My Alumnae Quarterly magazine recently published a “Letter to the Editor” – here is the longer version:
Reading the Smith Quarterly gives me a certain level of pride but sometimes an equal amount of frustration. I feel so blessed to be a part of a community where there is a seemingly endless amount of inspiring careers and accomplishments to fan over. But in the past few years, as I have embarked on my new job as a stay-at-home mother, I cannot help but feel a tinge of underrepresentation. Where are the Smithies that chose to forgo or stall their career in order to raise a family? What are they doing to enrich their children and how? I know they are out there. They must be! I cannot possibly be the only one.
Raising a family is both a joyful adventure and an exhausting endeavor. There are days when you are an inspiring parent and there are days where you are simply a bleary-eyed babysitter, counting the hours until bedtime. Despite the frustrations of trying to explain to a toddler why you cannot draw on the wall or drink the water from the toilet, I could not have picked a more enjoyable activity to fill my days with. But there are times when I find myself questioning the importance of this new job. I attended a prestigious college where graduates are running companies, publishing books and saving lives. The Quarterly is the proof of this – highlighting the incredible accomplishments of these women. I cannot help but feel a little inferior as I kneel, in puke covered jeans and a stained T-shirt, to scrub my floor after my infant flung an astonishing amount of puréed sweet potatoes off his spoon. On the surface, my accomplishments sound a little second-rate: brushed teeth, put laundry away, made lunch, picked up toys for what seemed like 10 hours, changed diapers, coaxed toddler to nap, grocery store, etc…
I once made a sarcastic comment under my breath to a fellow Smithie about how my impressive education certainly panned out for me and she replied in only a way a reflective and intelligent Smithie would. She said: “It’s not what you do with your degree, it’s the experience you gained. You are an educated woman.” Wowzers.
In my urban setting, only a handful of my friends stay at home – whether by choice or not – and it can be a lonely occupation at times. Luckily, my generation has the easy access to hundreds of blogs and websites that are filled with creative ideas, encouraging remarks and helpful answers. It is rather comforting to have that community, both physical and virtual, to lean against. Through these connections, I am reminded that along with the tedious tasks of dishes and errand-running, I am helping to shape two wonderful little human beings. I am teaching them to empathize with others, to find the joy in a bucket full of rocks and sand, to challenge their strengths and to stretch their imagination. You then realize how valuable your contribution to their life really is. I believe that this is true for those who work full time as well as those who stay at home.
Our children are our future. How are Smithies using their creative forces and education to raise these next generations?