This is my first post here at TWNW, and I’m very honored to join the crew. Hopefully, it’ll be a fresh place for me. I wanted to write in order to work through some thoughts I’ve been having as I transition from grad school to full time stay-at-home-mom land. In a way my thoughts sort of relate to the previous post by Mollie “Does the family suffer when Mother has a career?”, because the starting point for my thoughts is “No, it doesn’t–or at least it doesn’t necessarily have to.”
But let me back up. I will try to keep autobiographical information brief and germane, but I think it’ll help lay the ground for my thoughts. First, there’s me, a bookish kid with a crazy love for classical music. I was writing letters to my grandmother (and fellow enthusiast) saying incredibly nerdy things at the age of 12 like, “I desperately want to become a musicologist when I grow up.” If I could characterize my childhood, it would be obsession with classical music. I was the oldest of five, so I had had enough domesticity to last me for a long time, and I was ready to move on beyond babies and diapers and to devote my life to my passion and my gifts in music and studying.
In college, I doubled majored in history and music, because I felt that would best prepare me for grad school, the next step in my dream path towards becoming a musicologist (which is basically a music historian–like what art history is to art; so more of a research career and not a performance career). I worried a little that if I ever had a family how it would all work out, but I was determined to make it happen. It never occurred to me that it would somehow be inappropriate to follow a career path. My roomie was like “but isn’t a woman’s calling to be a wife and mother?” and I was like “what planet are you on?” (haha! and now she’s the one with the career, and I’m the one with the kid.) There was a fairly pro-woman/career vibe at my Christian college so I had a lot of encouragement to pursue grad school. My biggest concerns as a Christian were not about the fact that I was a woman, rather issues concerning the integration of my faith and scholarship.
My second year in grad school I was invited to be on a panel at a faith and scholarship type of conference for music scholars, and I wrote the following:
To add the notion of vocation to me as a Christian doing scholarship adds a new shade of complexity to the discussion. “Calling” is a word used often in Christian circles, perhaps it is a word used too much. We think of it in one way as referring to the calling of elders or deacons to an office, but people often use the word “calling” in a much broader way as anything having to do with any occupation they take up. Sometimes it is easy for people to inadvertently justify their own actions or to gain approval for their decisions by saying they were “called” to do it. Who can argue? God has spoken. It is also easy to think that if you were called to a particular occupation, such as scholarship, in our case, you have to become a scholar and become defined by this vocation. Perhaps, though, it may be more appropriate to think of calling in a more general way. Not so much as ‘I am called to be a scholar’ as ‘I am called to be obedient to Christ.’ It is difficult to discern clearly what God’s will is for my life, but I think when we seek Him with a desire to be obedient he will show us and lead us in the direction He will have us go. So for now, the Lord has provided me with the skills, the desire, and the opportunities to pursue scholarship. But I think of my following this path not so much as a path of calling as a path of obedience. If the doors of academia were to close for me, my calling would remain the same. This is also tremendously freeing for me, because I do not have to worry if I am called to this or that, I just have to focus on obeying Christ. Maybe in the end that does not look different from those who say they are called to be scholars, but this is a helpful way for me to look at it.
…My husband and I desire to be obedient with regards to the two of us as a family and to our future covenant children, if we are blessed with them, so it means creating a completely new picture for us if I am supposed to throw “scholar” on the pile of things I am “called” to do, which may partly be why I am attracted to simplify the notion of “calling.”
Four years after I wrote those words, I have a kid and I never would have dreamed that it would be me that “closed the doors of academia.” After three years of coursework, during which I commuted 85 mi each way for classes, we moved 1200 mi from Home Institution and had a baby. The practical considerations were mounting against me and after talking to my advisor, I downgraded myself to a terminal master’s and applied to local (more prestigious) programs–I was accepted at one but without funding, which, of course, meant no admission (but really, I was pumped I made it that far). I finished my truly miserable master’s thesis this spring and got the stupid degree five years after I started grad school. I just feel like such a loser because I have a mere master’s degree to represent five years of very difficult work under really awful circumstances.
In these last two years, especially after my son was born (and was born profoundly deaf on top of it all), the stark reality came into play much more tangibly. That is, it’s not just MY career. My whole family has an investment in it. There comes a point where we have to decide what we’ll pay as a whole in terms of sacrifice of time (especially), resources, and attention. Academic families that are really successful have the husband working in the family as much as the wife. The balance comes out nearly the same. For my family, there were too many changes and uncertainties in too short of a time for me to continue. But, I don’t think this notion of the “family career” is limited to just the mom. It’s true for the father, too. The whole family is invested in his path if he is the one pursuing, and to think that the sacrifices a career-mom brings to the family are somehow worse than the sacrifices a career-dad I think misplaces the problem. I wonder how much of it is that were just acculturated to sacrificing for the father’s career (a tangent I don’t want to go on).
(Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to ruminate about it all at once–starting to get longwinded here. *sorry*)
I truly believe that being obedient to Christ is the great calling. And I believe that staying at home taking care of my family is the way I can do this at the moment. (And even though I’m somewhat of a reluctant SAHM, I desperately love my baby and this special time with him and future sibling(s). It’s a lot easier to be E’s mom instead of a category SAHM, you know?) When I go back, I want to enjoy it. I don’t want to be a sleep-deprived mother of nursing infants trying to hack out a competitive career in an esoteric discipline.
At the same time, though, what do I do with my life-long burning passion for musicology that I can never seem to get away from? Does it end just like that? Can I really jump back into grad school and finish my PhD after a hiatus at home? Did I just sabotage my career? Did God give me those desires and interests? If so, is it wrong that they lie latent? Do I squander my education if I forget how to read medieval notation?