The young woman, fresh out of college, caught the eager listeners up to date on her life. Approving nods confirmed her choice: Early Childhood Development. She had spent four years earning her degree and was now employed at a Montessori Preschool Academy where, she admitted, she has learned more than most of her classes taught her.
What didn’t come up in the conversation was how much debt she accrued getting her degree and how much it was costing her to live in an apartment with her roommate.
Interestingly, another young woman shared her experience at home, part of which is specializing in early childhood development too. With more education than four years of textbooks could ever provide, the high school graduate helps from time to time in different areas of her siblings’s education, especially enjoying teaching the younger ones and watching their miraculous development.
Somehow, her choice doesn’t get nearly the approval the one the first woman made.
“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? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”― G.K. Chesterton
And approval isn’t even the point. The point is how the distinction exposes our misunderstanding of the importance of home and family, and, as Chesterton points out, how confused our definition of success is.
Ironically, the second woman is doing what the first woman is doing, only with her own siblings–children she has good reason to invest in–and get this: without debt and without the burdening monthly expenses of rent, utilities and food.
And also get this: the girl at the preschool is stuck there, eight hours a day, with no freedom of her own until after work hours. The other girl only works part-time, with a great part of the day free to pursue other things.
She is paid in boarding, food and utilities, among many other ways and is even able to save money because she has the time to pursue extra income possibilities. The other girl spends almost all of her income to pay for those things with little freedom (and don’t forget the debt).
The second woman has made a smarter choice. It’s a mathematical and practical fact. Yet not only is that not acknowledged, but the more expensive, encroaching choice wins the approval while the smart choice garners pitying looks. There’s nothing condescending in that; it’s no different than saying “it’s smarter to pay cash for something than borrow money for it.” That doesn’t mean the one who borrowed money is bad, just that one choice IS inherently smarter than the other. And I’m making a statement about the two women in my example, as a general observation. That doesn’t make college always bad for everyone.
Interestingly, the knee-jerk reaction is to defend the career position, missing the point entirely. I’m not criticizing the first woman, I’m defending the second one. I just want to see some honesty in the discussion. Feminism has tried to say “It’s all about freedom and women choosing whatever they want, career or home.” We all know that’s a lie; at least the girl on the receiving end of the pitying faces does.
I don’t know how we got here.