Saturday, September 7, 2013

No Whispers, Sisters

There is so much to say on this subject, but I'm just going to touch on a few things from my experience because let's face it ... I'm not exactly a confrontational person, let alone a confrontational blogger.
Whatever "having it all" means ... does it include not waiting in line for the ladies room? And surprisingly, Ryan was not the toilet paper throwing culprit
We eat lunch with Chris pretty much every day, which is one of my favorite parts about living so close to campus. Today, though, after I could see that Ryan wasn't going to accidentally trip one of the many students swarming around the dining hall while he chased a ball yelling, "Soooccer!" toward his dad, I slipped away and went up to the Oak Room in South Dining Hall to listen to a panel titled, "Professors for Lunch: Can Notre Dame Women Have It All? Career, Family & the Pursuit of Post-Graduation Happiness."

When I first arrived at college, I was floored when my future best friend told me confidently that she wanted to stay at home with her potential future children. I remember thinking, "We are allowed to say that?! We as in female college students could say that we wanted to stay at home?!"  Her simple statement was the very beginning of my discovering why I couldn't seem to settle on one career choice or major for longer than a few months; I couldn't choose because what I truly wanted to do wasn't even offered as an acceptable potential option.

As the semesters passed in college, I became more confident about one thing that I wanted to do. Each semester starts with the usual what is your name, where are you from, what do you want to do introduction. I started to realize that if I truly wanted to be clear about my intentions and wanted to help normalize the concept of an educated parent being able to choose to stay at home with his or her children, I might as well be honest when it came to be my turn in the round of introductions in each class. 

"Hi I'm Katrina, I'm from Ohio, I live in McGlinn, I'm majoring in Economics and I hope to be a consultant and then a stay at home mom." The consultant part would vary as I delved more into my career search, but the shocked reaction of silence and uncomfortable shifting remained consistent. Once, while introducing myself in French, the female professor double checked to see if I knew what I meant when I said, "une mรจre au foyer." When I assured her that I meant stay at home mom, her response was a perplexed, "Huh." Her reaction did not need a translation.

Now, here I am, living the dream one rendition of Old McDonald at a time. I get to stay at home. And I love it. And it is a luxury for us! We choose to have this luxury even if it means the rest of our life isn't luxurious. It works for our family.

What has surprised me the most since it became apparent that I was officially going to set up a home office of diapers and board books is the response from other girls, friends and acquaintances alike. A friend at work whispered to me behind the closed door of an elevator that she would love to stay at home. A friend at a tailgate whispered the same. Wherever the location or no matter the number of people around, revealing the desire to stay at home was treated like a confession rather than a declaration.   

As I sat there at the table so not looking like a college student, I wondered what image I was giving off, sitting there pregnant with my Notre Dame necklace from freshman year hanging from my neck. That pregnant women can eat it all? Probably. What else does a combination of grilled cheese, lasagna and eggrolls say?

I enjoyed the first two panelists who basically said everything that I think (it's not about having it all, it's about balance, different definitions for each woman), but I had to slip out right as Coach Muffet McGraw took the mike since Chris had to get back to his job and Ryan isn't exactly office-friendly. I was delusional for a bit and thought that maybe, just maybe Ryan would stay quiet if I slipped back into the talk. We lasted maybe a minute of me reminding Ryan to be quiet or to whisper until Ryan proclaimed, "All done." But in that minute, I realized that while I was standing there in the doorway with my little boy on my hip with his leg draped over my expectant belly and praying that he whispered, I was hoping that all of the girls in the room who might be entertaining the idea of choosing to stay at home would stop whispering.

  
Save the whispers for lullabies and bedtime stories. Those are much better.

28 comments :

  1. This is fantastic! I totally agree. While an undergrad at ND I didn't yet know stay at home motherhood would be my calling, but I did by the end of grad school and yeah...people don't know how to respond to that! But I know I a better mom because of my education!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! I wonder how I looked the first time my best friend said that! I was definitely shocked, but I hope I didn't look uncomfortable.

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  2. I love the way you put this! Every day I remind myself it truly is a privilege to stay at home with my son and, that while doing so, I am not wasting my college degree. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I constantly have to remind myself, too!

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  3. This is such a wonderful post! Over the years I've found that friends have gone from being perplexed that I "don't want to do more with my education" to finally accepting that yes, this is what I really do want to do.

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    1. Thank you! Luckily, I do have quite a few friends who have been so supportive from the beginning. Glad yours have come around!

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  4. Oh I heard about this panel (from one Miss Elliott of course) and would loved to have heard it! I have done quite a bit of the same whispering over the past 5 years since I graduated college (and occasionally while in college, though many of us girls at SMC were quite open about it whether certain professors cared or not). It is tough while still in the workplace. I *have* to keep to a whisper. I can't quite let my boss find out that I hope to leave the company in a few years (or less). You know? BUT that said, I don't lie about my intentions either. It is a tricky situation for sure that I'm still trying to work out. I may have to give Mrs/Dr. O'C a call. ;)

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    1. It is SO hard in the workplace, and I worked in a very family friendly environment (I mean ... it was HR. So many of my superiors worked from home multiple days a week or left early to pick up their kids). Ha, that is why I didn't touch on it yet because there is so much to write, I don't feel that qualified to write on it since I only was in the workplace for five months and it really is such a tricky issue.

      I wish I could have stayed for the whole panel and for the questions!

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  5. Love this post, gorgeous momma. I love that you are proud to stay home, and your education only adds to it. Ryan and the little babe are lucky kiddos!

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  6. I think this is the nicest "controversial" post ever. ;) Just yesterday I was telling Jacob how happy I am to be a stay at home momma. I complain more than I should, but ultimately I wouldn't want to do it any other way.

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  7. This is a GREAT post. I went through years of being judged because I got a 4-year degree at a good school, but always knew I was going to stay home with my kids. I could have used your wonderful line: "We choose to have this luxury even if it means the rest of our life isn't luxurious."

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  8. Great post! I've been lurking around your blog for awhile but now I feel compelled to comment. I had been teaching for 5years before I had my first baby and decided to stay home. This year it was really difficult to be home while I knew others were setting up classrooms and sharing their expertise with kids, like I did only last year. I have struggled with feeling that I'm wasting my education and talents, and it is hard to feel like I can 'hold my own' around working moms. Thank you for addressing this issue!

    Kari

    P.S. I also live in South Bend and cloth diaper my 11month old. I share in your love for this special place ๐Ÿ˜Š

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    1. Yay, South Bend!! Thank you for commenting. I'm sorry it has been rough, but thank goodness you have someone to be a teacher to every day! Maybe you can hit up a teacher supply store for some baby appropriate gear ;)

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  9. What a great post! While I was in college, I came to the same conclusion - that being a stay-at-home mom was meant for me. Although, I didn't even whisper it, much less say it. Now, I wish I had spoken up more. As we prepare for the arrival of our first soon, I am entering my last week of work. After Friday, I will officially be staying home. Most of the reactions I have received have been overwhelmingly positive - especially from my husband's female co-workers. And, I don't let those who don't approve get to me. This is our choice. I know I'm a better person because I went to college and got my degree. And that is all that matters to me. Thanks for vocalizing what so many of us struggle to put into words.

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  10. I'm happy you enjoyed the post! Congrats on your new position come Friday :). That is wonderful to hear that you have received an overwhelmingly positive response. Even if you don't let the negatives get to you (Go, you!), it is always nice to hear the positive!

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  11. I really enjoyed this post. Most importantly, I think it's really telling that I relate so much to this post, but I am coming from a very different place. Shh, don't tell anyone, but I hope to be a working mom! Eek, I said it! I think judgments either way are just another manifestation of "mommy wars" and, as we all know, there is no one perfect way to raise a family, so long as your vocation as wife and mother come FIRST.

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    1. Thank you for your honest comment. Good job saying it!! I think that your last sentence is SO key!

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! I checked out your latest post and laughed when you said that the baby is as long as an iPhone 4.

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  12. Beautiful post, thank you for sharing and writing. I have to say I *really* struggle with this subject. I'm 100% not fulfilled by my job or career, but tend to be very afraid of the idea of staying at home with my kids, even though that's what I want and what I know is best. I tend to thing that fear comes from the fact that virtually no one around here in Cali stays at home with their kids. I will also add though, that I know a lot, a lot of women in the many jobs I've had who attempt to "have it all" (whatever that means) and they don't have 1/2 as much joy as you do.

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    1. Any career change is scary! I remember having that teensy worry in the back of my head ... this is what I have wanted and been the most sure about, but, BUT what if I was wrong?!

      I am really spoiled living in South Bend. You should move down to San Diego and hang out with my mother-in-law and her friends :) or South Bend! Ha.

      And to your last point ... the two ladies that I was able to hear speak both stressed balance as being fundamental but that is SO hard when both children and work are inherently demanding.

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  13. This was great Katrina! I didn't attend such a big name college, so I can imagine that the pressure the women assume is on them for attending and graduating from a school like that is multiplied! I think it is one big fat lie to think that an education is wasted by staying at home - isn't it the greatest use by devoting it to your own children who are the best way you will make the world a better place? I love the idea of not whispering about it, I think its a beautiful goal to be able to be proud of staying home with your child, even if you don't love it all the time, and sacrifice in different ways to do so. And its a great way of improving the culture we women have amongst each other.

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  14. Dear Katrina, I'm not one of your regular readers, but I saw a link to your blog, and the title enticed me. I'm so glad I read your post! Thank you! I studied philosophy at Notre Dame (Class of '08), served as an Officer in the Navy for four years, and am currently studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. I thank God every day for my mother and for her self-sacrificial motherhood. I am the oldest of seven and my mom stayed home with all of us. Before I was born, she earned her Masters degree in philosophy from Marquette University and taught courses on Logic. She's no intellectual slouch. But her education wasn't wasted at all. If she hadn't been a stay-at-home mom and nurtured my curiosity and my faith, I doubt I'd have a vocation to the priesthood and I'm sure I wouldn't have attended Notre Dame. My mom is my best friend and role model. I can't even begin to thank her enough for all the sacrifices she has made for me, high among them the criticism and confusion that she received for staying at home.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Andrew! I will be honest ... your comment made me cry. I can only hope and pray that I can help my children find their vocations as your mom did. Thank you to your mom for helping pave the way!

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  15. I think staying home is a great choice for some people. For our family, our child is better off with the stimulation and structured environment of his school. His development has really taken off since we put him in school.
    The one thing I worry about is choosing to stay home after paying for a $$$ education. It is fine if parents are footing the entire bill, but for most people out there, they'll wind up with huge student loan debt that they are obligated to pay off for years. In practice, that means many people who would ideally want to stay home will have to work for at least some of their child-rearing years. I know one friend of mine (mom to 4) said she wanted to stay home with her kids, but with her husband's salary and student loan debt, she wound up working in a preschool for several years. The years when she didn't, going to her house was always bleak and they didn't get enough to eat.. So there are definitely tradeoffs that need to be considered before choosing a college, which is tough at 18.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I am very glad that your family has found the right way for you! That is wonderful that his development has taken off since you put him in school.

      You are correct. The extreme inflation of the cost of tuition combined with the age of such a decision is a mixture that definitely does add obstacles to the decision, and I'm not really sure to how that can be solved.

      We will be paying our hefty combined student loans for years which is definitely not anything I wish on anyone, but since we can't exactly get rid of them with the snap of a finger without a windfall from winning the lottery, I try to turn them into a motivation to not make life bleak solely because of a tight budget. I know that I most likely won't always get to stay at home full time so I don't feel the need to make this wonderful stage of our life one where I concentrate on what we can't have. Let's hope Ryan thinks life is grand!

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  16. I just found this post Katrina, love it! : )

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