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Is a College Education a Waste for SAHMs?

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Why seek out higher education if you don't intend to use it? It's a question that's being thrown at stay-at-home moms across the nation ... and causing a big debate.

Certificate of Education

Christina Montoya Fiedler: My frustration with the question flared up when I read a rousing piece on MSN entitled, "Is Mom Wasting Her College Degree?"

Well, am I?

I graduated (with honors) from Chapman University, a small, private liberal arts school in Orange, CA. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, I have the loan payments to prove it. Am I working in some high-powered position bringing in a six-figure salary? No. But was it worth it? Of course. I am a mom and a college-educated woman -- a college-educated woman who made the educated choice to stay at home with her child.

First of all, this concept that mothers are wasting their money on college if they decide to "just stay home instead" totally demoralizes being a mother. It's flawed in so many ways. It insinuates that being a stay-at-home mom is somehow less important than other so-called real-world jobs. I beg to differ.

College degrees are much more than a means to make a monetary living. Perhaps I speak for myself, but going to college made me a well-rounded person. My knowledge of life, history, culture, literature, science spreads far and wide. I met some of the most interesting people in my life in college, and all of them touched my soul in different ways, shaping me into the person I am today. All of this I pass on to my children.

Because I was a journalism major and now I'm not following a beat at a local paper, or writing a memoir, or donning a business suit and riding the subway to work, am I making less of that education than others? Nope.

Ever heard of "the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world"? I'm pretty sure my job has some serious relevance in today's society, yet I should not have to defend why I choose to stay home. In fact, I might have the most power position of all.

I use my college education in every decision I make, every word I write, every conversation I have -- it's part of me. One thing cannot be separated from the next.

What do you think?



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64 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jennifer March 9, 2010, 1:32 AM

There is indeed more to going to college than getting a job. You should come out of it a well-rounded, more informed person, but is that the only reason for attending? Being a stay-at-home mom is not less or more important than other jobs, but it doesn’t require a college degree. Women have been having babies for thousands of years, and, in fact, statistics show that the less educated you are the more babies you’ll have! Colleges are becoming more expensive and seletive. Is it fair to take up a space to soak up knowledge and “become a better person” from someone who genuinely wants to use that degree for career goals? Since you have a son, I guess “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” might be true. But if you had a daughter and she follows your example, how do you intend for her to get there?

Jay March 10, 2010, 2:56 PM

“First of all, this concept that mothers are wasting their money on college if they decide to ‘just stay home instead’ totally demoralizes being a mother. It insinuates that being a stay-at-home mom is somehow less important than other so-called real-world jobs.”

I think you’re taking a radical stance toward that comment. A college education at most schools is designed to prepare a person for the workforce. In that light, getting a degree and then never working can be strictly interpreted as wasting the degree. There is no malice in that observation. It is simply a strict stance.

The reality, as is almost always the case, is between the extremes. Sure, a stay-at-home mother isn’t utilizing her degree the way it was probably intended. But she is probably using it in a different way. Historical research has shown that a mother’s IQ - significantly more than any other factor - has the largest correlation to a child’s IQ*.

Some have argued that the studies are actually demonstrating the correlation not between mother and child, but rather the relationship between the primary caregiver who spends the most time with the child. Either way, the application toward this story is the same:

If it stands to reason that the intelligence of the primary caregiver (or mother, as it would be in this case) is the single-greatest predictor of a child’s intelligence, then it stands to reason that a college-educated, stay-at-home mother will have more intelligent children, even if she never applied that degree in the work force. Ergo, the college degree is not being wasted at all. It is simply being applied in a manner that was probably not how it was intended to be used.

*Example study - http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED196512&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED196512

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