Most parents would say that having children forced them to adjust their priorities. It’s no secret that children disrupt your life and push some things to the back burner for years (maybe even decades). Budgets adjust, hobbies fall by the wayside, and personal time is spent on vastly different activities.
These changes occurred in our life, as well, and like many women, I opted to stay home after my first child was born, rather than continue my career trajectory. Unlike many of my stay-at-home-mom peers, however, being a SAHM wasn’t something I had ever considered before, and not a single person close to me ever expected me to make that choice.
Yet make it I did.
For years, though, I considered my decision to be an anomaly, and temporary – a detour at best and a choice without an alternative at worst. In my mind, I was still a driven career woman with two degrees who had chosen to use her education and skills to navigate the world of medical billing and IFSPs, at least for a season.
Over the past two years, though, my perspective has changed.
As someone who has always been goal-oriented, this change in perspective represents a seismic shift not only in how I’m living my life, but how I’m approaching parenting. I was raised, like many young people of my generation, to value education and achievement. Both my mother and father were college-educated and educators themselves, and my grandmother used her high intelligence to rise out of poverty in the Black Belt of Alabama and attend college. It never once occurred to me not to go to college myself, and I was driven to study in an area that was “useful” and could become a career – engineering.
Nathan made me reevaluate my beliefs about education and career.
I still value education, and I’m counting on Sarah Kate to go to college (and we’re preparing for it financially). She’s highly intelligent and let’s face it – she’s not going to be able to excel at manual labor. 🙂 When she was younger, I dreamed of her going to Harvard or Duke or Stanford, though I considered those options “pie in the sky” because of financial limitations.
Today, I no longer want her to attend one of those prestigious universities, and it has nothing to do with money. I don’t want her to feel pressured to always be The Best – or to spend her formative years building a résumé when she should be enjoying life and figuring out who she is.
I want her to succeed, but I don’t want her to achieve for achievement’s sake.
Nathan has been the catalyst for my transformation, of course. Though we don’t know what the future holds for him in terms of education, odds are he won’t have a shot at an Ivy League education, and that knowledge is freeing. In the way that Sarah Kate’s physical disability has removed the pressure of excelling in team sports, allowing her (and me) to enjoy sports for their own sake, removing the possibility of a high-powered career from Nathan’s prospects allows me to focus on preparing him for a life that will be fulfilling without the need for competitive achievement.
If Nathan graduates from college, I’ll be proud – thrilled! – of what he has achieved. But I’ll be satisfied with my children’s achievements if they are simply happy.