22 September 2005

Women, education, and vocation

Earlier this week the Anchoress had a post on women who are getting good educations "yet" making no secret of their plans to quit the workforce to raise families when the time comes. She quotes The New York Times article which explores the fact that:

Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others ... say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.

My late grandmother went to college sometime around 1911. She and I used to talk about her experiences, especially when I started to feel the stirrings of a writerly vocation and shamelessly started interviewing her for ideas and history.

Her mother and father moved out to Oklahoma and had many children. They used orange crates for furniture at first. It was a hard, tough life. Still, education was a given. At night, the lamps were lit, and out came the Bible or the Shakespeare, and the family read to one another. All the kids went to college... even the daughters.

The women in my family believe it is imperative for women to get as much education as possible because motherhood is a vocation. It is hard work, demanding the best of women at every level of their being, intellectual, emotional and physical. Any man who thinks motherhood is an easy ride is hereby recommended to spend ONE MONTH in a house with three kids under the age of 10. Magnanimously, I will exempt the poor sod from the requirement to have a major hormonal event somewhere in there - because I'm female, and therefore compassionate. (wink)

Mothers are not just watching children. They are guiding people who will one day vote in elections, borrow money, buy houses, and, in their turn, beget, raise and educate more children. It's called civilization, don'tcha know.

These days we have unparalleled luxury compared to what my grandmother knew a century ago. Indoor plumbing, electricity, modern appliances, safe automobiles on good roads - please let us remember that it was a scant 100 years ago that we began to have all those things. Radio, air travel, and antibiotics were all in the future when my grandmother was a girl. The equipment you are using to read these words was not even dreamed of.

An educated woman is more likely to enjoy the best things of life - the great books, art, and music - and will seek out the company of those who share her tastes and ideals. If she marries an intelligent, well-educated man, she has a much better chance of happiness. If together they can make a stable family, their children will not be distracted from their work of learning.

Just because you are a mother does not mean you are sentenced to change diapers forever, any more than getting an education condemns you to working in an office all your life. It doesn't matter what you do, education helps you make the best and most of it.

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