, our gifts and talents can be brought to others in many different capacities.

  4. Women who stay at home have a very rich life in so many ways. We can be intellectually stimulated because we have more time to read, listen to music, listen to podcasts, radio and pursue creative endeavors. My sons and I devoured thousands of books, visited museums and went camping and hiking. Working a 8-5 job can be soul sucking and mind numbing at times. For most stay-at-home mothers, the day moves very quickly and is filled with many moments of true joy, bliss and moments of wonder.

    Stay-at-home moms can also contribute to society and children in otherwise. I used my intellect to build websites for non-profit organizations on a volunteer basis. That work should not be devalued just because I was not getting a pay check.

    I was my 3 sons very first and best teacher and they are wonderful young adults. I have friends who worked and their sons are wonderful too. It should all be a personal choice with no condemnation.

  5. Paige Christensen says:

    You are amazing! I too have a bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university. I would love nothing more than the opportunity to be a mother and to serve in my church and community. Having a mother at home solves so many societal issues. It was invaluable to me to have my mother at home as a child.

  6. Aloysiusmiller says:

    Parents who put their children first have it all–all that is worth anything.

  7. Maryann says:

    “If a woman at home doesn’t need an elite degree, as Goff argues, one wonders, does she need a college degree? A high-school degree? At what point is a woman not worth educating at all?”

    Beautifully stated. Thank you.

    • Elissa says:

      The point is about an elite degree. No one has an issue with a stay at home mom getting a college degree, but to get a law degree or medical degree and then not use it is a complete waste.

      • Fred says:

        Ah, so we must become slaves of the state based on our degrees. We are all but serfs to the Fatherland. Progressives show how they value others yet again. If you are not serving the collective as we think you should, you are a drain on society, nothing but a complete waste.

        Who are you to tell someone what they can or cannot do with their degree? Will a stay at home mom always stay at home? If a spouse dies, or becomes unemployed or disabled; will they not leave the home to provide for their family? Who are you to judge what a complete waste is? Hopefully you can broaden your views beyond the narrowness of collectivism and allow people to excel and find fulfillment as they wish, not as you want them to. But then again, you probably know what is best for everyone else already. Therefore, there are plenty of openings for you and your thought process in many governments around the world.

  8. There are so many amazing women in our society. Education or not, it is important to be a mother. I know the women of Moms Provide can relate as well. Has anyone heard of them?

  9. Olivia says:

    While I respect your right to defend your choices (cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable, afterall), I can see the point of the contrary argument. How is your Ivy League education – a spot in a class that could have been taken by someone else who would possibly be serving the whole of society right now – any different than one you could have obtained at a public university? Would you not be passing on the very same prized values of education to your children? Would you not be reading to them nightly? One could argue that if your future career choice may be that of no career, perhaps you should concede your space in an Ivy League cohort to a woman (or man) who aspires to the public life – one where (sadly) the name of the school matters. Our bright, talented, sharp daughters and sisters who choose a life at home would be no less served by a quality public school education.

    Somewhat relatedly, that your grandmother attended Radcliffe indicates a social standing attached to privilege, and often, waste.

    • mel says:

      Because every other graduate of an elite school is off civic-mindedly serving the public interest, is that correct?

      And, relatedly, how is caring for other human beings with enlightened understanding, love, and dedication, teaching them to value themselves, others, their families, their cultures, their educations, and their opportunities–how is that NOT serving the public interest? I’d like to see (no, really, I would) a government program or corporate solution that could do for individuals a fraction of what a good parent can do for their kids.

      • JG says:

        Olivia, raising children with well formed values and the ability to think clearly is one of the greatest services anyone can give to society. It seems a difficult job in modern society, based on the declining numbers of teens and young adults who exhibit such characteristics. Any Ivy League recruiter would be more than happy to explain to you why the elite schools they represent give many advantages to their students compared to the run-of-the-mill public school. Such advantages are certainly not wasted on the career of child raising.

        As to your rude final comment, I can attest from personal knowledge, as the son of that grandmother and uncle of Anne Marie Maginnis, that she most certainly did not come from a privileged background. Her grandmother’s family fled from Hitler’s march into Czechoslovakia on 24 hours notice with almost nothing when she was 12 years old, coming via a long and difficult path to the USA. She was thrust into American schools not knowing how to speak English. In spite of this she managed to get accepted at Radcliffe and excelled there. She passed on to her 13 children (all college graduates, none of them materially well off) a love of reading and learning, which in turn has resulted in 48 grandchildren who serve society well in a variety of ways. Would that every Ivy League graduate could show equal service to society!

    • Claire says:

      I read once that children are most likely to achieve the same level of education as their mother. While I do not have an Ivy League degree, if I had studied at a such an institution, I don’t think it would change my decision to stay home with my children. The assumption that I wouldn’t use that degree for an equally as valuable purpose as someone else who never intended to leave the workforce. My kids aren’t going to be at home forever. What’s more, my husband may get into some kind of accident and be unable to work. If I were able to get a degree from an Ivy League institution, then I would be entirely justified in using that degree however I choose.
      If I choose to leave the workforce for a few decades so I can influence my family and community in the most positive way possible, I am not robbing the world of a more deserving graduate. Punching the clock 9-5 won’t change the world in any bigger way that entirely shaping the future of a human being.

    • Princeton grad says:

      I would point out that, in Mrs. Maginnis’s graduating class, more than two-thirds left Princeton to become Management Consultants or Investment Bankers. There are plenty of slots for people who might change the world, but in spite of an overabundance of narcissistic self absorption, not very many people to fulfill them.

      • AtHome says:

        PrincetoneGrad, I agree. If only those self-absorbed, win-at-all-cost graduates had a mother who instructed them in the finer things of life; self-control, generosity, gratitude, denial of self for the betterment of society, etc.

    • My own life has been broadened by such women. They were the educated mothers of my friends, and had they opted not to share their interests, beliefs, stories, experiences, and friendship with me via their children, then I would be unable to share what I have done so with my children. I have one son with a love of books and foreign languages, another who has served in a few roles as a teen that even some adults would decline to accept. He has a love of various cuisines, and is embarking on a military career. I have a daughter with leadership qualities and an unabashed love of the arts. I have 2 more small children who will also find their own joys and loves and they too will share them. It’s the ripple effect that can’t always be achieved in a workplace environment because of production deadlines, office politics, or personality conflicts. These women DO in fact have impact in the world, it just doesn’t occur in a board room. It occurs in carpools, on playgrounds, at sleepovers and shared family dinners. The venue shouldn’t matter, so long as they do in fact share their experiences with others around them.

    • Cameo D says:

      The problem with your (and Kelly Goff’s) argument is that is assumes that an Ivy League education is primarily used toward the betterment of society. I suspect that the vast majority of Ivy League educations are used to get high paying corporate jobs. So the more realistic result of Ms. Maginnis’ choice is there is one less well educated woman working as a consultant for Bain.

      • An “Ivy League” education is superior because we’ve been told so. Like any degree, it’s a credential and should never be confused with wisdom.

    • KS says:

      Do most careers following an Ivy League education actually serve “the whole of society”? I would venture that most careers serve a sphere of people.
      Women who raise their children at home directly influence their family and their children’s friends, teachers, schools, neighborhoods, churches, and people that work for and with that family. I think educations are to make the world a better place. It’s happening!

    • anna says:

      you are just repeating the same argument she refutes in this article – that educating mothers is of less worth than educating men or women who will work the way men traditionally have. whether you tell mothers they are not allowed to participate in the highest echelons of education unless they give up the choice of traditional motherhood you are embracing a paradigm that devalues and debases motherhood, one as old as patriarchy itself. you say public education for mothers, rousseau said limited, housebound education for mothers – because otherwise they are hogging up valuable resources men (or women who work in ways that are traditionally masculine) could be using. sounds the same to me.

    • Adeline says:

      Olivia, I really think you should go back and read the article again. Maginnis already thoroughly answered your questions.

    • Natalie says:

      Olivia, how then do you and Goff plan to keep women who are going to “waste” such degrees from attending such schools? Will you survey children or teenagers in high school about their career and life goals? Then what? Anyone who mentions being a stay-at-home mother at any point immediately gets banned from being accepted at an ivy league? Or wait…that would just result in unnecessary work for the admissions team at such schools. Why should they waste time looking at or sifting through applications of people who are banned from attending? Maybe such teenagers should just be banned from even applying to such schools. And what about those teenagers who answer that they want to be lawyers so they can fight for civil rights, or doctors who will start their own pro bono clinics, etc….if they change these goals and decide to stay home with their children post graduation, how will you punish them for what they’ve wasted? Fine them? Take away their degree? Make them social outcasts?
      Anne-Marie makes excellent points. It is time for mothers who choose to stay at home to stop being shamed and ridiculed.

      JG, your second paragraph is great! I hope Olivia has read it and learns her lesson about what happens when one assumes.

    • Laura Hollis says:

      This reply also smacks of elitism and a deep-seated preference for centralized planning. Who are you – or anyone else – to decide who should attend an Ivy League university, or any university? The Soviet Union used to pluck children from their parents at tender ages and groom them for careers in science, technology, and even athletics, when they showed promise – whether those children would have chosen those fields or not. It is not your business, or mine, whether someone is qualified to attend a particular university, and opts to attend, or opts to attend someplace else. If Princeton read this young woman’s application materials, and decided she would be a wonderful addition to her class and the community of Princeton alumni, that settles the matter, in my view.

      • How is the commenter who points out that the benefits to parenting of so-called “elite” higher education described by Ms. Maginnis are benefits that could be equally derived from “non-elite” schools the one demonstrating elitism?

    • Scott M says:

      How is your Ivy League education – a spot in a class that could have been taken by someone else who would possibly be serving the whole of society right now

      Because all Ivy League graduates go on to work for the whole of society? Is that the flagpole you’re going to run that up? No graduates of Ivy League schools have gone on to join partisan groups or political parties? No graduates of Ivy League schools have gone on to work for private firms?

      My wife watched a documentary recently about the struggles and advances of women over the past forty years. It included interviews with such current femenist luminaries as former Speaker Pelosi and pundit Rachel Maddow. Nowhere in the 90 minute movie was a mention of staying home and raising good people…because that’s what it is. A HUGE contribution to society, adding well-adjusted, civil, productive people to the ranks.

      A forty year talk about the progress of women in America without one mention of choosing to stay home and raise kids smacks of self-centered, look-at-me-ism.

    • ChrisGreen says:

      You make a certain point in your comment that I respect, which is, essentially: The education at an elite ‘Ivy League’ school isn’t necessarily any better than any other school when it comes to actually educating a human mind. To this I agree. However, most graduates of these elite schools do not go off and do humanitarian work for society. They go off and take a job somewhere where they end up making a lot of money. As a mother, the author is by definition, serving others, and, if she does her job well, bettering society. As a Princeton graduate, she could have ended up at a large investment firm making even more money for rich people, or as a lawyer, taking a job from someone else because there are more lawyers than there are law related jobs right now.

    • GGLiddy says:

      So what you are saying is that elite educations are a finite public resource and as such should only be awarded to those who will serve the “public good?” With that kind of logic we can of course reject any applicant no matter how qualified as long as we designate them as someone who doesn’t serve the public good. Not to mention once someone does graduate from an elite institution they of course must serve the public good otherwise why let them attend in the first place so they of course will be happy to go where a when we the public tell them? Is that what you are talking about because it sure doesn’t sound very progressive to me. It has a certain Godwin’s Law whiff to it.

      No doubt it took a lot of education to say something so fatuous.

    • Veronica says:

      You realize that was the same rational that kept admissions board’s from accepting women into law schools in the 50′s and 60′s, right? The fact that the argument is now coming from so called feminists shows just how off kilter the modern feminist movement is becoming.

    • TDMorris says:

      Goodness, Olivia. Do you have some sort of clairvoyant capacity? Can you honestly see the outcome, when all is said and done, of this author’s education at Princeton? Can you honestly see the outcome of the education of whoever’s spot she supposedly took when she decided to attend Princeton? Can you see the outcome of the alternate route that hypothetical person displaced at Princeton by Ms Maginnis? How do you know that person wouldn’t have also decided to do something other than use his or her degree from Princeton in an acceptable way (according to your value system, that is)? How do you know whether that person, supposedly wrongly displaced by Ms Maginnis’ decision to take accept her spot at Princeton (wrongly, you suggest, in that she isn’t using that degree or that education at the moment) did not end up in a better situation for himself / herself by having gone a route other than to attend Princeton? Can you honestly tell us that this hypothetically displaced Princeton student is worse off in some way, for Ms Maginnis having selfishly taken his or her spot at Princeton, even though she obviously had no intent to use her ivy league education? Can you honestly see into the future and know that, had Ms Maginnis decided to attend a school of lesser prestige and quality, thinking ahead of time that she might want to stay home with her children (as if any young person who hasn’t had children and doesn’t know the responsibility of caring for them can make that decision at the age of eighteen), the person who assumed her place at Princeton would have gone on to use that degree in the name of some valuable public service? Can you honestly see into the future and tell us without a doubt that the ivy league education of this stay-at-home mom really is wasted, after all, and will never produce any kind of social good (because, after all, I suppose we’re not supposed to consider the individual good of an education)? And is the value of all things seen, finally and totally, in its relation to your idea of a social or public good? And why whose standard do we judge someone’s education as wasted, for whatever reason? Does the world really operate in such a zero-sum fashion as your comment suggests? So many false assumptions and dichotomies appear in your comment that one hardly knows where to begin to pick them apart!

  10. Kristen C. says:

    Thank you for printing this article! As a stay at home mother of four, my life is filled with joy and purpose as I know my children influence the lives of so many (including their future children) with the education and love they are receiving everyday in our home. My degree has, in every way, helped me in this pursuit…blessing and educating the generations to come and strengthening the family!

  11. Allie says:

    A very real option for half of every class graduating from Princeton? Why not a real option for every member of a class graduating from Princeton? The suggestion that only mothers have this option is not much worse than suggesting that your education was wasted.

    I grew up with two highly educated parents and I do not feel as though my mother failed to pass on her education or love of the sciences or the humanities to me. In fact, she and my father showed me what it was like to do both, to make sacrifices and to work together. Working mothers can also carry their educations on to share with their children as well, just as fathers can stay home and take care of their children.

    I think the bigger picture here is that each individual has the right to decide what to do with his or her life. There is value there, whether that be at home or in the workforce. That is the beauty of it – the ability to earn an education AND choose what to do with it. If you let someone get to you by saying that your spot at a top-tier university was wasted, then I think you missed the whole point.

    • Stella says:

      Nice addition, Allie. I do know one family where the father (working at home part-time) cares for their little son while the mother works as an attorney. This little boy loves his father so much. People are individuals, and if I learned one thing from my experience working professionally in childcare, it was that there are plenty of women who are not gentle, kind, or nurturing to children, and plenty of men who are.

  12. Mauricienne says:

    Regarding your point #2: Have you read the article the New York Times ran recently on the difficulty women who have taken the “off-ramp” to stay home to raise children have once they decide to return to the workforce? An interesting, thought-provoking read.

    A comment on stay-at-home mothers donating service, fundraising, etc (point #3): I have to say I have not observed them giving any more service outside the home than working mothers. Their work inside the home often seems to consume them entirely. I wish more of them would see that this a great way to use their skills, education and energies in a way that can not only benefit society, but themselves as well.

    • Design Geek says:

      I think it is important to remember that while a stay at home mother has a lot more say in her schedule, it is in fact a full-time job and does consume her time. Offering service and volunteering is something everyone has to carve out time for.

      As a mom with young children, I loved this organization http://www.handsonportland.org. They offered many opportunities to serve that didn’t require an on-going commitment or a particular schedule. When you are trying to work around your growing little ones needs, this is great!

    • Jeannette says:

      I’ve been wasting my math degree for 23 years now, (raising eight children, leading scout troops, supporting soccer, basketball, crew, baseball and rugby teams, helping to shut down a cult); when I ask for volunteers to help me in various capacities, there are both employed and non-employed parents who try to fit their children’s activities int their duty schedule. There are also just as many mothers who say “I can’t help, I woooooooork” as the ones who say “I can’t help, I have kiiiiiiiids”.

  13. Kayla Groat says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for answering the question asked far too many times. Thank you for beautifully putting into words every motivation behind my pursuit of education beyond that which many deem “necessary.” The only thing more important than a strong, attentive, stay-at-home mother, is an strong, attentive, RICHLY EDUACATED stay-at-home mother. I dare one to propose a societal asset that is more precious, more valuable, more capable of change for good than this.

  14. Thank you for this. It is beautifully written. While I don’t have an Ivy League degree, I do have a Master’s Degree that I have barely used professionally. You stated so eloquently what I’ve been trying to say about that for years!

    Also, you may enjoy a blog written by Princeton grads who are all at home raising families. Check out:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/buildingcathedrals/

  15. Thank you for this article. While I don’t have an Ivy League degree, I do have a Master’s Degree that I have barely used professionally. You stated so eloquently what I’ve been trying to say about that for years!

    Also, I have read a good blog for awhile about a bunch of Princeton grads who are now at home raising families. You may want to check them out:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/buildingcathedrals/

  16. I am so glad I stumbled across this blog post! You have put into words what stay-at-home mothers all over have wanted to say. I am a college graduate that has chosen to stay home with our baby. I was greatly influenced by my mother who stayed at home. She will forever be loved, adored, respected, and remembered because of the way she taught her children. I want to be that influence for my own children and I want to teach them in ways that neither a nanny or daycare provider will ever be able to do.
    Thank you for sharing your eloquent thoughts.

  17. Preach sister!

    I loved the conversation that I had with my own family members and well educated friends when they asked me what I was going to do with my English degrees with a minor in Voice Performance and a minor in Photography… My answer was nothing. I wasn’t going to be a teacher, I wasn’t going to do anything in those particular fields. Those were things that I wanted to master within myself. To enrich my skill set that I knew I had a knack for. My real passion is for food, photography and travel. But, being a military spouse…everything ME is in a holding pattern unless I can make sure it is “portable”. When the Mister moves…*I* move. That is how my food blog was born. But, these days I spend all of my time changing diapers, singing, cooing, rocking, cleaning, cooking, folding, vacuuming and bathing 2 children under the age of 4. When I stop to think about what I am contributing to society by staying home with them, I think the world is getting the better end of the stick because I am giving the NEXT generation the BEST start that I can. The same one *I* had, the one where MY mother, extremely intelligent and talented, stayed home and was ALWAYS home by the time *I* was home from school even when she went back to work. She was there and we gained SO much from it. Better self image, esteem, steadiness, security and the list goes on and on. I will be the same thing for my children, I won’t be offended when people suggest I am missing out or that I am letting the WHOLE of the female sex down. Instead I giggle, give them the same “Are you kidding me?” look my Momma used to give me before I politely tell them to mind their own and let me mind mine. There are things that only *being there* can teach a child. Everything else….they’ll figure out on their own.

  18. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. This is beautiful. I didn’t go to a prestigious university, per se, but I did get a wonderful education, and in the years since I’ve struggled with every emotional battle trying to balance my education (sometimes read: duty to society) and motherhood. I have made my peace with being a stay-at-home mom, but your perspective reaffirmed a decision that was very difficult for me.

    I think, many times, mothers have a hard time finding value in themselves, and the Goff article just compounds those feelings of guilt and worthlessness. What a bright ray of sunshine your comments were!!

    Thank you.

  20. Aimee says:

    Thank you! I am currently a stay at home mother to three small children. I have a bachelors degree and plan on a masters at a time that makes sense in our family. I constantly get asked when I plan to return to work…as if mothering my children is a an extended vacation and not a viable career choice on its own. I am grateful for every moment I get to be home, and count myself blessed to be able to afford this time with my children.

  21. Carina Sap says:

    I see this article as a bit dated. Men and women today are both raising their children together. And one thing to remember is most states are 50/50 in terms of custody of children when there is a divorce. So with the divorce rate over 50%, it is not really viable for a woman to stay home with the kids when she has 50% custody of them, I know this sounds negative, but I myself was married with a 12 month old baby in a million dollar home and one day my husband just left. I was left with nothing, I exited the workforce for over 3 years for this marriage and was not viable when I reentered the workforce and had to go into a different field. This is the case with numerous women that I know and men are now taking a larger role in parenting. I think that this article may have been viable in the 50′s but now it is really a moot point. Lastly if the mom in this article who has a Ivy League education had a daughter, would she be a proponent for her daughter to go to college and then be a stay at home mom? I don’t think so. I am sad to read an article like this, although well written, but making excuses for women to serve their husband and take themselves out of the workforce when at least half of them will have to reenter a competitive labor pool in the event of a divorce.

    • Whitney says:

      If given the opportunity to stay home and raise your own children as opposed to a daycare or nanny, I don’t see why in the world you would sacrifice your children’s well being and nurturing on the off-chance you get a divorce, regardless of the statistics. There really are many reasons a woman would need to be employed but the future possibilty of divorce should not be one of them. So in the future, when this woman is NOT divorced and her grown child asks her why she decided to return to “real work” she will answer “well your father and I may not work out and I’m just keeping my options open”? I’m sorry for your situation and you’re right it is the reality of many single parents. But I for one would have been extremely grateful if my mom had had the choice to stay home for me. This woman is making incredible sacrifices to be home while she can and I applaud her for that.

    • Laurie says:

      Serve their husbands?? Please. For myself, I stay home with my kids because I want to. I’m not serving my husband anything or in any way. I’m grateful for the choice and ability to stay home. My masters level education was never a waste and never will be! I especially don’t feel the need to prove myself or justify my choices to anyone. If my husband and I were to ever get a divorce, I will never regret these years being at home with my kids…because I wanted it and I made that choice!
      I do find it interesting that some have commented that those that would like to stay home someday with future children should give up their Ivy League spots…what? Because although they earned the right to be there, they may not use the degree? I shouldn’t have to add that most people’s lives do not turn out as they have planned. I know several women who have never married or had kids and they always thought they would (and they thought they’d be a SAHM too!). Should we suggest they just sit at home twiddling their thumbs waiting for Mr. Right to knock on the door and forego any education after high school? I think not.
      I do have a daughter and yes…I would encourage my daughter to follow her heart. I expect her to go to college and if afterwards, she decided to be a stay at home mom, I would be proud of her for doing what her heart desires! It’s not an easy choice to stay home or stay working…it’s a balance and I sincerely hope that every woman is able to do what they want/are able to do and that all women can just support each other instead of tearing each other down!! Do whatever you have to do to be the best Mom you can be to the kids you chose to have!

    • Twilight says:

      I was going to say the exact same thing! SOMEBODY has to pay the bills and financially support the family, so unless you are lucky enough to be married to a Romney, it is just not practical for a parent (mother or father) to stay home and not earn an income. What stay-at-home parent aims to raise more stay-at-home parents?

      Life is all about choices. When you have more money and financial security in your life, you have access to more choices than those who don’t.

      I have a 3 year old daughter who I love dearly and enroll in ‘toddler school’ 5 days per week while I work 6. I am proud of my financial independence (should my marriage ever sour), and will encourage her to also be independent as she matures into a young woman (the independent streak in her is already there!). How many financially independent stay-at-home mothers exist???

  22. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this. I am a stay at home mom and have been letting the view of those similar to Goff get to me. I agree completely with you and I love what you wrote.
    It’s also very well written.

    Also-I have recently read that a factor in those becoming successful entrepreneurs is having a mother with a high level of education.

  23. Naomi says:

    That was a delightful read. I also worked after my first born (totally engaged in the crazy life cycle of nurseryworkhomedinnerbed) but have been home with my two daughters, 10 and 4, for the last 5 years (a month before the 4 year old was born). The youngest is now starting full time school and I am preparing to go back to work – questioning if anyone will have me after my hiatus! I completed a Master’s during my 3rd year off and volunteered excessively, but as it was more of a personal development degree in Human rights and cultural diversity, rather than design, I’m not sure if employers will be impressed. Articles such as this are inspiring and remind me that I shouldn’t feel guilty for not returning to pursue my career when my babies were still babies and instead choosing to invest all I could in my children. Hats off to mothers who work and Try to do it all, but a deep curtsy to those who devote their all to their families.

  24. Liz says:

    Thank you! I am starting my Physics PhD next week and am lying to people telling them that I want to go into industry when I am done… When in reality, I just want to be a mom and stay home and raise nerdy children!

    I am terrified that they would say the same, that I am “wasting” a degree…

    • trailing wife says:

      Liz, you can look forward to many happy, productive years using your training doing citizen science projects with your children, and with their schools as a PTA/PTO volunteer. (Google “citizen science” for possibilities.) Relatedly, the many engineers and scientists among the mothers at my daughters’ elementary school got a grant (as I recall from Toyota, though many other companies have programs sponsoring science education at the primary levels) to set up and run a science lab in the school after the sixth grade teachers were noticed teaching AC and DC reversed. The lesson plans were proposed by the PTA committee and approved by the teachers, then the lessons were run by the parents using grant-purchased supplies, while the teachers enforced class discipline.

      You could even do a summer camp at your home teaching science — eg. half days for a week per session — as other mothers and teachers do teaching art or poetry or music. I imagine that, if you have any ability to make the subject fun, you’ll be significantly oversubscribed.

      I, being considerably less organized, merely ended up having the house where my daughters’ friends came after school to play… and do their homework. The other mothers were very pleased with the results, and I didn’t have drive all over the landscape for their play dates.

  25. J says:

    As if all elite degree holders go about advancing the cause of women or other such noble causes! How about those in banking, tax law and other careers which may be lucrative and afford the position holder a very comfortable life but are hardly making the world a better place? Where is the obligation of those graduates? Also, someone who is raising a daughters so well set up to thrive in her own lives is most certainly advancing the cause of women. Why does that old adage about never wishing you had spent more time at the office while on your deathbed seem to apply to women? Though staying home with your children (when it is what you sincerely want to do) may provide challenges financial and emotional and otherwise, I would venture to guess that it is the career choice that leads to the fewest deathbed regrets.

  26. Bari says:

    Educate a woman and you educate a family. Pure and simple. No apologies. Great article.

  27. DebbieF says:

    Educate a man, and you educate a man. Educate a mother, and you educate a family. My four outstanding children are spread all over the world. Serving in Afghanistan, teaching English in China, working under the castle at Disney World, working in Belgium, Kenya, Djibouti, Mauritania, (where the soldier found books and supplies to get 15,000 students in school) flying airplanes to the Bahamas, jumping out of airplanes, piloting a submarine, saving beached dolphins and whales, running Boy Scout groups, teaching piano, just to name a few things. They each worked their way through college, too rich for grants and scholarships, but we were too poor to pay. Only the pilot is in debt! None resent it.

    The world that my BS in Chemistry opened to me opened even more for them. And yes, I have judged science fairs, created databases and web pages for homeless shelters and charities, worked in PTA and band boosters as well as local civic organizations, and regularly volunteer in all kinds of worthwhile ventures. My contributions to society aren’t financial per se. You can’t measure me in terms of my income. But my contribution to the world far exceeds many of those who have chosen career over family. You can’t pay someone to love your children. And love is what children need most. They know where they sit on your priority scale. There is no greater joy in life than wonderful kids! All the money in the world can’t buy the joy we had last week when we all got together.

    • Jess says:

      “Educate a man, and you educate a man. Educate a mother, and you educate a family.”

      Is that not just as sexist as the principle that men/women who plan to work are more deserving of education than mothers are?

      • Sarah says:

        “Educate a man, and you educate a man. Educate a mother, and you educate a family,” or sometimes translated …”and you educate a nation” is a famous African proverb.

        The idea is that women teach their children and slowly but surely, an entire society is educated.

      • Scott M says:

        It certainly is. As an educated father of four, married to a wonderful, educated women, I realize the my wife and I bring different things to the table in terms of raising our children. My wife has a love for the humanities while I enjoy the technical and scientific side of things. My children are getting bellyfuls of both.

        I’m an educated man and I’m educating my family. It’s an uphill battle with my daughters, particularly given sentiments like DebbieF writes above on top of the pop culture wont to portray husbands and fathers as oafs, clods, and foils to their ever-wise wives.

      • Fred says:

        Yes it is, however there is a difference. Her quote is accurate to a degree, as she supported with her continued writing. The initial assumption of who is deserving of education is not accurate.

    • Thank you, Debbief — I needed to read that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  28. Pharlain says:

    This is a lovely article with a lot of well thought out points. I agree with everything you’re saying. Only one critique which is this: Early on you say “I knew my life as a stay-at-home mom was incredibly demanding, creative, and meaningful—not a narrow niche occupation, but a very real option for half of every class graduating from Princeton. ”

    I know it wasn’t intentional but this is limiting in itself. Life as a stay at home *parent* should be a very real option for every person if that’s they life they want to lead. Just as your education made you the mother you are today, so too might it help make a man a wonderful stay at home parent.

    • kate says:

      Thank you! This was my issue, too — the article has many great, thoughtful points, but stating that parenting is a choice for only half of grads revealed some disturbing assumptions by the author. If you want stay-at-home parenting to be respected by all Americans, work make it an attractive option to all Americans, not just moms.

  29. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this intelligent, well written, explanation of my mind!! I stay home with soon-to-be four children five and under and I homeschool the older two. I stay with them because no one else can give them what I can. I refuse to believe that income is the highest or richest purpose of education. Someday, maybe, child rearing and nurturing will be considered a worthy and valuable reason for education. Or maybe we will be willing to stop throwing stones and just let people do what they feel is right with the education they paid for and earned.

    Not that I am the least bit frustrated.

    Anyway, thanks, to a truly deserving Tiger.

  30. I really appreciated this. I too am a well-educated stay-at-home-mom; I will remember this article on hard days.

  31. Melissa says:

    Beautiful piece! I’ll never forget a study referenced by one of my accounting professors. The research aimed to discover which investment would most benefit a developing country (infrastructure, water systems, social programs, etc.) and the finding was that the education of women had the largest impact for good, dollar for dollar. I don’t need a financial analysis to see the benefits in my own home. Staying home with my boys is priceless. I’ve never heard a stay at home mom of the last generation say “I wish I had spent more time working when my children were small.”

  32. Liv Seemann says:

    I agree with Anne Marie! I was a college graduate & stay-at-home mother of three, who went to college, & are now grown children.
    My daughter works 4 days of the week as a doctor, and “does it all”, but seems to keep a balance in her life, between 3 kids, a husband, working, the house, & a little “time of her own”.
    One of my sons was a “stay at home” Dad, until his daughter was in school! Everything positive you said about Mothers staying at home, applies to him, as well! I was proud of him…however it was hard to get back into “wage earning” work, but he did!

  33. martin says:

    But who will advance the cause of women who want to be stay-at-home mothers? I suppose women like Anne-Marie might; especially if her daughter and granddaughters are able to enjoy the same kind of life.

  34. Joshua A. Bishop says:

    John Stewart Mill one of the greatest influences on American Political thought was raised by his father through rigorous education and training. So if a woman decides to stay at home and use her education in the promotion of the well-being of her children, I saw more power to you. There are the traditional feminists and the neo-feminists, and I think the neo-feminists tend to go a bit too far when they criticize or praise woman in society. There is nothing more praiseworthy than a mother that stays at home for the benefit and nourishment for their child’s intellectual and moral upbringing. Whatever a woman chooses to do with what she has learned at University, is her choice, to criticize her choice, saying they should have given up that opportunity to someone else since that education would be used selfishly, is to promote hypocritical feminist thoughts. Women have the right to choose their path…if you don’t think so, then you can hardly be considered a friend towards women. Great read and more power to you, in whatever decision you make.

  35. Amy says:

    You said this so perfectly. I too am a stay at home mother. I have an advanced degree from a prestigious university and I use it everyday to enrich the life of my children. Thank you for giving us a voice.

  36. I love this! i am a stay at home mom. It can be rough but it is so rewarding. I love this talk as well by a wonderful woman i know who raised 11 (yes, eleven) amazing children who are all successful in their fields. Being a mom is so much more than just babysitting. It is a huge contribution to society! https://www.lds.org/ensign/1979/10/wife-and-mother-a-valid-career-option-for-the-college-educated-woman?lang=eng

  37. Alegria says:

    We can have it all. Just not at the same time, and perhaps not for a long time.

  38. Andrew says:

    The quote from Kelly Goff suggests that the Guardian article is not thought provoking, but is instead devoid of critical reasoning and rightly dismisses as senseless. To claim that “[the] degree could have gone to a woman who does want to spend her entire life using it to advance the cause of women—or others in need of advancement” suggests that a finite number of degrees are available. This is ludicrous. Institutional selectivity is largely based on the quality of the applicants rather than their number. Any student who misses an opportunity to study at a desirable school does so not because a stay-at-home mother has robbed her of the slot, but because she individually fails to live up to the rigorous standards of the institution.

    Collegiate admissions competitions are not a zero-sum game; one does not need to lose for another to win. Even if the number of supremely qualified applicants far exceeds the instructional capacity of the faculty, it is possible to recruit additional instructors to meet demand.

    • Evelina says:

      That is a charming notion that top colleges would just add more sections (and build more dorms) for the extra qualified applicants! Unfortunately, however, that’s not how it works. Admissions to highly selective schools IS more or less a zero sum game. There are a finite number of spots and every year many more qualified applicants apply (some admissions officers claim they could fill two incoming first year classes with qualified students from the pool of applicants each year.) So, in fact, the opportunity she gained, by being admitted to Princeton, was undoubtably someone else’s loss. Now, does her choice to stay at home make her any less deserving of that opportunity? Absolutely and emphatically not! The value of a liberal arts education is to teach foundational habits of critical thinking and effective articulation of ideas…skills that can be brought to bear in parenting as well as in myriad professional careers.

      I think about this topic a lot because I feel a lot of self-induced pressure to “do something” with my Ivy League training, even though all I am doing currently is raising my 3 little boys. In my case, my guilt is compounded by the fact that my graduate studies were completely funded by a fellowship, so I feel like I owe it to the institution and my department to make something of myself professionally. Otherwise, I worry that they will feel like they “wasted” their resources on my education. Fortunately I have a very sympathetic mentor in my former department chair, whose own wife stayed home when their boys were small. He encourages me to re-enter the field when I’m ready and is supportive of my choice to stay home with my boys now. I feel like there is a very real responsibility to give back, or more appropriately: pay it forward, for those of us who have had the blessing of a good education. I think paying it forward to your family by teaching and nurturing your children is the right place to start, but it shouldn’t end there. Whether or not you have a full time career, I think we all have a duty to push ourselves to make ourselves useful to the broader community by using our skills and training outside the walls of our homes. That can be through jobs, careers or volunteer service but as those who have been given much, I think that is our duty..

  39. Lisa says:

    I believe that the genius of the Ivy League person somehow transfers to the DNA of her off spring…no waste in that !! :)

  40. amber says:

    I loved this well-written article. I come from a home with a mother who chose to stay and home and educate me. She did this with tremendous personal sacrifice in order to bring me from where she came from, which was a life searching for education and culture that she didn’t get the opportunity to study. Although she didn’t get the opportunity to study at a University, nor did her parents, nor theirs, because my mother loved learning and opened my eyes, I was blessed to pursue an education which has changed my perspective on the world and broadened my horizons to even greater opportunities and I hope to do the same by staying home with my children. Many a commencement speech has boasted of the perspective that an education can give you on life and the world. I think that that perspective is a priceless start to give a child. I’m a product of just such ideal.

  41. Sarah says:

    Very well put. I just recently quit my job to stay at home with my 11 month old son. On my last day of work my coworker told me,” I wish I could have told you before you spent all that money on your education that you were going to be a stay at home mom. You don’t need an education to be a mom.” I couldn’t disagree more. One of the greatest investments I can make in the life of my child is my “educated” presence.

  42. I love this so much. I also have a degree from a prestigious university and made a conscious choice to be home with my children. My degree was in art education, and while the idea of positively influencing the lives of children is incredibly appealing to me, I wanted to focus the bulk of that energy and influence on my own children. An added benefit of that choice is that it has given me the freedom to also enrich the lives of my childrens’ friends, classmates and community as I have the time and energy to do so without taking away from my children.

    I have a friend who graduated from an ivy league school with a PhD and decided to use that degree to be home with her children. Her reasoning? “Why would I choose to have my kids spend their days with someone with a high school degree when they could spend their days with someone with a PhD?”

    I’m done “apologizing” for my choice to be home with my kids. My degree is not being wasted. I use it every day as I introduce my children to the magic of their surroundings and their own limitless potential. I can’t think of a better way to use my degree than that.

  43. eden says:

    love this quote – “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

  44. Andrea says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. They are profound and useful and place value on some of the things that are the most important in life. However, this article and several others in the same vein assume that staying home to raise children is a choice available to all women. That is only true for a very limited portion of U.S. society — and an even more limited portion of world-wide society. Working is required of many (almost all?) women in this world no matter how many children they have to raise. I feel gratitude that this option is available to me and realize how unbelievably fortunate I and others like me are.

  45. Emilee says:

    Very inspiring! And, as you already know, your education is not being wasted. Not only are you using it every day in your home, this article shows that you’re using it to help others. The writing is beautiful and you’re offering a lovely perspective to women in similar situations. I am one of them (I have an MBA and stay at home) and I loved being reminded of several of the reasons I have chosen to stay home with my littles. Keep it up. Keep it up.

  46. Barb says:

    Anne-Marie, the world needs more voices like yours to balance the disproportionate clamor for highly-paid and highly-recognized women in the workforce. While their accomplishments merit celebration, so does the work of good and intelligent mothers, who all too often are dismissed by society as could-have-beens. Thank you for your voice.

  47. Cissy says:

    Thank you for a beautiful essay that speaks to my heart and mind. I also feel that much of what I give to my children comes directly from my education . Even some of the classes that weren’t a part of my major (family science) contribute to our family environment. I didn’t think I would use German, physics, religion, critical theory of literature, or even dance classes the way I do at home.

  48. While I appreciate all the feminism has done for women, I am grateful that younger feminists are speaking up and reminding the world that what is most important is that all women should have equal access to opportunities and the ability to choose a path she desires. No one can “have it all”–we all have to walk this tight-rope and do a balancing act, sacrificing some things for what we want more, or what we value more. An education is NEVER a loss. As a mom of four who has worked only part-time (adjunct college teaching), I can firmly say that my education has only benefited my family. Your love of learning rubs off on your children and helps to solidify their success. If we ignore the little people on the homefront, what will our future look like? One of the most important sacrifices a woman can make is to be a mother who nurtures her children, whether she has a career or not.

  49. Dee says:

    I wholeheartedly agree and am glad for your post. Hopefully this goes viral.

    Although I realize that your post was directed at the half of Goff’s argument disparaging the stay-at-home mother, I would like to also take issue with the implication that it “takes an Ivy League education to make a difference.” Sure, maybe someone didn’t get into Harvard Law School, but that doesn’t mean they can’t go to a different law school and still make a difference. Or more to the point, it doesn’t mean that someone who doesn’t get an advanced degree at all, let alone from the Ivy League, can’t make a much bigger difference anyways. As an Ivy League law grad, I’ll be the first to admit it is full of delusions of grandeur, and that societies most meaningful contributors are the stay at home moms who teach the youth of today the importance of education and work and morals and love. Without the Moms of America, we wouldn’t be the country that we are.

  50. Juliana says:

    I am not a literature major but would love my daughter to become interested in it from a young age. What are some books that would be worth reading to her? Thank you for this great article!

  51. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughts. I needed to remember this perspective at the crossroads I am now facing. Thank you.

  52. Jacob says:

    Thoughts: My own mother was valedictorian of her University. She ended up having 11 children. She stayed at home to raise us and invest her education with us. My father was also valedictorian of his University and went on to get his Ph.D. at Harvard. I believe firmly that my mother’s education, and using that education in the home, is what resulted in all of us children marrying spouses who also valued education and in fact graduated from universities.

    My wife is an OB/GYN, more than full time by any measure. I’m an attorney. Also more than full time. We have two children and one on the way. We have a unique situation where our live-in nanny is my sister-in-law. Without her we could not, and would not, do what we do. I appreciate your point about “culture” and agree with how it was addressed. While we both work outside the home, we honor those who choose to remain full-time in the home to be with children.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to draft your insightful perspective. I found it clearly articulated and respectful. I sincerely hope this article receives increased attention.

  53. Linda says:

    Thank you for saying that an education’s value goes beyond that of a career. It changed my life when my sister asked me why I was planning to go back to work after my baby was born. After some soul-searching, I realized that I was going back because I felt it was expected of me. I didn’t like that answer and stayed home–what I felt was best for my family. Over the years I continue to ask myself that question and if I don’t like the answer, I make a change.

  54. Susan says:

    Just wanted to add this quote I found.
    President Gordon B. Hinckley on motherhood:
    “Most of you are mothers, and very many of you are grandmothers and even great-grandmothers. You have walked the sometimes painful, sometimes joyous path of parenthood. You have walked hand in hand with God in the great process of bringing children into the world that they might experience this estate along the road of immortality and eternal life. It has not been easy rearing a family. Most of you have had to sacrifice and skimp and labor night and day. As I think of you and your circumstances, I think of the words of Anne Campbell, who wrote as she looked upon her children:

    You are the trip I did not take;

    You are the pearls I cannot buy;

    You are my blue Italian lake;

    You are my piece of foreign sky.

    (“To My Child,” quoted in Charles L. Wallis, ed., The Treasure Chest [1965], 54)

    You [mothers] are the real builders of the nation wherever you live, for you have created homes of strength and peace and security. These become the very sinew of any nation.” Gordon B. Hinckley,

  55. Carolina says:

    I think many of us feel so much like you do! I am grateful that you have put it in such an eloquent way as to say, ” Not only am I a smart, independent woman but I also have the best job in the world, raising a new generation that will change the world!”
    Carry on to all you amazing women and the endless work you do!

  56. Anne says:

    I have a M.A. in Liturgical Studies from the University of Notre Dame. While I have worked during my son’s childhood, I was a stay at home mom for most of his growing up. My degree was used….to nuture a love of the spiritual, to instill an ethic of curiosity, to be a role model for the importance of education. Now I am a hospice nurse, and have spent the last year and a half of my life out of the work force again as a full time care giver to my eighty nine year old mother and a stay at home mom to my teenager. Wasted? Absolutely not. It has made me the person I am and enabled me to (hopefully) make the world a better place.

  57. Frannie says:

    Loved every word of this article. Thank you.

  58. Wendy Jones says:

    Beautifully written article, with wonderful points. I was seven months pregnant with my first child when I graduated from university. I received an academic award at a banquet soon before graduation, where one of my favorite professors pulled me aside to congratulate me. He asked about my plans and then said, “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about being ‘just’ a mother.” This article will go with it in my bank of things to remember on the hard days.

  59. Liz says:

    I would love to be a stay-at-home mother in the future when I have children, and I am sure my fiance would like the same opportunity to be a stay at home dad. Unfortunately, rearing children and their impending future education as well as planning for our own retirement requires a significant salary, one that is not easily earned even from Northwestern University grads with graduate degrees. It takes two parents working full time to provide for a family, perhaps the reason many in the millennial generation are forgoing having children. It is very sad that the one salary/one family model is not attainable even for hard working adults. I would love to see this change, but in the meantime, I guess it will be two working parents for my future children.

    • Beth says:

      It is absolutely possible, if you choose to make the requisite sacrifices.

    • petetheelder says:

      It may not be possible to do so and have the lifestyle you want, but it is most definitely possible to be married and have one person be a stay at home parent.

      My wife is a stay at home mom with our three kids and I make a decent living as a public librarian, but you don’t exactly rake in money as a librarian. We know plenty of other couples with kids with one parent with a similar pay range as me who manage to pull it off, including some stay at home dads.

  60. I also read that article — one of the few I’ve wanted to finish in recent months. To have a fully engaged brain, a woman does need to seek opportunities in this gloriously educated country of ours. I’ve got such gratitude for a political, educational, and social system that lets me raise my kids as an educated woman. I’m happy to say that finishing the childhoods of my own children — in person — has been an option for me. I don’t take fancy vacations, and I don’t wear anything designer that isn’t second-hand. I’m glad to read that you value the minds of your own children as much as I value those of my nearly-grown trio. Thanks for putting this so cogently. Keep up the good work!

  61. Andrea says:

    Amen.

  62. Heather says:

    You have expressed what so many of us have not said out loud. Your article is poignant. Especially, your point in response to Goff’s opinion of “wasting” a good education. I stay at home with my 3 children. We sacrifice and do with out excessive things, but it is worth it because I am opening the world to my children. We also read and discuss philosophy, and I am teaching them to critically think for themselves. What I give to my children is an invaluable gift, and I am a happy to do it.

  63. Anne says:

    Why is this about mothers, and not about parents? What if we changed all the references to “mothers” in this article to “mothers and fathers?”

    • Clare says:

      Because fathers and mothers are not the same. Have you ever wondered why mothers get pregnant, carry their babies for nine months, and then have breasts with which to feed them? The bond between mother and baby is a unique one. Fathers are very important, and children need them, but they are not mothers. The first three years of a child’s life are a time of bonding, exploration, and ultimately, separating. Mothers are essential to this process.

      • Kim A. says:

        I completely agree, Clare. People forget too easily that we ARE different, and for very good reasons. Men and women, mothers and fathers, BALANCE the family. We are not interchangeable. Just ask my husband when a roach runs across the floor. :)

      • Mary says:

        Thank you for saying this. In the age of political correctness, no one is willing to point this out! The genders are different! That does not mean men are better than women, it means that they are both of equal value but we need their differences to strengthen society!

  64. Joanne says:

    Yes, it is absolutely wasted. An Ivy League education open so many doors, otherwise shoved in the face of (or remaining closed to) individuals – not even necessarily of the female gender. Don’t take it if you’re going to waste it. Just waste away your life, whiling away your hours, claiming to raise the next generation (that is going to suffer from the inferiority complex or other mental illnesses associated with your implicit/ subconscious sense of regret associated with having whiled or wasted away your entire education, and thus, life).

    • Fred says:

      One person’s waste is another person’s treasure.

      Furthermore, if this other person wanted her place at Princeton, perhaps they should have prepared more for the SAT instead of “wasting” time at that party the Friday night before. But, it is always easier to blame someone else for not living their life the way that you want them to.

  65. While I lack an Ivy League degree (I opted to follow the scholarship money), what you say resonates for me. My youngest child will enter kindergarten next year and I find myself looking to reenter the workforce. The 14 years I have spent volunteering with an international organization that supports mothers, the time spent grant writing for the middle school, the hours spent managing a single income…none of it means anything to potential employers. I’ve been advised to “leave off” the volunteering because the organization might “turn employers off.” It is incredibly frustrating to be told that what mattered most to me and my children is really of no value to society.

  66. Natalie says:

    An bonus of staying home to raise and educate your own children is the opportunity to be a force for good in your community. Our own children are not alone in experiencing the benefits of parents who have time to volunteer. Parents who stay home have a bit more time to help ALL children; to welcome other children into their home, to lead
    Girl and Boy Scout troops, volunteer in the classroom, to be there to help give a ride or comfort a child who is old enough to be home alone safely, but needs someone to talk to. It truly takes a village and the stay at home parent helps complete our communities, just as the parent who works full time does.

  67. Laura says:

    This is a wonderful article. Thank you for writing these words of wisdom for other women contemplating their future. I dare say that if a study was done of homes in which a mother and father are married – (I believe the outcome of the study would show) the ratio of children who receive a college (UNI) education would be closely tied to if the mother received the same (or similar) education. I say this with a ‘given’ that fathers (in my conservative mind) have this basic responsibility so as to be able to provide for their family. My husband has a post grad degree… we have 4 children (and we had them straight away – after we were married young 20yrs old) – my has encouraged me to achieve a degree because he has the above belief. I will do this once all of our children are at school.

  68. Megan says:

    AWESOME!!! I appreciate so much of what you’ve expressed here as I find myself in very similar circumstances and feel so passionate about my role as mother. There isn’t anything more important nor far-reaching than what I’m teaching them in these early years of their lives and there’s no other place I’d rather be!

  69. What if we let the author use the words she chose? This is an article about women, not just parents.

    Thank you for writing this. I am not ivy-league educated, I went to a state school. And I didn’t graduate. I dropped out to marry and have a family. It took my mother a decade to stop sending me school applications, and the people who knew me when wonder why I wasted my intelligence this way.

    • Maria says:

      I also dropped out of school when I was younger. I graduated from Nursing school 11 months ago and will finish my BSN next summer. I stay at home with my kids still and have been since my first was born almost 8 years ago. I always felt not quite complete never having finished college and I’m asked all the time when I’ll go to work and the truth is, I’m loving being at home again. I’m in the school all the time, I have the time to volunteer again, I have been training a lot (I’m a runner), reading a lot, all in all, it’s incredibly rewarding. How do you tell people you have no desire to go to work when you sacrificed (and your children sacrificed) so much for two years while you were in school?

  70. Awesome! I just had this discussion with my 15 yr old daughter last weekend, then ended up teaching about it on Sunday to my sunday school class. Very well put!

  71. Amanda says:

    @juliana – I would start by going to your local library and ask the librarian(s) for suggestions. They’re usually a wonderful resource for old and new books. You’ll also find other parents there who can guide you.

    Not yet a mom but went to elite schools – this article is making its way through my community of friends. I can tell you you’ve hit a nerve (heart string?) beautifully.

    Thank you for writing this.

  72. Karen Newmeyer says:

    No regrets, but we pay a price when we choose motherhood over a career. I graduated from law school, worked until after my third child was born. The hardest years, and the most blessed years, were the years I stayed home and homeschooled my children. The kids are mostly grown and I have reentered the work force although my current position is on tangentially related to my educational training and pays only a fraction of what I am worth. Still, I’m glad for those years I was home with my children.

    My children benefited from my education. My three daughters, and also my son, value education. Education, whether it is directly applied to career development, has a value of its own.

    Do I wish I could return to my former career track? Absolutely. The opportunity may still present itself but I’m competing with much younger law school graduates who have established connections which I don’t have anymore. It is hard to get your foot back in the door after having left the career track for 15 years. I will persist and am the eternal optimist. Regardless, I would do it all again. Nothing is more important than my children. I’m grateful for my years with them and my current position.

    • Stella says:

      I like how you are able to honestly acknowledge the career price you paid, yet are still glad for the time you spent with your children.

  73. Lindsey says:

    Amazing article!!!!! I am a college graduate, former teacher, now stay-at-home mom. I agree one hundred percent with your article. Thank you for voicing everything I feel so eloquently.

  74. I truly love this article! I’m a stay-home mom (who now blogs full time from home) who went to law school and left a job as a lawyer to stay home with my son. It was the best and most rewarding decision I’ve ever made. I had someone comment to my husband (which he then told me) “what happened to Chandra, she used to be so ambitious.” To which I said, I’m still very ambitious – just with different goals. I would so much rather stay home with my children and teach them, love them, and spend time with them than figure out ways to get people out of DUIs or minimize their sentence for shoplifting. much more rewarding, the benefits are better, and my boss is way cuter. And it does make me feel good to know I do have a law degree but I choose to do something else.

  75. Paula Snowbird says:

    An Ivy League education can certainly be an important stepping stone for a woman to become a full-time stay-at-home mom in the first place. The economic reality today is that many households need dual incomes in order to get by. Women who attend such elite, prestigious institutions of higher learning such as an Ivy League college can often meet and marry men at such schools who have higher earning potential, as men often utilize the benefits of such degrees when entering the workforce. Thus, I would argue that many women who have every intention of becoming stay-at-home moms in the long run would be best served attending such institutions, assuming of course their parents have the financial resources to pay for such schooling.

  76. christinemb says:

    I completely agree with your article.

    However, I disagree that you answered no the question in the survey about donating time to service. If you are active in your church and involved in the service projects there, you are donating time to service. If your child is in school and you are participating in the PTA and in the classroom, you are donating time to service. If you are helping your neighbor down the street when the need arises, you are donating your time to service.

    The idea that donating time to service only means that you’re out serving meals in a homeless shelter, or giving out blankets in a women’s shelter, is erroneous. Also, discounting the service being given through the everyday things done outside the home for your community erroneous as well. As members of our communities, there are so many ways we can donate service that aren’t through “official channels”.

  77. Meredith Vanderplas says:

    Thanks for this Anne-Marie! I would only add that the value of a woman’s education is multiplied when she is able to support her husband with it as well. Not monetarily, but rather through intellectual conversations. Conversations that are much easier to have when a woman chooses to devote her time in the home. We are not only raising healthy adults-to-be but additionally allowing our husbands to continue on the paths their own mothers laid out for them. I think the saying goes, “behind every successful man there stands a woman.” Not in a prideful way of course, but simply recognizing that women who chose to stay at home are making a wise investment not only for their children, but for their husband as well!

  78. “When a highly educated woman is home with her children day in and day out, she weaves the riches of her education into their lives in continuous, subtle, living ways.” This quote from your article is going to be part of my mission statement. Thank you!

  79. Father says:

    From my perspective — as a working man/father providing for my family, and having an educated wife and mother of my children staying home to raise them, I think that the education of the mother in the home is of utmost importance in raising the following generation of learners and leaders in society. Hurrah for you, and your decision to raise your children! Too few mothers today are choosing this very important option, and thus true leaders and exemplars in our society are diminishing rapidly in quality and quantity for sure. Thank you for setting such a great example!

  80. Cath says:

    Imagine if every single person in the world had a mother (natural, adoptive, foster, it doesn’t matter) who took the time to give as much good as she was able to her children, and teach them to pass it on to the next generation. Even if the mother didn’t have the ability to give her child an appreciation for great literature, the world would still be filled with people who had been given the knowledge that they had something valuable to pass on to their own children, even if it were “only” love.

    In the same way, if every family made the effort to make simple healthy meals (not necessarily perfectly or on time or always) we would have more healthy people in the world than we do when mothers and fathers work all day and only have time to eat frozen pizza.

    No need to judge people who eat frozen pizza, many of us do, but it is important t realize the effect that one person has on their own family — all together we can change the whole world. Just by reading Pinocchio to our children.

  81. Hannah Martin says:

    Thank you.

  82. Jessica says:

    I enjoyed this article, but really, is this topic only applicable to women? I am disappointed that we are not expanding this conversation to include all the men who do or want to be a full-time father–the issues about ‘wasting’ a degree are relevant to anyone who chooses to be at home, not just women. There is a lot of interesting perspective to be gained by taking this issue out of the gender sphere (are we unconcerned about men wasting their degrees on fatherhood? If so, that says a lot about what the heart of the issue truly is, and it’s not about the educating a stay-at-home parent, it’s about how we perceive and enforce male and female roles in society).

  83. Jen says:

    People are ALWAYS going to criticize, no matter what choices we make regarding motherhood. I have a PhD and while I worked full-time at a university with my first two children, I was criticized. When I stayed home, people gave me a hard time. I was criticized for waiting too long to have children. I was criticized for having too many children. Women should live the life that is best for them, not get down on themselves and build each other up!! Ignore the criticism. The only person’s opinion that matters is yours.

  84. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I left the full time practice of law to care for my young children. I used to say to people who asked how I could give up my career that “If I died young, I would be glad that I used my time to love and get to know my children; and if I lived to be a hundred, well then I’d have have fifty years after my children were grown to do whatever I wanted to do. ” Now my youngest is starting Kindergarten. It hasn’t always been easy financially or otherwise to get to this point. It won’t be easy re-building my career. But, I’m glad I made the choice that I did; and, I’m glad that women you like are writing these sorts of pieces to encourage the rest of us.

  85. Cissy says:

    Thank you for such thoughtful, beautiful words. They speak right to my soul. I’m surprised at all the ways my education has contributed to our family environment; even the non-major classes like German, dance, physics, linguistics. I still love learning and reading from the best sources, and I’m sure that influences my children. Higher education has blessed not just me, but enable me to bless my family and my community. It’s never wasted.

  86. Bekah says:

    Tears in my eyes reading this- someone who gets it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  87. CDMack says:

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful article. This hit home for me as I recently choose to retire as a Professional Ballet Dancer in order to take care of my beautiful twin babies. Although I did not experience an Ivy League education, instead I trained diligently at the very best ballet schools in the country. I learned very valuable lessons on discipline, devotion, artistry, grace, and perseverance. I’ve heard critics claim “If you can dance, and you have a job with a professional ballet company, why would you ever quit?” My response comes from two pairs of gorgeous eyes that smile at me when I pick them up in the morning, coo at me when I kiss their cheeks, and laugh when I entertain them with a made-up on the spot quirky Twyla Tharp meets Big Bird soft shoe number. Sure, I could dance on a stage for an audience of 2500, but instead I’m choosing a role I prefer over Odette, that of being a stay-at-home Mother.

    I don’t think my 25 years of ballet training will go to waste. I don’t expect my babies to grow up and be Professional Ballet Dancers, but I do expect them to be loving, intelligent, confident individuals. I know that if I devote as much time and energy into my children as I did with my career; I’m going to be a proud Mother.

  88. Mosy says:

    My Grandmother who was born at the turn of the 20th century often said, “Educate a man, that is what you get. Educate a woman, you educate a family.” She had a college degree when it wasn’t fashionable for a woman to earn one. She was one of the wisest women I have ever known.

  89. Rebecca Lewis says:

    I was blessed to be able to stay at home with my children until they were in school, at which time, I went to graduate school. I chose to study child development/early childhood education so that I would be even better prepared to teach my own children in addition to their public school education. Although I could have doubled our family income by working outside the home, I feel the rewards for being home more than compensate for the money I could have earned. I have memories that could not have been otherwise, and my children tell me their lives have been rich and rewarding because of the effort I made in their behalf. Thanks for the lovely article.

  90. Cindy B says:

    Thanks for expressing this very valid opinion. I chose a career in Dental Hygiene since it was known to have more flexible hours. I was able to take off a couple years here and there and work only a few hours a week when my six children were young. A patient once expressed to me that I was wasting my life by being a mother and that my job was too menial considering the intelligence that she felt I had, that could have been better applied to the field of medicine or something of more importance. I have never for a minute wished my life to be any other way. In fact I believe that my choice allowed me to not only enrich the lives of my children in ways that were unique and labor intensive, but to enrich the world through the talents they now give to society. They are musicians, artists, business people, avid readers, and most of all willing to serve in their communities, appreciate nature, seek to find and share ways to better health and wellness, and show love and compassion to others. If I have done nothing more in my life than this it was more than I could have hoped. In the meantime I served in church, scouts, 4-H, school activities, and hosted numerous exchange students and helped my child become an exchange student. I continued my education little by little, got a degree in music and am working toward one in humanities, learned new instruments, created a beautiful home and gardens with my husband as well as administering his business. I studied and became a writer, and could live another 40+ years with many unknown passions and accomplishments to come. Choosing to be a mother first was the best contribution I could give to the world.

  91. Deanne says:

    Beautifully written and write on point. Miss Goff should have a kid or two before writing a piece like you quoted (I am assuming of course).

  92. M. Anne Liebenthal says:

    Brigham Young
    “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

    ― Brigham Young

  93. Dorothy K says:

    What an amazing testimony to the invaluable benefits of an elite degree. While I do no hold a degree from an Ivy League school, I did earn an MBA from a prominent school in the Midwest. I recently had this very same discussion with my husband when I expressed the desire to be a stay a home mom so that I can raise our son. My husband asked me why I wasted my time obtaining an MBA if all I wanted to do was stay at home, but I don’t think he understood the deeper reasons for doing so. I only hope that our current situation changes so that I may step down as the family’s breadwinner in favor of bringing up our children and enriching their lives more than I can as a working mom who only sees her son in the wee hours of the morning and late at night during the week.

  94. Nate C. says:

    Very well written article with amazing points!. My wife went to a top-tier school and has since made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom. Because of her education, my wife has an amazing intellect, thinks independently and critically, and can speak intelligently on most subjects. If my wife can raise children half as good as her, her education will not have been in vain. Thank you for the article!!!

  95. Well said! Thank you for taking the time to write this.

  96. CC says:

    As a woman with a PhD from an elite school, I agree. Of course women should have an equal opportunity to be educated. Not all women marry and those who don’t need to have meaningful career options beyond the limited traditional ones of nurse, secretary or teacher. But when you are married and have kids it’s time to step down and take care of your family. There’s always someone who can fill your shoes at work. But taking care of your family is a job only *you* can do best. You can’t really own your career if you are not willing to sacrifice it. It owns you.

    • Maria says:

      “beyond the limited traditional ones of nurse, secretary or teacher”
      Wow. So now we get to tell women who DO work outside the home that their careers aren’t good enough? I went to nursing school and I can tell you that it was far more difficult than my major university education any day.

  97. AC says:

    While this article is well-written, I believe the author misses many of the real-world issues that college graduates (women and men) have to face today and takes an elitist view. First of all, the author most likely was not saddled with student loans from her Princeton education, as her parents most likely paid for the degree or she received a scholarship. If she had student loans, perhaps her husband makes enough money to cover that expense. For many couples wanting to start a family, it simply is not realtistic for one partner to stay home based on expenses. In other cases, the wife may have higher earning potential than the husband. Secondly, the author states that she answered “no” on the survey in regards to donating time to service. As a previous poster mentioned, volunteering is another way to serve your community – being a stay-at-home mother is a worthy cause for sure but if you cannot teach your children about caring for others at the same time, it is a wasted opportunity. I view staying at home with your children as a privilege that many women and men cannot take advantage of anymore. The author would do well to remember the privilege she and her family has been afforded.

    • K says:

      “The author would do well to remember the privilege she and her family has been afforded”

      Princeton, as well as other top schools, instituted 100% needs based scholarships in the early 2000s. No privilege needed, just hard work. You would do well not assume so much about someone you’ve never met.

      • enaj says:

        …and yet the amount of privilege it takes for a person to be in the position to even get IN to Princeton is pretty significant. There’s hard work, but in the case of Ivy League etc, only a very small percentage of people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds even meet the qualifications to get accepted at the age of 17 :/

  98. Beautiful and insightful.

  99. Rebecca says:

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every woman (and man) in the world were as privileged as this author to be able (1) to receive an elite college education and (2) to choose to set aside the career options it affords in order to focus on her/his family? I was not as privileged, so I took advantage of taxpayer subsidized education at a state university. I then used that education to work my way into a graduate program at an elite university, which was also subsidized by tax dollars through research grants from the National Science Foundation. After 10 years of such wonderful educational opportunities paid for by federal and state tax dollars (i.e. the rest of America), I feel an obligation to use that specialized training to benefit society. I have young children that I would love to stay home with, especially when the juggling act of career and family gets overwhelming, but because the rest of society invested in my education/training with an expectation that the investment would lead to innovation and job creation for the future, I can only think of one word to describe the “choice” to set aside that training to stay home with my children: selfish. Maybe, had I been privileged enough to pay for my own schooling, I would feel differently.

    I don’t intend this as a criticism of the author’s choice of how best to juggle all of the demands placed on women in today’s society. I truly wish that education, and all of the benefits that come with it were available to more people than it is. How many single mothers could lift their families out of poverty if they had the kind of access to education that the author did?

    • K says:

      What do you mean by privilege? What do you mean by access? Anyone can apply, and you dont have to rich to attend. You may have to make sacrifices elsewhere, true, but to assume the author has means or access others don’t over the top.

      Read the article again. She’s simply stating that the assumption that an educated stay at home mother isnt “benefiting society” is flawed.

    • Helen says:

      Turn off the “poor me” already! I was a poor church mouse, and the way I got to an expensive education was by studying instead of watching TV or hanging out with friends. It wasn’t my choice (it was my mother’s), but it was done without costing the family a cent. I earned those scholarships. Just as you did! Your own story also proves that privilege is not the only way to get an expensive education.

      Your comment about single mothers “lifting their families out of poverty” if they had expensive educations is strange to me. It seems idealistic and unrealistic. It’s not that easy to lift an entire family out of poverty, whether you have an education or not. And why would that burden be on the single mother? Where is the father (separated or not), where are her parents, where are her siblings, and why aren’t the children working as soon as they are old enough to? If the members of your family work, you’re not stuck in poverty. You might not be rich, but you shouldn’t be trapped in poverty. If you’re a single mother with young children, there are welfare services that give you as much as many working people earn…cash for food as well as for whatever you want to spend it on. (General Relief). And the court system is really aggressive about helping single mothers get child support, as long as the mothers are willing to take the responsibility of going down to the court and getting that help.

      In terms of your career choices and how you connect them to your having received grants, it sounds like you have created and set an obligation upon yourself. The government requires nothing more than that you pay that money back financially. There are no guilt strings or trips attached. It is truly sad if you have given up time you want to spend with your young children (time they would probably love to spend with you too), in order to fulfill this self-imposed obligation to be unfree because you were given money. You were given the money in order to become more intelligent and more capable of making the choices that make you happy and free as an American citizen- not so that you could serve as an indentured servant who has no freedom to pursue her own liberty and happiness.

  100. Jane says:

    Amen! I saw this article on Facebook. I will be sharing it. Thank you.

  101. Beverly says:

    I actually did this backwards. I worked as an auditor and went out on maternity leave 27 years ago. In that time, I birthed and raised two sons. I was fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom. We read everything!! By the time school would have started, we decided that I would stay home and educate our boys. In the 14 years of our home education journey, we have done more, seen more, and read more than most kids will do in their lifetime. My oldest now is 27, a nurse (YourSingingNurse.com), married, and is finishing his BSN with a 4.0. My youngest is 24, graduate from UCLA (two weeks after his 20th birthday) with a BS in biochemistry, getting married in four weeks, and applying for a PhD in bioimformatics and genomics.
    I started the community college after they started and entered UCLA (my youngest son’s alma mater) with a 4.0. I double majored in history and geography and just graduated in 2012 at 56 years old. Applying for work is hard at my stage in life but I don’t regret for a minute the path I chose to stay home with my sons and educate them. I know that God will put me where He wants.
    By the way, my husband abdicated his role before the kids entered college. My decision to stay-at-home and home educate them had no bearing on what may or may not happen concerning our marriage. None of us know what our future will be. Life happens regardless of our choices and in spite of them

  102. “She is choosing to form a few people in a profound way, rather than to affect a broader audience with a smaller per-person investment.”

    I love this description of what I am doing with my four children by staying home to raise them!

    GK Chesterton had something similar to say in 1910: “How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone?”

  103. Judith says:

    According to the author, why does only “half” the graduating class have this choice? One of my dearest friends is an awesome stay-at-home dad. (Ironically, his wife did her grad work at Princeton.)

  104. Helen says:

    Wonderful article! I would like to put in my two cents: I don’t believe that there are mothers who “can’t afford to stay home.” Reliable day care costs as much as most women make…the more the woman earns, the better quality day care she seeks, and it ends up being the same. The choice to work full-time seems to be more about whether or not the woman WANTS to raise her own child, than it is about whether or not she can financially afford to do so. (And when a woman is fortunate enough to have the child’s grandparent watching the child for free…I believe that is a form of elder exploitation, and it is also a luxury because the senior has the free time, energy, health, and willingness to watch the baby).

  105. Caitlin says:

    This is a wonderful article. I did not attend an Ivy League school, but was the valedictorian of the public university I graduated from. I love learning and worked very hard in college. However, my field is in education and I feel like I am the most qualified to take care of and educate my future children. Thank you for reassuring me that what I know in my heart is correct. I cannot wait to spend my days educating and exploring with my own.

  106. Beautifully written, and gentle but pointed, Thanks so much.

  107. Many thanks, as so many others commenting here have expressed! I am a college-educated stay-at-home mother, too, and I would take the conversation a step further. The attitude of “wasting” a good education and the subsequent thinking that someone else deserved an educated stay-at-home mom’s “spot” reveals a troubling attitude that underlies much of today’s thinking about education: that education is a product which is bought to obtain a desired result. When education is thought of in terms of consumerism and utilitarianism, it degrades all the individuals – male and female – who seek and participate in education. I know that I would not be who I am without having learned alongside of and from the individuals – male and female – with whom and from whom I did during my years at college. And I would like to think that my presence and collaboration impacted all of them – male and female – as well. Education isn’t just filling up a vessel to be used to make money or even raise children; education shapes people – male and female – and is as unique as the people who seek after it. So Anne-Marie (and her classmates – male and female) would not be the same had she not been educated when and where she was. Imagine the unseen impacts we have on each other when we encounter each other in the classroom and how tragic when we forget that important aspect of education.

  108. Claudia Northrup says:

    The debate rages on…home or not home, career or no career…point is…children need care, Halloween treats, field trips, lunches, play dates, homework, music lessons, school projects, conferences, snow days, birthday parties, love and time to be listened to…not hurried. They grow up and leave home. Who cares in the scheme of things where you went to college or didn’t…50 years from now, it won’t matter…we are not that important. Love your child in the way you feel is right and you will know in the end you did what you were born to do! Period.

  109. Children grow up…they need love, lunches, Halloween treats and costumes, play dates, music lessons, new clothes, doctor appointments, time, birthday treats, time, school projects, homework help, time, bedtime stories, when they need you…you’d better be there or the conversation won’t happen, a bad day at school, the bully, the kid texting…they don’t care where you went to college or what your degree was in…sorry! 50 years from now you won’t know who did what except you child and they will be the only one who really cared…except for your parents… :)

  110. Karen says:

    maybe it’s good for other women, when some stay hoe with their kids.

    Woman who went to good, but not Ivy League colleges can get a shot at those jobs.

    I was married w/ a wonderful career for 17 years, then had my daughter. I’m SO glad to be home with her.

  111. Thinking ... says:

    When hiring a nanny to spend time with your kids, do you see any value in choosing a well educated nanny – all else being equal? How much more so for both parents, not just mom. Being an interesting person can help you raise interesting children.

  112. I think this article pertains to any woman with a well earned college degree. I myself did many of these things on the weekends with my own daughter when she was growing up. While I was not able to stay home, I applaud this young woman’s efforts to mold her young children. She sounds a lot like my own mother who used dinner each evening to enrich us, calling it her “music appreciation hour” (she was a music major.) This is a lovely article. I say if a young woman is smart enough to get into a highly regarded university (not just the Ivy League) she can do what ever she chooses to do. Since when do we have to know ABSOLUTELY in advance what our life path will be? How is that advancement for women? Continue the great job you are doing with your kids!

  113. Ben says:

    We should get over the idea that Ivy League is an “elite” education. Everywhere you look to blame for our country’s various issues in the last decade, you find one thing in common- An Ivy League education. I guarantee we’d be better off if we stopped assuming Princeton/Yale/Harvard grads are better suited to run things than other people… They are a nepotistic self-involved group of elitists who think their college makes them better than anyone else, and generally infallible. And they’ve led us straight to hell.

    • non ivy league grad says:

      Ben,

      I applied, and didnt get accepted, to an ivy league school. My parents didnt attend. My brother and sister, however, both got accepted to ivy league schools. Just as it is foolish to assume everyone with an Ivy League grad is better qualified than every non ivy league grad, its just as foolish to assume every ivy league grad is self absorbed and a beneficiary of nepotism. I think “we’d be better off if we stopped assuming” period.

  114. Bruce Russell says:

    Can you at least promise us to have a large family!!!

  115. Danielle says:

    When I accepted a seat at the UCSD School of Medicine thirty years ago, an acquaintance voiced basically the same objection- aren’t I taking a slot that could have gone to a man- who would support a family? My, have times not changed.

    And now that I am a stay-at-home mother, having homeschooled my children and serving on several non-profit boards, I have to say that my influence is probably greater than it was in the office and surgical suite. It doesn’t seem that my (mostly male) colleagues share the same animus toward stay-at-home moms as Ms. Goff does. Also, many of them have changed their lifestyles dramatically, as well- trading in the OR for the vineyard, unrelated business pursuits or a less-demanding specialty with better hours. Are they also guilty of wasting their education, or is that judgment solely reserved for the female of the species?

  116. Steve Gregg says:

    The feminists who claim women waste their Ivy League degrees by becoming stay-at-home mothers sound a lot like the old male chauvinists who claimed it was a waste to educate women at all. What is the next claim of the feminists? It’s a waste for stay-at-home moms to wear shoes? What do they need them for?

    One of the many off-putting things about the shrieking feminists is their control freak compulsion to dictate other people’s lives. The point of an education is to lead a happy life, not run the rat race faster and more furiously. Rather than bend to the feminist’s foolish assumption that you have a duty to abandon your family for a career, the feminists might learn something from the stay-at-home moms about leading a happy life.

    • Gradstudent says:

      Thanks for offering your bland caricature of feminist thought that indicates you have absolutely no knowledge of the history or diversity of feminist discourse. It was good for a laugh.

  117. (1) A recent economics working paper shows that on average, going to law school is a good investment, which more than repays the tuition and time cost. The relevance here is that the study also reports that 40% of the graduates are not working in law jobs. The seemingly narrow mental training helps in lots of kinds of jobs. I expect a JD would help in being a mother too– just without a monetary payoff.

    (2) One problem we have at the private school on whose board I served is that an increasing fraction of the mothers work full-time. They aren’t able to help their own children as much, but they also don’t have the energy to serve on the board of directors, coach sports teams, bring refreshments for class parties, help with teacher-appreciation activities, run after-school clubs, and so forth. And I am relieved that my successor on the board, a stay-at-home mom, has an MBA, because the board really needs someone with that kind of training.

  118. Mahon says:

    There are also many people – men and women – who went to elite schools and came out with elite credentials but didn’t really get an education. They may be more of a waste of a place than the others even if they get those Big Law (or whatever) jobs. We could all be a little less judgmental here. Or maybe we should be a little more wary of the word “elite.” (I went to Yale, FWIW.)

  119. TBlakely says:

    Welcome to the wonderful world of Progressives for whom ‘breeders’ are 2nd or 3rd class citizens. When the higher education bubble implodes and resources for scholarships dwindle, I wonder if women who apply will have to show documentation that they’ve been spayed.

  120. Jacque says:

    Thank you. You made me feel successful today for the choice I have made to stay at home with my three great kids.

  121. Mike says:

    In my town and several others I know, we are short of doctors and people have difficulty getting treatment. Yet we have a number of women who have medical degrees (and I know this is true in other places) and who have opted to drop out or to drastically reduce their hours so that they can raise children, enjoy life, and so on. There are a limited number of medical degrees … should we give them out so that women can “enjoy their worthiness”? What about the people who could benefit from medical services?

    • There arent a limited number of medical degrees. There are a limited number of spots in any one medical school. Im not sure where one would find the data, but something tells me there hasnt been one year where every school in, forget the country, but even a state, was close to full capacity. This whole “a woman was more qualified than me and took my spot and i cant get a break and then she went and had a family. WAAAHHH” whininess is rediculous. Oh, and no one “gave” these women a degree. They EARNED them! And furthermore, if any one subset of the population gets to dictate how another spends their time, shouldn’t we as a society leave that to the most highly educated?

  122. Mastro says:

    Sorry- but the opportunity cost for a stay at home mom with an advanced degree is rather high. Does she remember her fellow high school students who just missed getting into Princeton? Or maybe didn’t even apply due to the high tuition?

    What she has is a very expensive elite marker. Basically a country club membership.

    She is also contributing to the death of social mobility in the US. Michelle Obama used her Princeton degree to move from lower middle class to elite status. Good thing Michelle’s seat wasn’t taken by Ms Macginnis.

    I’m all for choice- but just as we must be aware that driving SUV’s or investing in South African diamond mines have a larger cost- maybe women who want to stay at home should choose their educations accordingly.

  123. dnb03 says:

    I sold a very start up business when I became pregnant and realized the business wasn’t old enough to survive without me mothering it. I never regretted it; my children have given me far more than I could have ever hoped to receive (and still do). And now that they are grown (which occurred much too fast), I am looking forward to Part III of my life, hopefully as a writer. P.S. to Ms. McGinnis, the ‘Sarah Plain and Tall’ series is great to share with your daughters, and then you can watch Glenn Close and Christopher Walken bring the stories to life.

  124. garrett says:

    Did you meet your elite husband at Harvard? Then I guess you needed that elite degree, and others that were shoved aside for you, oh well.

  125. Lin says:

    Deny elite education to women who intend to raise their own children? Seems like a good way to ensure some of the country’s most gifted women never breed.

    The implications of feminist orthodoxy can yield some truly bizarre outcomes/incentives.

    • brilliantly put.

    • Gradstudent says:

      There is no “feminist orthodoxy”– there are have been, and continue to be many differences of thought and opinion among feminists. I support the point of view of this article, and surprise, I identify as a feminist.

  126. Lin says:

    Here’s another interesting – and perhaps deliberate – consequence of Goff’s way of thinking: It’s a really clever way of pre-screening and removing women who may hold more traditional, and potentially more conservative, views about the nature of motherhood, woman and feminism, since it would effectively restrict access to elite education to only those women who already share the values of left wing feminists like Goff. Basically, such a limitation could act as an early political “litmus” test to dis-empower one’s (potential) political adversaries.

  127. D Palmer says:

    First, learning is its own reward, so education is rarely wasted.

    Second, I imagine that most women who attend prestige schools don’t go in thinking that motherhood is the career goal. So saying that an Ivy League educated stay at home mom wasted a spot that could have been given to a career driven woman is pure Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

    And finally, I would argue strenuously that my mid-level state school education was/is just as good as an Ivy, particularly at the undergraduate level. There was a time when the Ivy’s focused on “classical education” and that a Princeton education was truly superior to a State U degree. To the extent that the average Princeton grad may test out better or appear better educate than the average State U grade, I would attribute that to better quality students, not better quality instruction.

    But today’s Ivies are just as guilty of dumbing down the curriculum as the “lesser” schools are, and I don’t believe that a BA from Princeton is superior to one from Eastern Illinois (my own Alma Mater). Or at any rate, not enough better to justify (a) the huge difference in tuition cost and (b) the huge difference expectation of a starting salary from a Princeton grad vs an EIU one.

  128. Lee Moore says:

    As a statistical matter, because a greater proportion of women than men will choose not to pursue high earning careers, preferring to spend more time bringing up kids, it’s obvious that investing in a woman’s university education is (statistically) likely to produce less money – for the student, and for the government in terms of tax dollars – than investing the same amount in a man’s university education. Of course which course you choose make a difference to your earning prospects too. But improving your earning prospects is not the only reason to go to university, so there’s no reason to discourage women from going to university simply because they are likely, on average, to make less money from that choice than a comparable man. However if the government regards university education as productivity enhancing and if it hopes to reap a tax dollar reward from subsidising people to go to university, then it has every reason to discriminate against women (and against subjects which have low correlations with higher earning.) Not sure many here will want to hear that, but it’s true. Everyone should be free to pursue their dream is not the same as everyone should be subsidised to pursue their dream. And finally, though everyone including (obviously) every woman should be free to pursue their dream, kind observers should not hesitate to pipe up about the likely financial consequences – for people going to university are mostly still children. If the statistics say that a university degree is worth $500,000 to a man after fees and costs, and worth minus $120,000 to a woman, then this should be pointed out. But if – statistically – she wants to blow $120,000 of her own money on the experience then that’s great.

    • interesting comment. in this case, however, the government didn’t subsidize her education. that notwithstanding, your reasoning raises some interesting questions. Should the federal government be involved at all? and would you consider a federal loan a subsidy, provided its paid back? its not a crazy position that tax dollars come with strings, namely, the benefit of society overall. interesting implications for welfare, and other programs. or course, even all that is predicated on the notion that “tax revenue” is only / best societal return. perhaps the author is just saying raising her family with the benefit of an ivy league degree is just as rewarding for society in the long term. her kids will, more likely than not, be high income earners, and theirs as well and so on.

  129. ALP says:

    Many articles written by those in academia advocate the idea that education is not just about the job market and earning money – especially those that teach liberal arts. We are told education is crucial to functioning in a democratic society.

    So please explain to me why whenever this issue comes up with regards to SAHM women from Ivy Leagues – why is “education for the sake of education”, rather than for the corporate office, suddenly a bad thing?

    Which is it?

  130. Claire says:

    Raising children well is a huge positive contribution to society. And who knows that when the kids are big enough, that mom won’t go back to work? I don’t agree that it’s taking a degree away from somebody else who could use it. There is not a fixed, limited amount of space available to get a good education in this country! Hardly!

  131. Excellent article! Also, exceptionally sharp and spot on comments. I agree wholeheartedly with the author. Raising good kids is the most difficult job one will ever have. There needs to be a megaphone for these wonderful moms. The future of this country depends on it. Also, she flushed out the narrow minded feminists of today…. Just read some of the nastier comments.

  132. Leighanna says:

    Excellent thoughts. I am a SAHM mom to 1.8 kids, and will likely stay home until my last child, whatever number that is, goes to school full time. I am simultaneously in graduate school through a reputable distance program that has required two summers on campus, but the rest of the time allows me to be at home. I have bachelor’s degrees in statistics and neuroscience, and I am getting an MS in speech language pathology PURELY for the love of learning. I don’t know if I’ll EVER want to work. I don’t feel one bit badly about “taking someone’s spot” in a competitive program. This is a thought process well integrated into our entitlement society. Who cares what anyone does with their degree, and who says what one person does with it isn’t worth anything? If someone lost out on a spot at an Ivy League to someone else who ended up a SAHM, well – that person should have done better in high school and on SATs, shouldn’t they? Ridiculous that people would even conceive of that argument. Personally, with my newfound graduate knowledge of child development, an educated mother at home does infinitely more to better society than another venture capitalist or literary critic or whatever people expect degreed people to do.

  133. AugustaMia says:

    Been there done that: my trajectory was non-Ivy League NYC public college. Then marriage and SAHM to 3. When they were in middle & high school, I returned to 2 universities to obtain further credits to qualify for CPA exam. I spent 14 yrs in financial management, banking, consulting–about the same time I spent at home with my kids. Now in my mid-60s I can report that NO ONE from my college years or my professional days holds me in as high esteem, love or respect as my 3 adult children, their spouses, or their 8 kids. The papers I wrote, the spreadsheet-based programs I created, the multi-billion dollar budgets I managed … They pale into nothingness compared to the people I helped formed in partnership with my husband. Don’t get me wrong–I had many a pity party caring for the diaper-and-snotty-nose brigade, lamenting that I was “stuck” at home. But in my career I also pitied myself for having to deal with incompetent bosses, dishonest colleagues and nightmarish stomach-churning deadlines. One thing is true: my SAHM experience was enormously better by far than my outside-the-home life. Thank you, Verily and Ms Maginnis for this article.

  134. Masterfully written. Thank you.

  135. I commend you for the choice you made to invest in your children, especially in their most formative years! As a mother of two, I formerly worked as a consultant in the exciting world of entrepreneurship and private enterprise while my oldest was growing up and being cared for by others. Now as a work-from-home-mom I have the privilege of investing personal entrepreneurship in my youngest child. I see the difference. There are choices we make. I now know from experience that there is a certain wisdom that only a mother can impart to her own child that cannot be received by grandmothers, nannies or other great child care alternatives. I arrived at my choice to leave the workforce when God reminded me that I only had a few years left with my oldest to make that impartation and that he would not receive this from anyone else. It was very sobering to me.

  136. RBailey says:

    This is great. I never knew alma mater translated into “nourishing mother.” I wanted to comment on the following:

    “I knew my life as a stay-at-home mom was incredibly demanding, creative, and meaningful—not a narrow niche occupation, but a very real option for half of every class graduating from Princeton.”

    By half of every class, do you mean, the women? Don’t forget, there are some men who choose to be stay at home dads.

  137. Lauren says:

    Henry B. Eyring said,
    “The highest and best use [a woman] could make of her talents and her education would be in her home.”
    (http://speeches.byu.edu/index.php?act=viewitem&id=777)

    I agree.

  138. Laura says:

    Wonderful, wonderful article!

  139. Sarah says:

    Beautiful! Thank you! I will be sharing this with many of my friends who are highly educated and aspire to be stay-at-home moms!

  140. Ivy League? Stay at home mom? These are issues of class. Unfortunately, many in the middle of the lower classes have neither the ability nor the means to do either. They don’t have the same choices. Maybe this is the gripe? While it sounds “right,” it’s also elitist. Consider all of the moms who went to state colleges and now find themselves working just to pay their student loans…

  141. Elizabeth says:

    I have an Ivy League degree. I have a five month old son. I cook dinner, clean the dishes and vacuum the carpets. I am also an IT Director and the main breadwinner of the household, so there is no thought to putting my career on hold else we couldn’t afford to save up enough money for our son’s education or pay the mortgage (Westchester county, NY has ridiculous property taxes). Not that I’d want to put my career on hold — I actually love my job.

    You have to be willing to work your butt off, but it is doable. We don’t even have family in the area, we are doing it all ourselves.

    For the record, husband graduated from the same Ivy, but teacher’s salaries do not compare to Wall Street ones.

  142. Lena says:

    I totally agree with A. My sister-in-law has a law degree and is very well connected so could get a job anywhere. As soon as she met my brother, she stopped working and had kids. Fine but, when I ask her about volunteering or going back to work she says, being a public defender, the only job she envisions for herself would be dangerous for her kids. I don’t know if she would feel that way if my brother hadn’t had a huge inheritance and a fabulous job. Not fair.

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  144. shevrae says:

    The assumption seems to be that women know they will marry, have children and stay home with them before they choose which college they will attend, or whether to attend at all. Some may hope for that, but life comes with no guarantees. I did not attend an Ivy League school, but a small private college with no thought of having children or staying home. A friend was attending to receive a good education for her own benefit, with the plan of being a stay-at-home Mom. 15 years later, I’m a homeschooling Mom of 4 kids and she is still single working on her PhD. Life is unpredictable, you have to make the best plan you can and try to manage the unexpected with grace.

  145. tim says:

    Job well done…and the job that is the most important period.Mother..

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