June 13, 2011

Black Sheep

"The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead."  Aristotle

It was a perfect June day in Illinois yesterday- lots of sun,  a crisp, low 70s temperature, and the corn has grown a few inches tall already. My dad, Millie, and I spent most of the day with family, visiting at one aunt's house and then another's. It was dusk when we got back home.

At the second aunt's house, we gathered in the backyard for dinner. Lawn chairs were pulled up to long folding tables, and with them, talk of the latest news. Someone made a joke about food stamps, and I shirted my weight, knowing they had no idea that our family uses them. One cousin talked about going back to school for her doctorate, finding time between her successful job and her two blonde little girls. As as I looked around at everyone there, I couldn't help but see how they had all been successful. They all had good jobs because they all had at least a bachelor degree- many of them have MBAs. They juggle beautiful families and important careers simultaneously.

What do I bring to the table? I bring a baby- the sweetest baby in the pink plaid dress, crawling around on the grass, chasing sunlight. I love her- I want another one or two just like her. And I'm good at feeling inadequate. I've become an expert at being less-than. Most of it is my own insecurities. But this...this was real. There is no arguing with a framed diploma hung proudly in an office somewhere.

I applied for a scholarship last month (the only one I could find that accepted all military spouses, not just active duty), and I'll find out the results at the end of July. I'm terrified that I won't get it, despite my good GPA. Never in my deepest dreams have I wanted to be a woman with a big career. I'm not meant for the corporate world at all. But I so desperately want a degree- because of what it stand for, and because it'd be an example to my children. Because I'm capable. Because I want to feel smart. Because I want to accomplish something big for once in my life.

Sky reminds me that being a stay at home mother is very important, and I definitely agree with him. I don't think I should be anywhere else, But after Millie (and, possibly, her siblings) are in school, I will have to be working, too. I don't want to work at a minimum wage job. I want to spend my days doing something I care about, something meaningful to me- something like writing. I want a journalism degree so bad I could taste it.

Every time I go to big family gatherings, the same thoughts cross my mind. It's not the comparison that hurts- it's that I truly long for that education. They talk about the glories or the stresses from their job, and I have nothing to reply except Millie's latest learned skill.

I want her to be proud of me someday. I want to be proud of me someday. I want to be a stay at home mom until it is no longer needed of me, but after that, I want to be able to afford to put Millie in sports and school activities. I want to show her what she could do, what she could surpass even.

I feel like everything hangs on that stupid scholarship, and I know it'll be a bad day if it's bad news in the letter. Trying not to get my hopes up has never worked well for me, though...


13 kind comments from you:

Melissa said...

I'm sorry, at times I feel like this as well. I went to my friends graduation last month and although I am so happy for her, it made me feel a little less. I want that degree so bad and I have been working hard at getting it. Yes it is tough with the girls and the military lifestyle. But I too want to be doing something I love one day after there is no one to stay at home for.
I think at times we are our worse enemy when it comes to comparing what others have accomplished.
Lately, I have been trying to look at it this way, although she may have a piece of paper with said degree and that knowledge in these last 4 years I have gained enormous knowledge while staying at hone raising children, while she was in class I was snuggling a newborn baby, watching them crawl, walk and say momma for the first time, I have been raising another human being. This to me is far richer than any degree I could ever attain.
Don't get me wrong I am doing all I can to attain that education but have tried to be a little less harsh on myself. Look at all you've accomplished, look at Millie that is your accomplishment one so great.
I hope you get the scholarship, and I have no doubt that whatever you did Millie would be proud of you.

Ashley D. said...

I only have my two year degree, but I desperately want to finish and get my bachelor's. Because like you, for me, it means something. It stands for something. Being a stay at home mom is rewarding, but eventually they won't need us so much anymore and it would be nice to work somewhere where we could feel needed.

I don't know if Illinois is like Missouri, but if you fill out your FAFSA, you may qualify for some pell grants. Which is free money you can get for school from the government. You don't have to pay it back like student loans. Just a thought. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly how you feel! My Grandmother raised me and helped pay for my education- but my parents wouldn't even fill out the financial aid forms for me and I took off a semester to earn more money, only to be slapped in the face with immediate repay on my one loan I took out. Great- that meant more working to pay the bills. Then life took over, I met my husband and we moved! We'll be here for at least 3 years, but all the schools are such a commute from where we are. All my friends are graduating with their Masters and I'm a stay at home wife because the jobs I could get are restaurant... if I could get one of those in this economy.

My husband has his Master's and I feel like sometimes he thinks less of me because I don't have anything... although I know that's all in my head.

I definitely recommend the FAFSA! Good luck with the scholarship though!! My fingers and toes will be crossed for you :D

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about wanting a degree. I am currently a SAHM with a Masters. I finished it when my little guy was 11 months old. I have no plans to work anytime soon but I desperately wanted to finish my graduate degree.

If you don't get the scholarship, there are a lot of other avenues to completing a degree. Don't give up and don't become so focused on this scholarship that you lose sight of other opportunities.

Good luck!


Kerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerry said...

You have a longing to do something else after your child(ren) go off to school, that is awesome that you have that dream/desire to want more. Always give yourself credit right now though even without the piece of paper in a frame. You have the best job in the world (and I am positive you know this already), a little life that needs you to nuture and help her to grow. She will be proud of her mum whatever you choose. I completely understand your feelings of 'less than' or having very little to bring to the table, except talk of child rearing and the like. But that is interesting! I have felt like that on so many occasions. I'm not ambitious either, being a mum is my job...that is enough for me. But there's no harm in wanting more. Just remember you are enough though, especially to those around you that love you :)

Anonymous said...

I can identify with diploma envy. I took a break from school when I had cancer and stopped again when I was 7 months pregnant with my first child. I don't have that piece of paper yet and there are days when it really bugs me.

I find solace in knowing that my actual education (not just the approved list of classes needed for a degree) is as valuable as any bachelor's degree I could get. By and large I've read (and I still read) more, and more challenging stuff than my peers with advanced degrees. Instead of student loans I have a library card with a few late fines.

I still plan on going back to school to get my teaching degree because it will make homeschooling less stressful, but only in the sense of dealing with bureaucrats.

Remember, no one can prevent you from becoming educated. You might not get a loan to pay for a diploma on the wall, but there is nothing you can't learn with a library card in hand.

BTW: I didn't mean that as a anti-institutional education speech. I just wanted to encourage you. You are obviously a talented writer. All the tools you need to pursue your craft are sitting on the shelves of the local library. You can get a degree if that's what you want, but as far as I can tell you're already a successful writer and far from a black sheep.

--One of your many fans :)

annoyed army wife said...

I'll keep my fingers crossed for your scholarship! I know what it's like to want to have a degree to hang on the wall. It's more than a piece of paper. Before OccDoc my ex discouraged my college education every step of the way. While none of my degrees hang on our office wall (there's no room - OccDoc's degrees hog the wall space) I am so happy to have completed them. Every once in awhile I get a pang of wanting to put them to good use again, but I know they will pay off down the road. Good luck on your journey, and remember it IS a journey, so even if you don't get started right away in the way you want, you are already well on your way. Hmmm...hope that makes sense.

Mrs. H said...

Don't be discouraged! My husband's mom only got a 2 year degree and she used maybe a COUPLE years. Her children have nothing but respect for her. Why? It wasn't how much she made, it wasn't how long she was at work, and it certainly wasn't a piece of paper that shows your education. She was respected for being loving, writing a book (she actually did write a book...and did not have a journalism degree), for being caring, and knowing what to do in the right situations.

She's one of the most INCREDIBLE women I know and when I get frustrated because I don't have my degree yet (I have one more lousy year left...), I remember that my family won't remember me for that...but for being loving, kind, and a great listener :)

♥Miss Brittney♥ said...

I know how you feel...I was raised in a single parent family and my mom never had enough money to pay for college. I went to community college back home but then I got married and moved to va to be with my husband. Since we were newlyweds and just starting out, we were pretty broke and I had to start working full time. Now almost a year has gone by and I still haven't returned to school. Its been my dream for years to become a history teacher and sometimes I feel like I will never reach my goals. Then again, sometimes we are our own worst enemies and I know I just need to make school a priority. As for your situation, you should never feel like you aren't smart enough. Having a lot of money doesn't always equal the amount of intelligence you have or what you are capable of. You are a great writer and I know you can do this if you put your mind to it! :) Good luck girly!!

Dolli-Mama said...

I understand this feeling completely, especially when I am around my husbands family. It's hard to be the "Uneducated" one.
I frequently have to remind myself that I chose this path and that it's what I want right now. I can choose a different path in the future. This is where I am right now, and I am doing my best to love it.

Good luck, I really hope you get it!

Clearbluewater3 said...

I have a masters degree, both of my parents have their masters degree. My mom was a SAHM for my entire childhood and I was never proud of her for having an MBA she never used. I was proud because she made my lunch every day and helped me with my homework and made me costumes for halloween even if she couldn't really sew. Millie will be proud of the things you ARE not the things you AREN'T.

Certainly I am a big fan of high education and think everyone should do it when its right for you and your family. We're young, there is plenty of time to get a degree!

Also, sometimes I think that I would give up my degrees and my education if only someone would love me enough to marry me (or heck even just not leave me)...grass is always greener huh?

Wife on the Roller Coaster said...

Fingers crossed that you get that scholarship! And don't worry, school will come. I got my college degree right out of high school (which was a LONG time ago), and to this day I've never used it. I got my Master's degree when I was pregnant with my first (and the only reason I even wanted to get it was because my undergrad degree is in psych and I changed my mind about my career). As soon as I graduated, I became a SAHM. For 6 years. I felt that I needed to be home with my children, and I never regret that for a single second. I just went back to work last year, and I purposely took a job (I'm a teacher at a private school) that worked with my kids' schedules. Now I'm off during the summers with them!

Ok, sorry about the rambling, but I'm trying to tell you in my roundabout way that you have time. It will all come together. In the meantime, good luck with that scholarship and keep us posted! :)

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