Women’s Work: Do I Ever Feel Guilty About Not “Using” My College Education?

by | Jan 14, 2016 | Catholic Living, Homemaking, January, Mailbag, Vocation | 129 comments

 Mailbag time!

The Question:

Hi Mrs. Tierney,

My name is Sanasi and I am a 21 year old university student. I stumbled across your blog when I was looking for more Catholic blogs to read in my free time and it’s kind of weird, but I feel like I see so much of myself in what you write about. Someday in the hazy future, I’d like to be a Catholic mom and it’s exciting to see what a wonderful blessing that can be.

I read your post about deciding to become a stay at home mom and I was wondering if I could ask you a question about that? Do you ever feel guilty for having gained a college education and then not “using” it? I’m in my fourth year of undergrad right now and plan to continue on to medical school or law school most likely. I love the idea of being a stay at home mom in the future, but I feel guilty just thinking of having spent all this money on post-secondary education and then not getting a career afterwards.

I know that’s kind of a strange question and I’m not sure if you have time to respond to this, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Best wishes,


The Answer:

Dear Sanasi,

I think this is a really important question to think about. And I’m not sure that young women are thinking about it enough.

Just after we were married, we lived at Stanford while my husband went to business school. I was lucky enough to get to know some of his classmates, and to interact with some of the undergrads, including my own sister, who had graduated from Stanford the year before we arrived, and was working on campus.

There was a lot of concern among the young women I met as to how they were going to balance it all. Most hoped to have a family some day, but all were also bright and determined and had professional aspirations.

We are trying to figure out how to balance all of this in a way that no one has really had to do before. For generations, “work” was mostly done in and around the home, by both men AND women. A woman’s work could be done alongside her mothering. Whether you were a laundress, or a shepherdess, or a queen, whatever you were doing, you just did it with your kids around, at least to some extent. Then, after the industrial revolution, work slowly shifted to something done away from the home, and away from children.

For a fascinating in-depth analysis, check out this post by Daniel Bearman Stewart: Buttons, lard, and Old Norse: The Invention and Abandonment of Home Economics

Since you could no longer care for your children and “work” at the same time, families divided responsibilities: fathers worked, mothers stayed home with the kids. A shortage of laborers in an industrialized society during the World Wars meant women were encouraged to join the workforce. Then, eventually, the pill allowed women to avoid pregnancy even when their husbands weren’t away at war, and they could join the outside-the-home workforce full time. Finally we were liberated! Right?

ummm . . . thanks?

But now, women of my and younger generations seem to be looking at this question honestly for perhaps the first time. What if we don’t want to make the personal sacrifices necessary to pursue a career INSTEAD of having a family? What if we want children but also aren’t content to neglect our other gifts and talents? What if, like you, we are trying to decide what to do with the whole rest of our lives at twenty, before we even know for sure that we have a vocation to marriage and motherhood? WHAT THEN?!

I got my degree (two actually) from a private university, then went to flight school after that to train as a pilot. About a year later, I began working as a flight instructor to build flight hours. About a year after that, I met my husband and in very quick succession I got engaged, married, and pregnant. I kept working until right before my due date, but then shortly after my son was born, I decided I wanted to stay home with him, and I’ve been home for thirteen years and seven more kids.

So, was my education and post graduate training a waste of time and money?

No, and yes.

No, because education is a good thing. My mind and my horizons were broadened by my university education and my vocational training. Even though I never made it to the airline career I had planned, I couldn’t have known that when I started. If I were still a single woman, I think being an airline pilot would have been a good career for me.

And I could never regret my education. My studies in English and Comparative Literature for my degrees have probably been instrumental in my late-onset writing career. If only my professors could see all the cutting edge stuff I’m doing in the literary genres of “zombie homesteading” and “netflix sponsored post.”

But, really, an educated society benefits everyone in it. I use the research and study skills I learned in college every day in my role as a mother. Especially as a homeschooling mom, (but all parents do this, I’m sure) I have the opportunity to share the subjects about which I am passionate (like grammar) with my children. The more I cared about my own education, the more I have to share with them.

Our homeschool group is full of moms who use their particular knowledge and skills to help our community. Traditional schools are the same. And there are tons of volunteer organizations who would love to have the part-time expertise of a newly-retired young mother.

On the other hand, looking back, I think I could have been more discerning in my career choice. I will encourage my own children to consider eventual marriage and parenthood when they are making education and career choices. Which, of course, my own parents did try with me. My dad always encouraged me to be a writer, it just seemed like too scary a thing to try to do at the time. It wasn’t until I was settled into my vocation of marriage and motherhood that I finally realized that he was right all along.

If I had felt confident that I would be a wife and a mother, I should have studied something that I could pursue alongside my primary vocation. And airline pilot really isn’t that. But, in my case, I didn’t know. I really couldn’t imagine being married to anyone until I met my husband.

Basically, my advice to you and other women like you, is . . .

1. study something you love, something that will be a part of your life whether or not you’re getting paid for it
2. keep your options open as much as possible, and
3. realize that no decision, no matter the cost involved, is forever.

A wise woman knows when to call a sunk cost sunk and just move on to the next thing. That’s allowed.

Edited to add:

THE most important aspect of keeping your options open is to avoid debt as much as possible. The comments below are full of cautionary tales and success stories about this part of the puzzle.

My parents and scholarships paid for all of my educational and vocational training, so I had no debt when I got married. My husband went to college on an ROTC scholarship, but did incur debt to go to business school. We are still paying it off, just a tiny bit at a time, but that was a good decision for us.

My lack of debt is what allowed me the freedom to decide to stop working after my son was born. I’ve read the advice (Kimberley Hahn, I think?) that after marriage, a couple should put all of the wife’s salary into savings and live off of the husband’s so that they will always be in the position to allow her to stay home should she wish to. I think that’s REALLY great advice. But it’s unlikely to be possible if you are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because of graduate school.

There are so many different ways to do this.

I know a handful of women who have had relatively large families while working outside the home and being the primary breadwinner for their families. It’s a possibility. But I think the sacrifices and hardships involved in that plan are greater than most women would choose to take on. In fact, in all the cases I’m thinking about, the women ended up in that role because of a unique family situation. I’m not sure if any of them would have chosen it, if it hadn’t been for their particular circumstances.

That means that, for most of us, the ideal blend of professional and personal fulfillment is going to look different than it will for men. We can say all we want about equality, but the reality is that parenthood is a physical, bodily endeavor for most women and it isn’t for men. So, if you’re picking a career now, and you hope to one day become a mother, maybe don’t pick a career (like I did) that just is NOT going to work with pregnancy and breastfeeding and the general care and feeding of small humans.

Writing works great for me. My sister, after she had kids, was able to transition from a regular nine to five office job, into a part-time, work from home position. But neither of us is supporting our family with what we do. It’s more personal fulfillment and some “nice to have” money.

If you feel like you’d want to keep working even after having kids, you need to talk to women in the fields you are interested in. What does family life look like for them? There must be disciplines within law or medicine that work better with a family.

Maybe you know you’d want to stay home full time with your kids, should you have them. That doesn’t mean you don’t keep up your studies now. You never know what God’s plan for you might be. Maybe you’ll cure cancer THEN get married and have a bunch of kids. Maybe you’ll stop out of your career for a while, then resume it once your kids are older. Maybe, like I did, you’ll just walk away and never look back and find out you were actually meant for something else entirely.

As long as your evaluations and choices are made honestly and prayerfully and often, you really can’t go wrong.

Unless you’re this lady. That’s just scary.

Good luck!

You might also enjoy . . .

A Vocation to Motherhood

The Country Bunny and Seasons of Mothering

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You’re thinking of this guy.)
If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching,
please consider it my error (and let me know!). I’m not a doctor or an
expert on anything in particular. I’m just one person with a lot of
experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in
marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you’ve got a question,
please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me
know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the

p.s. I am WAY behind on my mailbag. Like, a month behind. Maybe two. Between keeping up the blog, writing for Blessed is She (about the devil), the printables and custom work at the Etsy shop, the mugs and t-shirts and pint glasses at the Cafepress shop, the fixing up of the house we bought, and the
general care, feeding, and education of my children . . . I am fresh out of time to respond to emails. But if
you wrote to me to ask a question, please know that I got it. I read
it. I composed an answer to you in my head. But I haven’t typed it up
yet. It is my sincere intention to do so sometime in the near future.


  1. Lindsay

    And please do everything you can to avoid taking on debt. If you get a full ride, or have well-off parents who don't mind paying $100K+ for grad school you may never use, lucky you! But please do not take on debt that you may HAVE to work to repay. I am a lawyer and would love nothing more to quit and stay home with my babies. However, I can't manage that until the loans are paid off, which will be about when the oldest is 30. Biggest mistake I ever made.

    • Kendra

      Oh my goodness, I neglected to mention this VERY important piece of the puzzle. This is a H U G E part of keeping one's options open. My parents and scholarships paid for all of my educational and vocational training, so I had no debt when I got married. My husband went to college on an ROTC scholarship, but did incur debt to go to business school. We are still paying it off, just a tiny bit at a time, but that was a good decision for us.

      My lack of debt is what allowed me the freedom to decide to stop working after my son was born. I've read the advice (Kimberley Hahn, I think?) that after marriage, a couple should put all of the wife's salary into savings and live off of the husband's so that they will always be in the position to allow her to stay home should she wish to. I think that's REALLY great advice.

    • none

      I wholeheartedly agree. I liked one law school over another at the time (and of course, as my current self, probably would have made the exact opposite choice). The school I did NOT choose was OFFERING me money. Talk about dumb. Instead, I went to a school that consistently is ranked in the top 3 for the amount of debt its graduates carry…yikes. I would hope that, post recession, people are actually considering this much more closely and not buying this "all debt is good debt" line, when the concept of "good debt" presumes you'll have a quick and easy route to pay it back (e.g., big firm job). Even then, I know few women who can stick around at a firm after one child, never mind more than one; and that's if you're fortunate enough to have attended a highly ranked enough law school to even be considered by these high-paying firms.

    • Allegra

      This is the scary thing about pursuing a higher education. We are able to afford me staying home because of a deceased wealthy family member. I am sad I was never able to meet him, but I am so grateful for the legacy he left. Most people incur educational debt at a young age (18, 22, etc.) without having any idea of how that will truly affect their future.

    • Katie

      Great point about living on one salary and saving the other. This one rings true to me, as this has been our strategy directly or indirectly. And it's borne fruit in recent months, as I was able to confidently leave my full-time salary behind, knowing we could make it work for our young family. Earlier in our marriage, my husband was a graduate student, so we were relying on my earnings for day-to-day and putting his modest (meager) stipend into savings. But the mindset helped us build habits both of saving and of living well within our means. When looking at our budget last year before the birth of our second baby, my husband was genuinely surprised that we could do ALL the things within the scope of his salary– church giving, IRA funding, etc. But it was just all of the practice paying off! I think one new challenge we now face is to actually rely on our (general) savings– after the habit of putting $$ away it's an adjustment to realize we've arrived at what we wanted savings FOR– family life with a parent at home– not just savings for the sake of savings. But yes, adding my voice to say it's possible and even pleasant to live on one income even while earning two. When I resigned at the end of the year, all we really "lost" was my employer's retirement matching, and the larger savings margin. And having practiced our budget, we can handle that!

  2. Emily

    I'm kind of figuring this out on the other side of things. I did go to medical school, where I met and married my husband; our first baby was born my intern year of residency. That was miserable all around– we both worked 80 hours a week for 3 years while living 3 states away from our families and having this tiny person to care for. Or, a lot of the time, this tiny person that our au pair cared for.
    After residency I started working part-time, which I thought would be perfect and fix everything. And, well, it didn't. We had a couple more kids and I've started feeling as though my career is an unenjoyable hobby that takes me away from my real life. Don't get me wrong, I like medicine well enough. I just like spending time with my kids more.

    To the email-writer: I don't know anything about the law lifestyle, but here's what I know about medicine. It's an interesting and worthy and stable career, and well-paying (though most new docs are tens if not hundreds of thousands in debt). But it is also stressful, demanding, takes a really long time to train for, and is NOT FAMILY FRIENDLY. It's just not– and I'm in peds, where the majority of grads are women and we all love kids. It's better than in decades past, but it's honestly a very unforgiving career when it comes to work-life balance, even if you work part-time. And forget about taking a few years off… if you want to maintain your license you have to pay for that, plus continuing medical education is required, and you have to periodically retake your board exams… and if you don't maintain your license, then if you ever DO want to start practicing again, many states require you to complete a mini-residency again, hundreds and hundreds of hours of grueling training. And I understand why, I guess– you don't want your doctor's skills to be rusty– but it is just. not. easy. And I don't think anyone applying to medical school really understands how unforgiving and un-family-friendly it is.

    I'm at the point where I'm folding my cards and planning to stop practicing in a few months. And I feel super weird and guilty about it, like I'm letting someone down… but I don't know whom! Myself? My husband? (He assures me the answer is no.) My parents? My colleagues? Women? It's just a weird place to be in, and though I'm confident that this is what I want to do, I keep thinking of all those years of training! While I don't think they were wasted exactly, it does seem like there could've been a better way of doing things.

    Sorry for this longest comment ever! This is just a topic that has really been weighing on me lately.

    • Kendra

      Thank you so much for this comment Emily. Your perspective is just what Sanasi and all young women should get to know. We all deserve to make decisions in possession of all the facts, which I think hasn't been the case for the last couple generations.

      And as for you yourself, you can't feel guilty about going where you feel led. Your path so far sounds pretty much exactly like St. Gianna Molla, so that can't be all bad. But the next part of her life was a doozy. So maybe hold off on the inspiring death.

      I think you'll love stay at home mothering. I do.

    • Emily

      Yeah, maybe I'll put that part off another 60 years or so. (I originally said 90 by accident in the deleted post, because it's 5am here and my brain doesn't want to do math.)

    • Ally | The Speckled Goat

      My sister-in-law has the same issue, Emily- she's a PA, and loves her job. She finds it very, very rewarding, but with two little ones, she's having a rough time. Especially since they're both in daycare, and she's never felt all that comfortable with it. So hard.

      Praying for you, Emily!

    • Phoebe Abraham

      Emily – Best wishes with your planned changes! I went to medical school because my father absolutely insisted (long story), then became a surgeon because I'm crazy. During the last of the five years of residency I met my husband, also a doctor, though we didn't meet through work. I worked as an attending for two years, then quit to stay home with the children.

      By God's grace, I did not have debt. If I did, this would have been impossible. I have young relatives who are going to medical school by their own choice, and who going to have debt. I know that they haven't really thought about marriage and family, and I'm sad for them, because they're going to realize too late that 150k of debt won't be compatible with stay at home motherhood, or even very-involved-working motherhood.

      I still have some doubts about the resources I "used up." I went to a competitive residency in a competitive specialty. If I hadn't taken up the spot, someone else could have had the training instead, and they would probably still be working as a surgeon. My closest mentor, a Christian woman without children, kind of blames me for leaving. My husband says we paid our debt to society by going through the brutal training program and working for far less than PAs or fully trained doctors would have cost to do the same work. I don't know. I was a good doctor. I saved a couple of people's lives. I tell myself it was worthwhile to have done that, and for the handful of other people that I think benefited from having *me* and not some other random doctor. Maybe that makes it worse that I quit. But no one can replace what I am to my children.

      I will advise my daughters to pursue training that isn't too expensive, and that will be easier to adapt to life with a family if circumstances require them to work after they have children.

    • Emily

      Phoebe, I forgot to list my patients among the people I might be letting down! I'm a good pediatrician… I follow up-to-date guidelines, really listen to patients, and am great at explaining things to parents. But you're right, there are other good doctors but my kids only have one mom.

      (My husband and I were also lucky to have very little debt– I had scholarship money and generous parents, and he trained through the military– in fact we just paid off our student loans this year!)

    • Erin Klarner

      I once had a younger friend ask me in graduate school, when she was a first year and our daughter was 2, what it was like to have kids in academia. I answered her very honestly, including telling her what I thought of the woman who bragged that her water broke during a qualifying exam and she finished sitting on a towel before going to the hospital. I'm not saying that's the norm, although maybe it is elsewhere. At Notre Dame, so many of the grad students outside the sciences are married with more or fewer small children. I had a number of professors, mostly older women or priests, tell me to prioritize health and family. I'm now on year 3 of staying at home, and the woman I had that conversation with and her husband are godparents to two of our children. Luckily, I'm in a field (history) where my degree will keep!

    • Unknown

      I'm a mother and a physician/surgeon. I had my first baby during residency when my husband lived 1200 miles away. We worked together and my husband took my son and raised him mostly on his own for the first 2 1/2 years of my son's life. It was hard on both of us but we kept telling ourselves that it was just a phase of life and most importantly, our son would never remember it. I moved back to the midwest where my husband and son lived almost 2 years ago and bought a solo practice. We now have 2 kids. I know I'm meant to work outside the home. In fact, I started back at work 3 weeks after my daughter was born. For me it was the best thing I could have done; I had some postpartum depression with my son and getting back into the swing of things again helped so much for me. It does help that my kids go to a home daycare with a provider that I know loves and cares for them as much as my husband and I do. And I know that I am more patient and appreciate my time with my family more when I am able to go to work during the day. I know I'm probably not supposed to say that, but it's true for me. Marriage is about compromise and working together for the good of the family and that is something my husband and I work very hard at because managing 2 full time jobs and a family is not always easy.
      And yes, do keep in mind the amount of debt you may incur during your schooling if you think you may want to stay at home with your kids. I came out of medical school with over $300,000 in debt (and I had no undergrad debt). We consider it an investment in our future, but if I didn't want to practice, it would be a large burden for my family.

    • Unknown

      I'm graduating medical school in a few months. I am a woman and I feel that I am called to work outside the home as well. My mom stayed at home, but I have a lot of wonderful mentors who worked full time and were also mothers so it can work. However, committing to medical school isn't just the 4 years and debt, you have to complete a residency (minimum 3 years) afterwards to practice independently. I would carefully consider if you are called to that commitment. I know many female docs who work part-time, and one who left medicine, who also have families. For me personally, the amount of training for this job would not have been worth it if my eventual plan was to be a SAHM. I don't think these women made the wrong choice, just that it would've been too much of a training burden for me personally if it wasn't something I felt called to do full time. I see medicine as my primary vocation at this point in my life. (Obviously I don't know where my life will lead and it could change and I'll be a SAHM.) There are also the options of being a PA or NP, and having some independence, but without the huge debt and training load. These are great careers for many women (and men) I know as well.

      Medical training is rewarding but hard. I would just investigate fully before committing, maybe seek out the women's or Catholic physician groups in your area for contacts.

      I don't know as much about law school and being a lawyer, but my aunt is a very successful lawyer and also has a difficult schedule. She has made it work with childcare so it can be done. However, I think both law and medicine are high intensity careers and if you know that's not what you want to do with your life, you might want to consider other options.

    • Unknown

      Just a thought — For those who have already undergone medical training and regret it, try not to feel too guilty. God can still put it to good use. My mom was a single mom and a nurse. She had to work. But she was a great nurse. When anyone was sick, she was the one you wanted. (She worked in the SICU and PACU.) When my grandmother grew older and needed a lot of medical care, my mom was able to help significantly. She still had to work and could not care for her full time, but she was able to help manage her care and almost brought her home before she died. She was going to have me care for grandma at home with her assistance, and it only didn't work out because my grandmother died shortly before we could implement the plan. She hoped to get her out of the nursing home, and she had the skills and help from a SAHM daughter to do it.

      If you have medical training, you could be a huge blessing to aging family members in the distant future. One major loss in our culture with so many working women is that there are no family members at home to care for the aging anymore. So often, families don't know what to do with their elderly, cannot quit their jobs, and cannot afford to pay for nursing care. While I realize different fields of medicine may be more or less advantageous to this, medical training and experience come in so handy with aging parents, whether it is communicating with their medical providers or helping physically care for them in some way.

      I often encourage my daughter to get a nursing degree because I know the value of some medical training. She wants to "have 10 children and stay home", but she also expresses an interest in nursing. As long as she doesn't incur a lot of debt, that nursing knowledge could come in really handy someday.

  3. CathyMA

    Kendra, this is a wonderful response to Sanasi. When I was a Junior in high school I began working at a small, independent, neighborhood pharmacy. I was lucky enough to work there part-time as a student for 3 years (still worked there my first year of Junior College). My boss was an older gentleman who owned the pharmacy. Throughout my years there he encouraged me that Pharmacy would be a fantastic career choice. This man took a honest interest in me and my future and really planted the seeds into what I am doing now. He pointed out the ways pharmacy was a flexible job that I could do even while raising children, which he must have known is what I wanted from our numerous conversations. He also pointed out that the salary was good, even if I were to do it part-time. To this day, I know God placed me at that job for a reason. What a wonderful person to have worked with.

    Fast forward 21 years, and I did become a pharmacist. I worked full-time until my son was born 12 years ago, which is when I switched to part-time. I am lucky that I still have a understanding boss (not the same one who started me on this path) who allows me to be as flexible as I need to be. As my kids get older, this is a career I can work in full time again.
    So, while I have never been a full-on stay at home mom, my kids don't really notice when I am at work because I am there while they are in school. I catch them telling their friends that their mom does "nothing" all the time!

    **Take heart too, I came very close to homeschooling my children, but eventually did not. Working part-time in pharmacy would not have been compromised for me, particularly for the reason where I happen to work (it's 24 hours, many different shifts available, and close to my home).

    • Kendra

      This is great, thank you. I have hear this about pharmacy from other moms, too. Molly, from Molly Makes Do is a pharmacist and mom.

    • Molly Walter

      Well technI call I'm actually a pharmacy tech. I spent 6 years working in professional theatre and got my certification after my first child was born. It required no additional school.and debt and I have a great job with an atypical schedule that allows me to do what I need to do to help support my family (just our reality) and combined with my husband's atypical schedule our kids are home with a parent 90% of the time. I also have part time, etc. Options for the future thru this field once student loans are gone and my kids are older. It's a job field that I've encouraged a lot of working mom's to look into. I'm hoping in the future it will allow me to be part time and pursue my family life and maybe the ability to do my "career" work of theatre on the side once more.

    • Molly Walter

      Also even though I work I don't "use" my degree in my field but boy did my work in the arts prepare me for life, marriage and parenthood more than I could have evet imagined!!

    • CathyMA

      Molly Walter, I couldn't do my job without my Techs!!! I love them!!!! Can't live without them!!

    • Anonymous

      Pharmacy is a flexible career, however, it is one that will likely require you to take out loans (some of my classmates have close to $100,000 in student loan debt) and the job market is now very weak due to an increase in the number of schools. One to two years of post-graduate training may also be necessary, which means another year or two of family-unfriendly work hours for low pay. I'm a pharmacist and I love what I do, but I cannot in good conscience encourage anyone else to go into it at this juncture. IF you can get a job, your future will be bright, but please don't think that pharmacy is a golden ticket. It just isn't so anymore.

      Sanasi, if you're interested in health care, check out a career as a physician assistant. The training isn't as long as an MD's and you'll have more autonomy than a nurse or a pharmacist would.

    • Molly Walter

      Yes, one of the reasons I'm not going to become a pharmacist is the cost of the school, time and the pharmacists gave less flexibility in schedule than the techs do. The pharmacists right out of school don't back much more than me after they write their loan checks each month!

    • CathyMA

      I graduated pharmacy school (MCPHS Boston) in 1999, right when pharmacy requirements and cost were changing. I was very lucky.

      What I was trying to say was that when I made a decision to what I would study, I took into consideration, flexibility, income, and the knowledge that God forbid something should have happened to my husband, or to his job, I would be able to financially hold my family together. The cost of my education was far less than what it is now, and yes, that too factored in my decision, especially in deciding which pharmacy school to attend.

      That's what I want to teach my daughter. She's 10 right now, but before I know it she too will be making this decision. At the same time, we are teaching our 12 year old son how important the same thing is. Believe it or not, he's a very traditional, old-fashioned kind of boy (we have NO idea where that came from!) and my husband and I can see him want a future wife/mother to stay home. We remind him very gently that if that is where he sees his future, then he needs to make sure he can financially support that.

  4. Poste

    So thoughtful! Chiming in as a mom who very happily works outside the home. I totally and completely value my education and my career. My work keeps me energized, keeps me creative and, I think, makes me a more interesting person to come home to my husband and son. It is really hard, and there are definitely stressful days. I think a big part of making it work, like Cheryl Sandberg said, is having a really good partner. My husband is a teacher and works locally so does a lot of heavy lifting on the home front for us which is AMAZING. I do all the grocery shipping, meal planning and cooking and he is way better at laundry than I am! Are there days when I wish I didn't have to schlep to an office? Of course. But, the pride on my son's face when we go to a library or bookstore and he tells the clerk/librarian "You know what? My Mommy helped make this book!" is incredible. And, I won't lie – knowing that I could financially support my family, God forbid something happened to my husband, gives me peace of mind. You have to do what feels best for you, and what works best for your family, and count your blessings! I will also add that our church has been a gift to our family as well – so many supportive people willing to help when we need it and keep us connected. Good luck!

  5. Shelby

    Excellent, excellent post. An eloquent and substantial answer. This was actually a very recent discussion among friends and I. I quickly forwarded this to them. Thank you!

  6. Erin Carlson

    This is a great post. While I was in college I certainly hoped and prayed for a husband and family, but I didn't meet that husband until 16 years later and we were blessed with our little one in our first year of marriage when I was 39 years old. In the intervening 16 years I used my education and built a career that I loved and was very successful at. It could have been a disaster if I hadn't pursued an education in lieu of family. Once I was married and our child was born we made a decision that I would continue to work full time and my husband would stay home part time. It works for us at this point in time. We know that nature will prevent us from having a very large family (breastfeeding and age has been more successful than we would hope for in spacing children)and me working full time makes the most financial sense. However, I would really struggle to work full time and send our son to full time daycare. Like all decisions in life, I think it comes down to prayer and making the best decision with the information available at that point in time. I think your advice on this is spot on.

    • Kendra

      Yes! Thank you. I really think about this. I don't want to tell my daughters, "just plan on staying home with your kids," because what if that doesn't happen for a while?

    • Laura @ Keeping Up With the Mikes

      In a similar vein to Erin's comment, my husband and I got married a year before I finished my PhD. At the time, I wasn't sure how we would balance me finishing school and having kids, so we used NFP for a few months and then decided there was no serious reason to avoid having kids. Now over three years later, we still don't have any children. I'm continuing on the academic research career path and I'm glad I went to grad school. I've learned that we really can't know what God has planned for our lives. I'm so glad I didn't assume that I would be a SAHM, BUT I also sincerely believe that if we ever need to make that decision, we would do whatever makes the most sense for our family. For right now that means that both my husband and work full-time and we are focused on paying off our student loans from undergrad in the next two years. That's the best thing we can do for our family's future right now!

  7. Brianna

    To the email questioner, I think the important thing is to know what your vocation is. I feel a strong calling to the law (I just graduated law school– my goal is to focus on adoption law) and to motherhood. I have a 4 year old, and another due soon. It's tough, but I'm sure I'm fulfilling my vocation in both ways. Just pray a lot before each step, and take things 1 step at a time.

    • Jessi Ann

      God bless you and your vocation! My husband and I are working toward finalizing the adoption of our daughter who has been with us since May. Both of the attorneys (ours and the birthmother's) have been such a blessing to us in such a hopeful and stressful time and I know what you all are doing what is sometimes really happy and sometimes really heart-breaking work.

    • Miss Jill and Mister John

      Brianna- as an adoptive mama of three! yea for you… we need ethical and faithful people practicing adoption laws.
      If you ever want to talk adoption and what makes a good adoption practice from the perspective of an adoptive parent, email me at buggsrule at gmail
      I recently had this discussion with other adoptive mamas 🙂

    • Shannon

      I loved reading this response from a fellow lawyer. I am an immigration lawyer at a non profit on the southern border. I have a son but a driving force in my life and a primary value in our family is working on the margins. I want me son to learn those values and I have little pause and continuing my profesional path, although you do feel stretched to the max at certain points. I would encourage considering a public interest law career. Many workplaces are female and mother lead, and provide great flexibility for parents (I can bring my son to work, work remotely, and we have 3 months paid maternity leave and sabbatical options). I feel proud my children will have the example of a mother trying to serve the community and am excited to engage them more as they get older. I am in constant search of positive voices regarding being a catholic and working mother. Oftentimes a woman’s choice to work is proffered as a veritable Sophie’s choice in the catholic realm. But it’s important to show that catholic mothers do exist who are unapologetic in their decision to work, in large part because the work is serving our call as faithful to work for justice and serve the marginalized and oppressed.

  8. Caroline

    And mothers, encourage your sons to study something that will enable them to get a decent job, which will allow their future wife the choice to stay at home with her children if she wants to. My husband purposely chose a profession which would enable this to happen, and I am so grateful!

    • Amanda

      Yes! I am going to coach my boys on this too! In my husband's family the kids were encouraged to do what they love with zero regard for providing for a family so both went into ministry/nonprofit…and both are struggling with the financial difficulties. I think it's so key to encourage our kids in their interests but let them know reality so they can make decisions with full knowledge of what they are choosing.

    • Elizabeth

      I agree with this, and I think it's perfectly reasonable for a father to ask any young man interested in his daughter how, exactly he plans to support a family. On the other hand, I have always told my husband that it is more important to me that he be doing work he enjoys than that he bring home a larger check from a job he hates. I think it's really good for children to grow up knowing how to be thrifty and pinch pennies when needed, so they don't have to be thinking only about how large the paycheck will be when they consider a career. After all, what would we do without the people who are passionate about running our ministries and non-profit organizations?
      It's a balance, obviously, and one has to think not only about where one's passion lies, but also how that will pay (or not). All good things to think through!

    • Caroline

      Most definitely, don't take a job you hate just to make a lot of money, that wouldn't work out in the end. But, one can take a job that perhaps isn't the dream job and still be content in pursuing more likeable things outside of work. If he could, my husband would be a musician, but it didn't pay the bills, so he became an engineer. It helps that we don't have many college debts to pay (thank you G.I. Bill and grants), and while my husband was getting his B.S., he went to the university in which I was employed so that he could get a break on tuition. I also chose a state university for my education instead of paying out of state tuition. I really don't understand why parents send their kids out of state if they have a good university at home!

    • Miss Jill and Mister John

      Being married to a teacher, I sort of disagree. I see where you are going with this.. but I so admire what my husband brings to his classrooms.
      It's his vocation and he is able to bridge faith, classroom life, and inspire his kids to do the same. We need teachers like him and it's my family's sacrifice to our faith community.

      I feel like we need to encourage our kids to be passion and faith filled and allow them to find a career where they can bring this to others. If it aligns with great earning power, great. If it doesn't but your child is bringing Jesus to others, life will will be good and full.

    • Mrs. Green Acres

      I agree with Miss Jill.

      And sometimes, things don't go to plan.

      Where we live, teaching is actually an excellent career to get into, as the salarm scale improves significantly as you go along. The trick is finding available jobs. Hubs graduated in 2009, and was only able to start supply teaching in 2014.

      I too feel that he has a vocation to teach but that had absolutely meant family sacrifices on our part. I've been lucky enough to have had well paying jobs since graduating but is it something that I find personally fulfilling? Eh.

    • Mrs. Green Acres

      I agree with Miss Jill.

      And sometimes, things don't go to plan.

      Where we live, teaching is actually an excellent career to get into, as the salarm scale improves significantly as you go along. The trick is finding available jobs. Hubs graduated in 2009, and was only able to start supply teaching in 2014.

      I too feel that he has a vocation to teach but that had absolutely meant family sacrifices on our part. I've been lucky enough to have had well paying jobs since graduating but is it something that I find personally fulfilling? Eh.

  9. jgehretmc

    I love this post! I got my PhD in biochemistry and now I decided to stay home with my 1 year old son. I always knew I'd like to stay home one day but I don't regret getting my degree. I'm not sure how I will use this degree in the future and I definitely had thoughts about why I was getting this degree that I might not use. One thing that really helped is that I don't have any student loans (PhDs are typically supported through assistance ships) so I don't have to maintain a career to pay off my loans.

    • Kate

      I also went the PhD option (in engineering). A great option that has worked out well for me and for another girlfriend with a PhD is the adjunct professor role. I teach one class a semester at the local university and my friend teaches at the community college. We talked with the universities and set up our courses to be late afternoon/evening classes. I get a babysitter twice a week to watch the kids and I head to campus to teach. The babysitter watches the kids for a little bit until my husband gets home. It works out well for the university because they can have a PhD teach the course, but not pay nearly as much as they would pay a tenured professor. I stay at home with the kids 90% of the time and get out a few times a week for a much needed intellectual stimulus. There may be similar opportunities for someone with a JD to teach a couple of classes at a local university/college.

    • krzwier

      This is a lovely post, Kendra. I'll chime in as another mama, PhD. I also am currently an adjunct professor. There are pros and cons to this lifestyle as a mother. On the one hand, it is flexible. I usually get to choose when I want to hold my class each semester, and I get to decide how to schedule my prep and grading hours according to my own schedule. Also, because adjunct teaching is on a semester-by-semester basis, I don't have to really worry about when the next baby might be conceived, because I can just choose to not teach for a semester, without any consequences. On the downside, it pays very poorly ($3000 per class, which for me doesn't even cover the cost of childcare for my 3 kids). Also, in the spirit of honesty, I do have to admit that I often struggle with the feeling of "not being important" to the university and a sense of loss at having given up a promising research career. At this time, I'm not sure if those feelings are something that God is placing in my heart to follow in the future when the kids are older, or if they are just temptations coming from selfishness. But they are there. When those feelings get me down, I just repeat Kendra's message to myself: this is the situation that works best for my family right now, and it won't necessarily last forever…

    • Dixie

      Wow, I'm 100% with you here krzwier. I feel almost exactly the same. Sometimes I have to remind myself not to look a gift horse in the mouth: we have an income, I get to be with my kids, and I get to teach (and maybe someday get around to researching and publishing again?). I don't get the professional recognition, prestige, pay, etc., but all that is just evidence that it's not perfect. I don't need perfect! I have so many blessings to bring me contentment! I shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      So, like Kate said!

      But then sometimes I also just think to myself, HARRUMPH!

  10. Kindle Fire Mom

    I realized a couple of years ago that my literary mothering role model was Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time. She's a Nobel prize winning scientist with a lab in the back of the house. She's there for her kids but there's much more to her intellectual and professional life. Without realizing it, I had built a life similar to hers– no big prizes yet, but I've built a built a business that supports our family and most of my working hours are while the kids are at our local parochial school.

    I think it's really important in your college years to see a lot of different family styles (even if its just through books) and allow those to influence your plans.

    Seconding the comments about debt. It's really, really hard to stay home/ work from home when there are huge student loans hanging over your head. However, we borrowed money (around 20k) for me to go to grad school when our oldest was a baby and it will get paid off this year.

    It's also really important to consider income vs hours vs flexibility. Don't become a social worker and make 30k per year in a very stressful environment and expect to be able to hire some housecleaning help to take the load off at home… Plan to marry well– not in the sense of someone with more status, but with someone who wants to lead the same sort of life you do and is willing to put in the work.

    • Kendra

      She's a great character!

      And what a beautiful point about marrying "well." That's such a key part of all of this.

    • Molly Walter

      Yes, and we'll doesn't have to equal dollars either. Marry well by finding a person you work well with, who is willing to sacrifice the way you want to and be supportive and who shares common goals.

    • CathyMA

      This is exactly me :It's also really important to consider income vs hours vs flexibility.

      Yes, yes, yes! This also enabled me to pay off my student loans without worry. I had a 10 year loan payment plan. Five years of that was payed off while I still worked full-time, and that was not by choice. Having children was a medical struggle for me. So, you just never know!

    • CathyMA

      Kindle Fire Mom, I meant to quote that sentence from you.

    • Elizabeth C

      With a daughter now in college and a son in high school this topic is discussed… A LOT! All great points. Especially about "marrying well" & staying open to God's plans (those tend to lead us in quite a different road then the ones planned by us).

    • Laura @ Mothering Spirit

      I love this post and all these comments, Kendra. Just popping into this thread to add an interesting aside. I've "rediscovered" Madeline L'Engle's writing for adults in the past year, and I've been delighted to find her a kindred spirit in all this questioning about how to integrate professional calling and personal calling. I never knew that she wrote the 1st draft of A Wrinkle in Time during one summer when she had three children at home with her from school! I just loved that inspiration – that many things are possible as our lives evolve and expand, maybe beyond what we imagined as undergrads. I certainly never expected my life today to look like it does, but I couldn't be more grateful.

    • Annery

      Well said! All this time, I've unknowingly been modeling myself after her too! Loved that book growing up! Luckily, my husband has not been trapped by an evil force seeking to overtake everything 🙂

  11. Amelia Bentrup

    This is a really good post. When I was young, I dreamed of being a veterinarian. I worked at vet's offices in college and majored in pre-vet. Then I came to realize that the life of a vet is super stressful and not very family friendly and the schooling is very expensive. Even though I hadn't met my husband yet, I knew that I did want to get married and have kids. So, instead I ended up going to graduate school (studying animals) where I did meet my husband. The big difference between graduate school and veterinary school for me was that I went to grad school for free (with fellowships and research assistandships) while vet school would have involved taking on lots of debt.

    I still have regrets though. The field I studied in graduate school would have been hard to combine with raising a family and even harder to go into if you take a few years off. Yes, the skills and knowledge I learned in graduate school do help me….even as a mom. I know how to read a scientific paper and do research on all those controversial issues like vaccines.

    That said, I wish I had picked an area of study that was 1) easier to find a job in and 2) easier to combine with a family….that had lots of opportunities for part-time work and flexibility and was in high demand. I don't regret getting a master's degree or getting an education, but I do regret my field of study (which was very specialized) and not super practical as far as finding a job (and even worse at finding flexible, part-time, combine with a family job).

    That's the biggest thing I want to teach my children (and especially my daughters). Study something that you love, but also something that will get you a job and something that you can combine with a family if that is the turn your life takes.

  12. Amanda

    You are my hero as usual

    My pediatrician shares her practice with another mom Doctor and they each work 2/3 days a week office hours, which I like to support. But I don't know if it's an option for many. Reading camp Patton convinced me I couldn't be a mom and a resident, anyhow.

    I got married in college and dropped out of grad school to have a baby, so I have no real career experience. It meant no transition from working all day and getting a big paycheck though.

    • Amanda

      I think it's foolish to tell kids going to college or the workforce that the only thing they should consider is their love for the work. That's a factor – but salary-to-college-debt ratio is important! Opportunities to work part time, or nights, or from home are all things to consider. Whether an 80 hour workweek like my husband is worth it, even if you love it. I know this seems to exclude something like social work, but there are people for whom those things are worth it, or who aren't looking to care for their children part-time days. I like my literature degree and it's working out great for me (literature based homeschooling! whoo hoo!) but I'm sure glad I didn't acquire debt getting it that would have kept me in a semi-related job paying it off and convincing us to delay children. I'm really done now 😉

  13. Unknown

    I think what also gets left out of this discussion:

    1. Modern jobs that pay well often also mean 80 hour work weeks–basically compensating one person for working 2+ jobs. I see this in law and business, so many stay at home parents (men and women) are de facto sole parents. So "marrying well" is not a fool proof strategy.

    2. Staying out of the work force also means retirement income lost. It't not just whether you can afford your daily expenses on one salary, but do you both have money to retire on?

    3. One job financing one family is more and more a luxury without outside support. Bonnie Engstrom's piece on this shows how even a unionized employee can't cover the full costs of medical care, even on a lean family budget.

    • SaraLynn

      All of this is so so true! Women need to think of all of this.

    • Kendra

      Yes. Young men should also consider the lifestyle they want when choosing a career. We were lucky that my husband owned his own business when all of our kids were young, and he had a pretty flexible schedule. He works a lot more hours these days, and has some travel, but he still makes family dinners a priority.

      Kindle Fire Mom's point that I referenced was that marrying "well" means marrying someone who has the same lifestyle expectations that you do. It's a great point.

    • Sarah

      Yes! Excellent points. I really like your thoughts on this, Kendra, and think a follow-up post on how to help our kids discern talents/careers as they grow and long before they reach college age would be helpful. This is something we talk about in our home. It seems there is so much emphasis on "educating" in our society but with little thought to where it's going and how our children will use it on a practical level. True discernment on how to help our kids grow and begin to see these practical realities and future responsibilities is key to the entire education/maturing process.

    • Ally V

      I think the idea of what a "good job" really is is also something to be discussed.

      My husband is a sort of jack-of-all-trades guy- grew up farming, and has so many marketable real-life skills. Will he ever make 80k a year? No way. But his work (which has been Bible Camp maintenance, plumbing, snowmobile mechanic, etc) makes him happy, allows for some flexibility, and he'll always have a job because of his willingness to do anything.

      There's no prestige, he'll never get an award, but our bills are paid, we own our house, and we are in absolutely no debt at all.

  14. Ashley Strukel

    Excellent and thoughtful! I worked full time when my oldest was born, and switched to 3/4 time when he was about 1 (and I was pregnant with my second). When my oldest was 4, I had my third and was still working 3/4 time for a flexible and family-friendly company. But it was still too much. I liked my job and loved my coworkers, but I didn't feel passionate about it. And since having 3 kids in daycare was eating up my whole salary, quitting to stay home was a no-brainer for us.

    However, I will say that I do not regret at all having them in day care and working at the start of my parenthood. I believe I'd be a different, and not necessarily better, mother had I not experienced that. I also know we could not have sustained that lifestyle for much longer. I learned a lot from balancing work and marriage/parenthood, and I think it has enabled me to be a better support for my friends, whether they are home all the time, at work most of the time, or something in between.

    Everyone's experience is different and I have gained so much from finding a network of support that understands that what's best for my family may not be exactly the same as what's best for everyone else's family. Solidarity, sisters!

  15. Kim

    I'm going through some of this discernment right now as I'm expecting my fourth. I am a lawyer and worked full time up through the birth of my third a few years ago – we had a wonderful nanny who lived down the street from us and took care of the two oldest for several years. The big firm job I had for five years, though (pre-marriage and pre-kids, up to the birth of the second) was NOT family friendly. The leave policy was nice, but the expectations and culture on working hours were very much not. I kept working full time for a few years because I found a job with a fantastic partner who really did value work-life balance, so I could leave at 5 every day and have a good routine. She also allowed me to switch to part-time when my third child was born. I never saw myself as a working mom-of-three, but I really do enjoy practicing law (real estate/lending) and it has been a good thing for our family – at one point after our third was born my husband was unexpectedly out of work for seven months and even though we had a little savings we were thankful to have my job.

    But now with four? I'm having to re-think things yet again and figure out what's best for our family. At the moment I'm pretty sure that as wonderful as my work arrangement is, it's probably not sustainable with four and I need to investigate contract or other less consistent work to stay at home more. But it's tough. We've always been in a position where I could make much more than my husband but we live well below those means, and Kendra's right that there is something special about motherhood and the physical/emotional bond that means it would never work for our family for my husband to be the one to be home full time.

    Probably too much rambling…to conclude I would heavily second the "don't go into too much debt" – *especially* for law school – advice, so you have flexibility in the future. But education is never wasted because you can't predict what God's path for you will be! Good luck.

  16. Jen

    I remember feeling this conflicted while in nursing school….all I really wanted to do is get married and have kids, so what was the point of staying in school? I did get married 6 months after graduation, got pregnant soon after, and was even more conflicted about abandoning a nursing career so soon. But then we had a second trimester loss and it was almost 2 years until I got pregnant again – so I was very thankful for my nursing job that kept me occupied. Now I have 2 more boys and another baby on the way and haven't worked since the last pregnancy (partially because I keep getting pregnant and I'm considered high-risk, but mostly because it's right for our family). I don't regret it at all because I'm at peace, knowing I'm supposed to be at home right now, possibly forever – although I have still been maintaining my license. Like a previous commenter, it does take time and money to do so but I'll keep doing it until I know for sure what our future holds. Basically, what you said Kendra about your choices being made "thoughtfully and prayerfully" is spot on. You never know what life will throw at you, but God really does lead you in the way you should go.

    Oh, and the debt thing is definitely a huge factor. I chose to go to the school that paid ME (thank you, scholarships), and it was one of the smartest things I ever did. I'd probably be forced to work between pregnancies if we still had debt.

  17. Jessi Ann

    Thank you for this post, it is an eloquent answer to an excellent question. It is such a delicate balance to make plans for a future you cannot foresee. Part of your #2 recommendation I think includes making a financially informed decision about your degree. That is the case whether or not you might stay at home, but especially for those who think they might be called to be mothers at home since so many women have to work for pay in order to make ends meet precisely because of their (or their spouses) student loan debt.

    My husband and I are in the position that we have several years left of throwing my whole income and much of my husband's toward debt left before we can reasonably afford for me to be at home with our child (or children, hopefully), even though I am relatively sure that is where I will most fully become who I have been called to be and would like to try to home school. It breaks my heart to drop our little baby off with a sitter and make my commute every day. Although my husband's decision to take on so much debt to get a Theology degree is not forever, and it has value, it also adds up to much of my daughter's pre-school and possibly some school years. The money is sunk, as you say, but if he had it to do over (and was not 20 and financially ignorant) I know he would have done it differently.

    On the other hand, trying to make decisions based on what your possible future vocation will be can make a person forget about her vocation in the present and what God is calling her to do right now. So, St. Gianna, pray for us working mamas!

  18. Alicia Copley

    Kendra, I love your thoughts on this topic.

    I also got a college degree and went to grad school the year before I got married. I don't regret getting my Master's degree. I was engaged when I started grad school, so I had inklings that it might not be the field I would work in forever. I had originally started in a PhD program and quickly realized that the extended schooling and career paths with a PhD in my field were not conducive to the family life I envisioned. My Master's degree did allow me to have a job I really liked in our early married life before we had our son. And I was able to transition to part time after he was born at the same workplace.

    Today is my last day in the office at this job because I'm finally making the transition to full-time stay-at-home/work-at-home mom. I'm so excited for it, and also a little emotional about leaving work today.

    I got lucky in some ways that the field I enjoyed in school was able to transition so well into my married and having kids life. But, that honestly wasn't something I ever thought about, and I love the idea of encouraging our children to think about that as they plan their careers. Like Kendra, I just couldn't "see" what married life would be like (or that I would ever want to be home with kids) until I met my husband.

    And, I so, so agree with the above poster's about taking on debt to finish school. I was able to complete grad school without debt due to scholarships and a fellowship, but if that hadn't been the case, I'm sure my career options would look much different right now.

  19. Sunflowerakb with the Yellow House

    I went to college focusing on getting an education but also hoping/expecting to meet "Mr. Right" so I could get married, have babies and stay at home. That dream didn't work out the way I expected! I'm now 38, just got married (first marriage for both- he's 44) last August and expecting my first baby this July. I'm not working outside the home right now because I moved to my husband's town after we got married – which is 2 hours away from where I used to live – because he has a much better job than I did.

    When I look back at my career, I wish I had been more focused on considering the future and the need to be flexible. I didn't really have a "plan" because I always expected to bail out of the career life at some point through marriage and family. In retrospect, I wish I had done things a little differently in terms of grad school debt and buying a house but I learned a lot from those decisions. i.e. how to better manage my money and my home repair skill level.

  20. Lisa

    Sanasi, I commend you for thinking ahead! I was fortunate that like you I did think ahead and chose a career that is flexible with motherhood. I got my master's in speech pathology and worked full time until my first child was born. I then was able to switch my work hours at a hospital so that I work per diem a few times a month on the weekends. This way, our child was never in day care and I kept my license. Now that my 3 kids are all school aged, I have increased my per diem hours but I'm home when they are home.

    Know thyself. I know many moms who are juggle seemingly effortlessly full time jobs and family. I do not. When I work more, the house falls apart, and I feel like I'm just running, running, running to the next thing. I cannot be the warm, loving mother I want to be when there is too much on my plate. You may have a higher tolerance for business than others, so take that into consideration as you make career choices. Just my 2 cents.

  21. Lisa Toleno

    I love the timing of this post. I was just pondering this the other night.
    1) I always knew I wanted to be a mother and be home with my children . . . since I was 18. I also thought I would be a writer but never had aspirations to be published.

    2) Knowing this about myself, I decided to not pursue medical school despite being pre-med for a few years and knowing I had the possibility of having the Navy pay me to go to medical school for four years. I realized that that career track would have just establishing myself professionally (after residency) as my window of fertility would be closing. I didn't see the two paths aligning the way I wanted them to for myself. I have good friends from college (a family practitioner and a dermatologist) who are both moms also. One said she wished she hadn't pursued medicine because she really wanted to be home with her children. However, she met her husband in medical school and her kids are older know and I know she finds her work rewarding. The other is the primary earner for her family but she works only 3 days a week and spends 4 days a week home with her twins, which is a perfect though still challenging balance for her and her family.

    3) I have no educational debt. I had an ROTC scholarship (which is also how I met Kendra's husband back in the day) and paid off what little debt I incurred within the first year of graduation 20 years ago. I knew I would use the equity of a home I purchased along the way to pay off the debt I incurred in grad school, which I did years later (not soon enough in my opinion).

    I would advise all people (young or old, male or female) who are pursuing or considering to pursue higher education to shy away from unnecessary debt. I wish there were counselors who would help people calculate their net income after graduation and paying for their school loans based on their majors and which university. Not everyone should be an engineer or accountant, but there is something to be said for being more easily employable after spending all that time and money on a degree.

    4) I still serve in the reserves, so my degrees are still being used. However, I am eligible for retirement this summer with a pension that would start in 18 years. They pay is very good for part-time work, equivalent to $10/hour full-time job. I like what I do, but I like that Monday through Friday my vocation is motherhood.

    5) I'm pretty sure I will start formally homeschooling my children in the fall. They won't find a Harvard-educated teacher anywhere else in San Diego. I would never pooh- pooh another Harvard grad for going into the teaching profession, though I saw a friend find discouragement from an alumna years ago when she was investigating it as a potential career path. (The irony that the alumna was a stay-at-home-mother of three was not lost upon me.) So mothering and/or homeschooling are noble professions for a college graduate in my opinion. (I love seeing posts by engineer moms on the Well Trained Mind forums.)

    6) I do not believe that any other profession I pursued using my degrees would be any more noble than mothering my two children anyway. To believe otherwise is to hold certain utilitarian presuppositions that I do not espouse. I do not believe that the ultimate purpose of life is productivity and to make more goods and services for humans to enjoy. My purpose and value come from my Creator and Savior.

    I do have a business idea for healthy convenience food, but I am perfectly comfortable with pursuing that in 15 years if no one else brings my concept to market instead of me. And if they do, I will cheer them on because, for now, mothering, homeschooling, and still serving in the reserves is PLENTY on my plate.

    7) Finally, regardless of our decisions, we are called to be content per Philipians 4:11. And we are called to give our best efforts to the jobs God has put before us.

    11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

    • LB

      I love your post ! And I really love the comment about how our value isn't based on what we produce for society to enjoy.

      I think you hint at this too: motherhood trumps any other "calling" a mother has. If a woman is married with no kids or kids out the nest- then perhaps a field outside home (after hubby/house) is what God calls them to. But if a mother has little ones, that is the primary thing God calls her to (and hubby/house).

      I used to have very liberal views and would have considered that sexist . But maturity ,plus a clearer Catholic perspective has truly changed my views! I don't think it's derogatory to imply that a mother should make tending to her children her priority. It's a beautiful thing and a major sacrifice that God rewards.

      I am a dentist and I am getting married soon. I have been thinking about family a lot. God willing , I will have kids . Like many posters, I have debt from school so being a SAHM fully won't likely be realistic for me immediately. With that said, I still want to do everything I can within reason to be home for my children. I don't think God will give us a vocation and then not give us graces to handle it.

      I definitely LOVE dentistry ,love giving back to my community and serving others as a "tooth Fairy Doctor " lol, but I now am seeing that my vocation as wife and hopefully mother – will take on a priority over my service as a dentist . Raising SOULS is a big deal! This is not to imply that being a heart surgeon, lawyer or social worker isnt important . But I do believe that our society has caused future MOTHERS to mistakenly view work in and out the house as equally important and to a great extent – outside work, degrees , achievements are celebrated MORE. So in addition to trying to balance work with home, I think women may still indirectly or subconsciously feel the pressure to keep careers for sake of relevancy or status etc. (not just needed money) . this is coming from someone who is having that honest conversation about future fears of leaving work. It's not just about the financial stability. It's partly identity and dreading conversations of "oh what do you do? Oh you stay home now. That's nice . I saved the lives of 3 people today " . I'm sure I'm
      Not alone in this. But our value isn't based on merely what we do in society. It's based in Christ. And Christ wants us to follow the vocations ( religious life , marriage) and or callings (Doctor, teacher ) etc he calls us to.

      Saint Gianna , pray for us :0)

      God bless

  22. Stephanie Z

    I want to add that you should be aware that even if you want marriage and children, you might not find the right man or might not be able to conceive. I went to grad school for biochemistry, but ended up ABD in a giant disaster. After that I felt like God had something else planned for me, so I focused on trying to find the right man. Amazingly that part worked, and I got married a little more than a year later, just before turning 30. For financial reasons we weren't able to start trying to have a family right away, and we have been dealing with infertility for 5 years. (Yes, we know all about NaPro, and I had surgery at PPVI last fall.) There have been plenty of times that I have felt like I have nothing – no career, no family. Dealing with the doctors and medicines and now adoption agencies takes most of my time. A career or even volunteer work that you love can be a comfort if things don't work out for you to have the family you want.

    • LB

      Stephanie , you are so right , one never knows. I think that's why it's so hard to approach the topic. Should a young lady focus on finding someone /being open to that or should she focus on school and see what happens. The latter has led to so many 85'ers (80's generation in general ) who are 30 and super single but super decked out with professional degrees.

      I am so sorry to hear about your infertility struggles. After marrying, did you work or school? If you could, would you have tried to have kids sooner (not saying that would change circumstances but just curious if your perspective changed ) I ask because I , like you will be marrying around age 30 and we both are considering postponing kids due to logistics . But I don't even know how fertile I am in general and considering certain other factors. Many people tell me that I should ensure that I take time just for us regardless before we have kids. I am starting to feel like that is presumptuous ! Also not sure that flows with a major aspect of marriage (being open to family )

      Thanks for sharing your story. Praying for you as your pursue adoption .


  23. Molly Walter

    And sometimes our outlooks and goals change. My husband and I went into marriage dedicated to our arts careers and then, basically overnight, we realized that wasn't meant to be our calling. We've had to make big changes and dome sacrifices because the degrees we received were not with a family centered life in mind. It means right now that we both work while we basically learn and establish ourselves outside of our previous careers, but our educations were worth it and we're a team in figuring out how to make the life we're called to with this crazy reality. God loves throwing curve balls 😉

  24. Kristen

    I suppose in an ideal world, if I want to stay home and am willing to make sacrifices to do so, it would happen… but that isn't necessarily the case either. My husband is not supportive of me staying home and isn't willing to make lifestyle sacrifices that would be necessary for it to work financially (I think he is too stressed by the idea of being the sole money-maker of the home as his job is commission based). I don't think we can plan for who our husband will be, the amount of $ they make at their jobs, etc. so even if we desire to stay home… it's not always an option for every season of life and having an education is important in that situation. (I am still hoping to be able to stay home at some point, but for the foreseeable future, that won't be an option… so I will continue teaching high school English!)

  25. Nanacamille

    A pilot and flight attendant career seemed to work well for your mom and dad. It gave us two incomes to get a better house in a neighborhood with good schools and and churches. It also gave us free airline passes in the good old days when you could get on a flight standby and in a premium cabin. You girls were travel princesses
    I Was not the primary source of income except in times of dad's furloughs. You girls are the best judge as to whether or not it was a success having a working mom. I think you both terrific young women who have chosen great husbands had great kids and on perfect career paths for your talents.
    We all have college educations and are much better people today for having experienced college life and education. Besides who would you cheer for on football Saturdays if you didn't have a university allegiance. Go Sooners Midshipmen Trojans and Cardinal!!!!!!

  26. Dixie

    I have a Ph.D. in history from a very prestigious university, and I am a stay-at-home mom. But I am also a writer and a teacher and a mentor (I do adjunct work when I'm in the easier seasons of the pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding cycles), almost exclusively after the kiddoes are asleep.

    I tell young women and men who are considering going to grad school in the humanities (which doesn't lead to high salaries in most cases) two things: A) do not enter a Ph.D. program unless you have a fellowship (NO LOANS) and B) do not enter a Ph.D. program unless you are interested in the education itself at least as much as the tenure-track job you hope is at the end. If you didn't get a tenure track job, would you still think your education was worthwhile? Only go to grad school if the answer is yes. And indeed, there are many other ways to contribute than the very most prestigious, highest-paying, longest-hours, least flexible way!

    I'm fairly satisfied with my situation now, although I have my moments of anger at the whole adjunct setup, which is almost never really fair to part-time teachers in terms of benefits, pay, and respect.

    But it's important to remember that there's lots of good work to be done with our degrees, whether its contributing to a culturally rich home for our children and their friends or teaching at Harvard or something in between. We forget sometimes that there are things in between! So don't worry; make your prayerful, honest choices now and you will find that you will be better prepared to make whatever prayerful, honest choices you have to make later on!

    • krzwier

      I second all of this. Your advice to NOT go into debt for a PhD is spot-on…it's something I forgot to mention in my post above.

  27. Colleen

    I come from an immigrant father and a mother who stayed home once she started having her (six in total) kids. Because they weren't well-educated, they taught us kids that education is so very important. All six of us went on to advanced degrees (2 doctors, one lawyer, one accountant, a nurse, and a tech specialist). My mom would always say we could be whatever we wanted, as long as we were educated. I am so glad they placed the importance on education and also Catholic family life! We are all married now with families, and everybody works at least part-time while raising their kids.

    The thing that always scares me is when parents of teenage girls don't think college is an important option because their daughter wants to be married and be a mom. That is wonderful (I'm a mom to six myself, and always knew that's what I wanted to do) BUT life does not always play out as we expect. There are too many women who gave up on education or careers only to find themselves in a scary situation when the husband loses a job, or dies, or divorces. Without an education to fall back on, I get very scared for the women who have made that choice. The vocation of motherhood is way more important than any kind of career, but to really protect your family, I think both parents need an education worthy of being able to provide. If I could, I would stay home in a heart beat, but with a Catholic schoolteacher husband, I also need to work so we can make our life work. It's been great for us, we are such a team, and the kids see that and are thriving. Being a stay at home mom with a husband who has a lucrative career and staying happily married would be a wonderful dream, but I think women especially, need to be prepared for life.

  28. Ann-Marie Ulczynski

    I am so enjoying this post and all the excellent comments! I don't really have anything brilliant to add. I hold degrees in history and English and taught high school for five years before staying home with our children. I'm able to use these skills in our home, as well as in the co-op we are involved in.

    Out of all the family members my age (brother and in-laws) I am the ONLY one out of eight of us who does not have or is not pursuing a Master's Degree. And I'm ok with that. If I were to go for one, it would be in Theology. But for now I can read and study and learn as I have the time in our current family situation.

  29. Liz

    I love the discussion here. One of the beautiful things about the posts and the comments is that there is respect both for working moms and stay at home moms.

    I stay home with my 2 boys (3 and 18 months). I got a degree in public health but it always has been my dream to be a public health nurse. Just this semester I went back to school to begin working towards that dream. I am only taking one class online, but it is a start. I recently left a church whose doctrine and culture encourages women to sacrifice their education and get married young. I'm discerning where God wants me next (learning about Catholicism is part of that). The reason why I bring that up though is I see a lot of regret from older women who didn't receive a higher education–even if nothing goes wrong in their life, their identities are wrapped up in one role, raising children. I find it so refreshing that this discussion (which I assume is amongst mostly Catholics) seems to acknowledge that God intends women to fulfill many roles including wife, mother, professional, and member of a community and understands that all many not get to fulfill every role.

    • Annery

      A beautiful tradition in the Catholic Church is learning about the lives of the saints. We have so many beautiful examples of what a holy woman looks like – from married to religious, many to few children, working or stay at home.

    • SaraLynn

      Chase your dream! Catholicism has room for all of us. The diversity of the Church is one of my favorite things about it. The lives of the saints are so inspiring as they reflect women in all roles.

  30. Laura

    Yes! This is so interesting to read as a senior in college. As someone who feels called to marriage, I am consciously trying to minimize debt and do what I can to be prepared to stay home with kids as I hope to later on. I can do so many different things in the future with the business and theology I'm studying now. I expect to be working full time until I get married, if that's what happens. Paying off the debt I have shouldn't take too long. And with business and theology, there's a lot I can do from home or part-time if necessary. Even if it came to me having to be the one to work, as many moms here make the sacrifice of doing, I know that I would be equipped to do that. It's so good to think about this, and the point about marrying "well" to someone who wants the same lifestyle make lots of sense to me. Thanks for encouraging us to think about this!

  31. Tia

    I would suggest to Sanasi that law in particular is not family friendly. I mean that for men and women alike. The law jobs that will pay off your student debt handily require working 80-100 hours a week. These are not just family unfriendly, they're "normal human with ordinary need for sleep unfriendly." Medicine can be family unfriendly during residency, but depending on your specialty, your family size and your ability to make a home, it can work okay. Honestly, my #1 advice, as a full time work at home journalist with two useless engineering degrees gathering dust, is to know WHAT you hope to get from your graduate degree. Don't go to school unless you clearly understand how it will benefit you and your family. That can be hard to do when you're young and so much is up in the air, but the default should be to not take on debt, not go to graduate school unless you have a clear, financially viable five year plan. Most graduate degrees in English, history, psychology will not pay for themselves. On the flip side, even an eminently practical, zero debt degree with good financial benefits (like engineering or comp. sci) is not a good buy if doing that job out of college would make you cringe. so don't totally discount "loving" what you do. The issue is in discerning whether you actually love doing something and are really better at it than most others with some real-world experience. I knew I loved writing from a young age. I should have just pursued that ambitiously after college, instead of hedging my bets. Ironically I would be making far more money and might have more workplace flexibility if I had pursued the impractical choice in the beginning. So I guess that rambling advice boils down to: grad school OVERRATED, decisions are tough, good luck!

    • LB

      I love your post! I think nowadays, everyone is told to pursue higher education . Higher is better always it seems. That is not reality!
      I completely agree with you that people should work on a 5 year plan and try to avoid debt. Things like go to expensive out of state school with no scholarship, or pursuing graduate degrees that have limited job prospects are not good.conversely, pursuing medicine or law or banking just to make money is a TERRIBLE idea! One has to have balance . We pray, we research and we take the next right step!

  32. SaraLynn

    I love this discussion and all the thoughts in the comments. I think it is such an important one to have. It sounds like there are mamas all across the spectrum – lawyers, doctors, teachers, pharmacists, SAHM etc – part-time, full-time, at home – All are doing the best thing for their families in whatever season of life that they are in. LOVE it! I appreciated your balanced response to the originally writer and think its all great advice. I really like the suggestion to talk to working mamas in the fields you are considering. I am sure they will be honest about the struggles, hardships, and great things about whatever career it is. You can use that information to make the best decision for you. Also consider that this world needs women physicians, lawyers, teachers etc. I think of all the wonderful teachers who blessed my life beyond measure. They were mostly moms as well!! My son's pediatrician has been such an encouragement to me. She is also a young, working, breastfeeding mama and she knows what it is like. My dad runs a pro-life organization and his right hand is a lawyer mama. All of that is to say, that everyone should prayerfully consider where God wants them and do that! He has a plan to bless people through you whether that be at work, home, both at the same time or both in different seasons of your life. Both men and women HAVE to consider the debt involved with pursuing their career. I work with college students and we talk about this ALL THE TIME… actually I get sick of talking about it ha My husband and I both have student loans and it is a burden. However looking back I would not do anything differently… both of our degrees were worth it and we wouldn't have the jobs that we have now without them. We are both using our talents in places God wants us to.

  33. Mary Anastasi

    Great question and awesome response from Kendra and all of the comments too. I graduated with a PhD when I was 6 months pregnant with my second child. I figured I would start job hunting soon after she was born, but now 8 years later, I am still home with my kids. I was really lucky that my husband's income was able to pay off my loans and supports us and I love being home with my children. However, it is an odd thing, to spend 25 years of education gearing up for something that never happens. I apply the knowledge and thinking skills from my education to my life and my children's lives everyday, to be sure. It is not a waste, but I wish that I had spent some of that time engaged in pursuits that would have smoothed the road to homemaking and motherhood – say learning how to cook or some other domestic arts! It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable and confident in my role because homemaking and motherhood was so completely foreign to me after 15 years in academia, and I wonder if society couldn't do a better job offering exposure to these things and encouraging girls to think more holistically about what they want out of life.

    That said, I absolutely want my daughters to be educated and prepared to support themselves and their families if need be. I will encourage them to think about careers that have the potential for flexibility – part time and working from or near home options especially. And, as stated, to choose a field that they really love, so that it feels purposeful no matter what happens in their lives.

  34. Jenny Cook

    Great thoughts all around. I'll add my $0.02, because what else is the internet for? 😉 I have that most "useless" of all degrees, a BA in Liberal Arts. Am I still paying for the loans accrued? Yep (although I *only* had $17k total, which–sadly–is really good nowadays). Do I ever, ever regret going to that college (the wonderful and rare-bird St. John's College in Annapolis, MD)? NO! It was worth that money and the money my parents contributed because I truly use my education every single day. I learned to think deeply and critically, to express myself tolerably well in writing and speaking, to read with an eye to seeing the great questions of humanity reflected upon in various ways, and to have a decent background in the history of Western thought. Even when I've paid off that loan, I will not be done using that education.
    Now, my secondary degree (which was $12k in debt) feels a bit more dubious to me. It's an MAT: Master of Arts in Teaching. It's good in that it earns me more money on the salary schedule, although most of my teaching was done in a school which couldn't offer much of a salary anyway due to its size and its charter status. But the classes I took mostly felt unnecessary because I was concurrently doing a 2 year teaching apprenticeship, which taught me incomparably more. So, I feel a bit more grudging of those student loans now that I'm not in the classroom teaching. But it will come in handy again someday when I eventually return to the classroom (if that's God's plan). I don't regret it but I also don't feel especially glad about the amount of money it cost in terms of "oh yes, I've definitely profited greatly from this." My hubby has an interesting story as well. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do, but felt like he'd be a failure without a Bachelors. He worked his way through community college for his AA and then did night school for 18 months to get his BS. And now, he's in a trade program which costs nothing and earns him money because he's an apprentice. What if he had skipped right from his AA to the trade program? We'd have less debt, but would it be worth it if he constantly had the nagging feeling of inferiority because he never got that BS (which who knows if he'll ever "use")? SO many factors to consider: emotional, financial, practical, spiritual, etc. I'll say a prayer right now for you, Sanasi, as you discern what to do next.

  35. Amy

    Another consideration, though perhaps small compared to the many and very good comments made above, is that studying something you love can greatly enrich your own life, even as a stay-at-home mom. I had a very supportive husband who encouraged me to get a Master's degree before we started our family (we had our first daughter three months after I submitted my thesis) and I am now, several years later, learning how important my education is to sustaining my own emotional well-being. People thrive in an atmosphere of growth, and while there is growth in parenting, so much of being a stay-at-home mom is doing dishes and laundry over and over, playing Elsa and building pretend snowmen all day long, and running routine errands like grocery shopping. For a mom who is used to actively challenging her mind, and who loves that challenge and vitality, it can be really difficult to switch to the mundane tasks of running a household (don't misunderstand me – no career could ever compare to those sublimely sweet mothering moments, but there is still challenge). Together, my husband and I have agreed that I need to dust off some of my schooling and work on projects at home or in the evenings that will help provide some of that atmosphere of growth again. We both believe I will be a happier, more invigorated mom and wife if I start thinking about things non-home related again. Even if projects aren't your thing, I love the counsel: "Study something other than home economics so that when [you are] home doing the ironing [you will] have something interesting to think about!"

    • Son Mom

      Great comment! I got my college degree in biochemistry, worked for a few years in a lab, and have been a stay at home mom since my oldest was born 15 years ago. The life of the mind is very important to me – being able to read about all sorts of topics, learning all the time, and think about what I've read is what keeps me sane in a life that's often full of frankly boring tasks – cooking, dishes, laundry, driving people everywhere. My education and the ability to have a life of the mind help me to be very content in the life of a busy mom! (Though it does mean I'm often to be found reading a book while curled up in a pile of laundry I'd really meant to fold…)

  36. Ally | The Speckled Goat

    Honestly, the majority of the people I work with every day don't "use" their degrees.

    The gal who went to Bible college is a bookkeeper. My husband, the psychology major, is a maintenance guy. I went to school for education and I'm working in an office.

    God will put you where He wants you. Every one of us, though, uses our educations indirectly- like my hubby who counseled a distraught young kid… the kid had punched out a window (and that's why he was called in). =)

  37. Tia

    Also as weird ask it sounds, get really good and efficient at home tasks and find a spouse who picks after himself. I think a lot of women nowadays struggle to "do it all" because they never figured out how to efficiently maintain a home, get food on the table quickly, etc. or their husbands were never taught the basics of just polite cleaning up after yourself. being good at the home labor frees up mental and emotional space for other pursuits. Trust me; I could do a lot more with my time if I had the mental habit of picking up as I go,etc. I know my grandma used to pick shmutz up off the carpet with her feet every time she crossed it, necessitating very little vacuuming. Her house was always immaculate even when she was 94 and not t doing much cleaning

  38. Evie

    My mother encouraged me to go into a career that would work with kids. With her encouragement, I did not pursue graduate education right after my bachelor’s because I was afraid to get into a career I that wouldn’t “work with kids.” I tried teaching, but I really hated it. After a few kids, my husband and I discerned that God was calling me to law school. I had two toddlers when I started law school and I had a baby after my first year of law school. I finished law school the year my eldest started Kindergarten. A career in law has been a blessing to me. It's been fairly flexible because my husband and I kept my school debts at a low enough payment that I could be unemployed until I found a job that worked for me. I had to be patient about earning potential while I proved myself first. In other words, I had to accept a position that allowed me flexibility with my kids with a less competitive salary. But, law is very responsive to your skill and the salary caught up as I built my skill and reputation. I think that women and men are not very well instructed in discernment. I hear very few young people talk about what they are called to do. It seems to me that many young people believe that God limits his concern with human affairs to religious vocations and how many kids you have. However, God loves his children. Just as we human parents are deeply interested in the goings on in our children's lives, so God is also deeply interested in what you will do with your time on earth. Work takes up a very large portion of that time. He cannot salt or leaven the earth with only religious vocations. He uses our work to minister to others. Moreover, education is one of the ways he can use to prepare our souls to be united to him. So, my advice is to pray about it. When you have tried to follow his call, you can feel less responsible if he sends you to medical school and then calls you to stay home. As the psalmist says, "Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will act." Psalm 37:4-5. Finally, I must say that I am not unhappy that I originally followed my mom’s advice. Going to law school after you’ve grown up and had kids has distinct advantages. Also, my husband was far enough along in his career to fund my insistence on a flexible (low-paying) first job. My mom will readily say that she thought I was nuts to go to law school with a bunch of little kids, but she will also readily admit that it has turned out well. The thing I did not realize back when I was 21 and finishing my bachelor’s was that life, for most of us, is rather a long business. There was plenty of time for me to have my first babies, experiment with working various teaching jobs, go back to school, and start a new career before even 2 decades of adulthood had passed. I can easily have a good, long career in law and then go back to school again and start a different career before I hit retirement age. And, depending on what God calls me to, I just might.

    • Brianna

      You've voiced some of my thoughts on going to law school while also being a mother! So much comes down to really knowing where you are called to be and what you are called to do. There's no way I would have or could have pursued the path I have if I didn't truly feel I was fulfilling my vocation.

  39. Gina

    I was in a similar place my sophomore year of college with a serious boyfriend thrown in the mix. What my friend said to me really stuck with me: God doesn't ask us to do contradictory things. So I might as well discern the question at hand (marry bf or not?) And not worry about future hypothetical decisions. I ended up getting married my junior year, trusting that God will either show me how to be a doctor and a wife (and hopefully mother) or let me know it was OK to not be a doctor. Had a baby my senior year. Started applying to medical school, then realized I wanted to be home instead. Like Kendra, I think if I was single, medicine would have been a good career for me. But I realized it would take up my whole life, and mothering would too. Not to say there are not people who manage to do both. Now my husband has a portable job and we're planning on moving to a farm this year with him working from home. We realized that for us the "everyone working at home alongside each other" model works best.

    • LB

      The notion that God doesn't ask us to do contradictory things rings a bell!

      I have discerned that I am called to marriage and I am hoping to have kids with my now fiancé . I am currently working as well and I truly am praying that God will show me what he wills and what is best (part time, full time SAHM). However, I have to admit that I am weary of me mistaking my deep desires or fears as God's will. For example, I may be afraid of leaving work and this say "God wants me to work " but maybe I am just afraid to leave work!

      So I pray for honesty and clarity as well ! I think that is harder to do than it seems. So much of our views as women when it comes to working outside the home has been shaped by (in my opinion ) social changes. I've spoken to many awesome and pastoral , real world priests and while they are very supportive of women working , almost all have said that a mother is supposed to be with their children, especially in their young years. I am not sure how much of that is Catholic values and tradition vs social but part of me feels very challenged by that. Our work culture is not friendly to the reality of family ! I hope it continues to change

      Anyways thanks so much for sharing your story!

  40. Jessica Marks

    Thank you for posting this! I've occasionally struggled with this very topic, but I am finding more and more that my BS in Psychology has been incredibly helpful in my parenting, my relationship with my husband, self-awareness, and many friendships. I only 'used' my degree (worked) for about 6 months, but it sure comes in handy just about every day! Plus, if I had gone to college, I would not have met my husband and wouldn't be a mommy! Attending college also came with a slew of unique life experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today. So while I occasionally wonder if I should be 'using' my degree more, I never, never regret attending college.

  41. Mariaa D

    I love this post Kendra! I've been skimming through some of the comments and they're really interesting. I'll have to look back later to read them in more detail. I love how you encourage women to persue a path which can compliment motherhood. This is not something I thought about when thinking of college but it is so important. It kind of creeps up on you, just as most women finish their studies and get settled in a career, they suddenly find themselve blessed enough to have met someone and contemplating marriage and all the blessings that go with it. I have a almost five year old boy and a three month old boy. I'm 27 and preparing to do my professional translation exams. I did an BA Hons in Irish and Translation Studies and an MA in Lanugauge Studies. I am very passionate about languages and I've found my degree and my masters has been put to great use as a mother of a child who had a severe language delay (I know, it's ironic). I think my indepth knowledge of language and language acquisition has complimented his speech and language therapy. Anyways, my true passion apart from mothering is translation, I specialized in it as part of my masters and I find it a well paid very flexible profession. I'm currently being a full time mum to a three month old and trying to savour all that goes with it, but as a freelance translator, I've been able to take on as much or as little work as I like. It means, for the most part, I can take care of my son, when he's at home. During playschool hours and a few hours while he's asleep, I get my work done. However, sometimes a job takes longer than expected or requires more time and research than expected and I have to work longer hours to fulfill a deadline, which means getting outside help for childcare but in general, that's avoided. I hope this helps other people who are in the midst of their studies and are considering career paths.

  42. Lindsay

    I love this conversation so much.

    One other point: I actively encourage my boys to consider careers that will allow them to prioritize their families. So many of my SAHM friends have husbands who are never home, in order to make a good salary. I don't care if it's mom or dad, that is not the life I want my children to have.

    • Kelsey

      This is SO TRUE, Lindsay. I applaud you for encouraging your sons to think of this. It's getting harder in this world, though…

  43. Unknown

    What a great post, Kendra! The comments on this post have made for especially interesting reading.

    I'm a newlywed, 38 weeks pregnant and currently in the middle of my intern year of residency. Next year I'll begin my training in ophthalmology (eye surgery). Medicine is tough! Thankfully I graduated medical school with very little debt, but my average classmate has between 200k and 300k in loans. When my husband and I began discerning marriage we talked very seriously (and very early!) about the feasibility of having children during residency. Our initial plans were to try and avoid pregnancy for the first year or two of residency, but lots of prayer around the time of our wedding opened our hearts. We got pregnant right away and are expecting our son to make an appearance any day now! My husband has a great job working from home and my wonderful mother-in-law is OVERJOYED with the opportunity to provide full-time childcare for us. My residency program has been flexible and supportive. I anticipate the upcoming months (and years of course) will be very difficult, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to be a wife, mother AND doctor.

    However, for most young Catholic women considering a career in medicine and a vocation to marriage, I think PA is probably a better choice than MD. Physician assistants have fewer years of schooling, less debt, more flexibility to move among medical specialties and the ability to start making a real salary many years earlier. Studies have actually shown that the average female primary care physician would have been financially better off choosing to become a PA. This is a great article on the subject:


    Thanks again for this great post!


    • Christine Martinez

      The following is a recent response which I penned to a young woman currently discerning both marriage and medicine. There is quite a bit of overlap with my above comment.


      Some background on me: I converted to Catholicism during my sophomore year of college. Praise God! I met my husband during my third year of medical school and we were married right before medical school graduation. I'm currently completing an intern year in internal medicine and in July I will start a three-year residency in ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is one of the specialties that requires an intern year of internal medicine. Oh, and I'm 38 weeks pregnant with a little boy!! My husband and I are very excited and thankful.

      Medical school was very challenging. It's a huge financial commitment, a lot of pressure to perform well, and a very large time commitment to boot. Imagine an average of 50-80 hours of class time and studying per week. At the end of your second year you take a board exam which encompasses everything you have learned to date. It's 8 hours long and your performance essentially determines which specialties you are competitive for and which specialties you are not. I've never been so nervous for an exam in my entire life. Third year is all clinical and is stressful because residents and attending physicians are constantly evaluating and judging you. Plus you have to determine which medical specialty you want to pursue for the rest of your life. Fourth year is actually pretty great and is by far the best year of medical school. It was the perfect time to get married!

      My intern year has been good so far. It's rewarding to finally be a physician, but it's also pretty exhausting. I work 60-80 hours per week, which is a typical workload for most interns. Surgery residents (general surgery, plastics, urology, ENT, vascular, orthopedics) and OB-Gyn residents probably average 70-90 hours per week at most programs. The average salary for residents is about 55K. Residency is 3-7 years long and fellowships are 1-3 years of additional training. I'm looking at 8-9 total years of training including medical school. That's a lot!

      As opposed to medical school, some of the benefits of becoming a PA include abbreviated education (only 2-3 years), less debt, on the job training (no residency required), and greater flexibility. As a woman who desires to be a mom, it will be much easier to take time away from medicine and then come back. It's also easier to switch from specialty to specialty. Say you work as a PA in the emergency room for a few years and then decide you want to be a neurology PA or a primary care PA or cardio-thoracic surgery PA. That switch is very feasible as a Physician Assistant, but essentially unthinkable as a physician because you'd have to complete residency all over again.

      … to be continued in the next post.

    • Christine Martinez

      … Continued from above:

      Overall, I am very thankful to be a physician. Especially now that I have chosen to pursue pediatric eye surgery, which is something that I could not have done as a PA. However, I'm in a pretty unique situation. Thanks to scholarships I was able to graduate medical school with very little debt. My husband has a great job designing computer security software and works from home. His mother is going to move in with us in order to help us raise our little boy and any other children we are blessed with. While discerning marriage the feasibility of having children during residency was something that we discussed very early on. Female residents who have children either live near very helpful family, have husbands who stay at home with the children, or utilize day care options.

      I would recommend considering the medical school route if you have a strong desire to be some type of surgeon or if you want to be the one making the final judgement call and bearing the ultimate responsibility when it comes to patient care (however, lots of primary care PAs practice with pretty minimal supervision!). If you choose to pursue medical school keep your eyes wide open to the reality of debt and length of training. In my opinion becoming a PA probably makes more sense for the typical Catholic woman. It entails a much shorter training period, less debt, more flexibility, and you can start earning real money much sooner than you would as a physician. The average PA makes between 80-110K. That's pretty awesome.

      Best wishes!

  44. Anonymous

    Such a relevant and fascinating topic, as this is something nearly everyone considers at various points in their lives! I am coming from a perspective that is a variation of several that have been described, but not exact. I always "knew" I wanted to get married and have kids, that being a wife and mom was absolutely my vocation. I majored in elementary education, because it sounded like a field that would absolutely be family friendly. I could work the same hours my kids were in school! Cut to age 34 and a masters' degree…I have been teaching for 11 years and am so far single and childless. I have no real regrets. I don't feel "late to the party," and I don't want to be married to any of the men I have dated. Still happily looking, happily open to the possibility of marriage and kids.

    Here's the irony: Teaching is NOT a family friendly career! (At least not in my district! Maybe others are different.) It's much better than medicine, as the doctors who commented above could tell you. I never get called in the middle of the night or on the weekend. I don't work 80 hour weeks…usually. But the average for me and my colleagues is 50-60 hours a week, the pressure is high, and the pay is too low to make 50-60 hours of childcare a possibility. Most of my coworkers who have kids rush out by 4:00 or 5:00 to pick up their kids, but work for a few hours after they go to sleep. One arrives at work at 6:00 a.m., and her husband is in charge of wake-up and day-care drop off. Another was a single mom when she chose her college major, and she has dealt with a lot of disillusionment and of course the double challenge of raising her son without a partner to help with all those hours. It's doable, and everyone makes it work. But it's hard. 8-10 weeks off in the summer to spend with the kids don't make up for barely ever seeing them awake in the toddler years, or distance in their marriage because all post-bedtime hours are reserved for work and not available for conversation and connection.

    The most important lesson that I have learned is that you can change things when you need to. When the time comes, I might make it work like my parenting colleagues do, or I might take a decade or more off and then return to the classroom, but I suspect that I will take my very specific college education and all the success I've had in this career and do something completely different.

    My advice for my college-age self would be: Do not make decisions based solely on babies you don't have. Consider your hopes and where you feel God is leading you, vocation-wise, but also consider what would be wise and feel fulfilling without those now-imaginary babies. I am lucky- I love my job, teaching fits well with my personality and skills, and I've found it quite fulfilling. But the way I was making decisions back then? I wonder how the past decade could have been different if I had gone into a career field with excitement for the field itself, not as a placeholder for future hopes.

    • LB

      Great advice ! I am getting married at 30, and am glad I pursued my passion for dental healthcare . If I were still single now, I would LOVE what I do. I think it is dangerous for a young lady to not explore her different talents and interests and to see how it can make a realistic career- with kids as a possibility .

      Best of luck to you!

  45. Unknown

    Also, economic trends showing women overall achieving more college degrees than men and possibly having more earning potential than their spouses going forward. Many trends are remaking work in the Unites states. These trends include the loss of good wage, non college jobs. With women excelling in getting college and advanced degrees, they may end up as the spouse with higher wage potential. I see it in friends who work as CFOs whose husbands stay home with the kids. Women in the future may have to shoulder more of the wage earning in families.

  46. Suzi Whitford

    Thank you Kendra for posting! I've been at home with my baby girl and gave up my career as an Industrial Engineer for GE Healthcare. It was a fantastic job and they even allowed me to work from home. But constant conference calls and meetings from 8-5 did not even allow me to breastfeed my baby, so I decided to give up the 'perfect job.'

    Now she is almost 20 months old, and I've found a new outlet blogging. It allows me to connect to other women while being at home with my toddler. All the benefits but only .5% of the pay. 🙂 So.worth.it!

    It has also improved my relationship with my husband. Humility and Patience.

  47. Emily O'Rourke

    This a very well considered piece Kendra and so important! I met my husband young and knew that I would be staying at home when our kiddies came along but it was still very important to me to further my education. I did a BA in languages and I don't regret it for a second, they were fantastic years and I wouldn't be who I am today without them. It was also at university that I made some wonderful Catholic friends and really started to seriously explore my faith.

    The year before we got married I did a diploma in library science and was able to work the field for a few years. It's an aging workforce with lots of opportunity for part time and after hours work so if I do ever need to go back to work I will have that option.

    I am also very lucky to live in Australia, where the government subsidises university places and also provides an interest free loan scheme. We only have to start paying off our loan once we are earning above a certain amount. Since I am now at home with the kids and not earning I don't pay anything at all and in theory, if I never go back to work I will never have to pay off my loan.

  48. Schafergal (Ashley)

    Such an interesting topic! And such interesting comments.

    First of all, Kendra, you are So. Very. Cool. I mean, I already suspected it, but now we have proof. Pilots license? Flight instructor? Wow. You never fail to impress with your "out of the box" awesomeness. But your point about the lack of family-friendliness in your chosen field is very valid.

    I was always planning on going into medicine, and then my freshman year of college had a big epiphany moment (truly by the grace of God) and realized I needed to pick something more flexible and family friendly. I ended up choosing Physical Therapy (one of the few medical professions with no nights or call – we just typically work 8-5 and nobody ever yells "we need PT STAT!!") and have been so grateful. We struggled with infertility for many years, and I was very happy to have a job I loved to go to. Then, through the blessing of adoption and then a miracle pregnancy, we had 3 kids and I was able to cut way back at work. I now work 2 days/week at a job I truly enjoy with coworkers that I love (And my kids go to my parents, who live just next door). But mostly, I get to stay home with our kids which is my dream come true.

    I really loved the point of "marrying well", meaning choosing someone with similar values. My husband has always been very supportive of me working as little as I choose to mostly be home with our kids. I have coworkers who would love to work less, but their husbands aren't supportive. I am so grateful that my husband sees the huge value in me being home to raise our kids.

    One more thought – I taught at a university for several years (pre-kids) and was always astonished at the lack of concern the students seemed to have for the amount of debt they were incurring. There seems to be an attitude regarding student loans, in that "it's an investment in your future" and you shouldn't even question it. This is an extremely dangerous mindset. As many commenters have pointed out above, student debt incurred in your young and "foolish" days can have a real and lasting impact on your family's life for years to come. Be sure your planned profession (and desired area to live) can support the debt you're taking on. I am so grateful God gave me the wisdom to see this before grad school. I turned down an Ivy League offer because I knew I could never pay off the debt living and working in Montana.

  49. Leslie

    Kendra, this response to this young college student is beautiful and balanced. I do not regret my education because the goal of education is to be able to discern the truth. This is a skill I use every day and will for the rest of my life! Also, I want to say that I was amazed to hear that you used to be an aviator!! Wow, you are truly a multi-faceted woman with a very interesting story!!

    Kendra, I am begging you to add something to your original response to this woman although it has been mentioned over and over in the comments. I know you did not go into debt in order to receive your education but sadly this is a reality for every.single.doctor.I.know. If you have loans with payments the size of your house payment, you are no longer free to just give it all up and become a full-time mother. All of a sudden there are no choices, even if you change your mind when your beautiful baby is in your arms.

    Also, let me add a few words of advice about med school. I attended a small Catholic university where every one of my girlfriends continued on to the med school. To attend this Catholic med school, they took about over 300,000 dollars worth of loans. There is a med school in the same town that is offered through a public university that cost roughly half that amount. I know many of these girls, already very much formed in their Catholic faith, bemoaned the fact that they paid such a huge premium when the education they received was pretty much secular in nature.

    Lastly, there was a culture at this med school to have a baby while studying. Working more than 80 hours a week during residency was a difficulty that all these women said interfered with breastfeeding and other aspects of motherhood.

    Please, please, add something about the narrowed choices we face when we take on huge amounts of debt to pursue a course of study.

    • Kendra

      Yes, you're right on all counts. I've added a bit in the main post, but I do hope everyone will read all the comments!

  50. Unknown

    My name is Julie – I can't figure out how to make this log in with my Gmail account!

    As a higher education veteran, I am all for encouraging students to reduce their debt. I plan to really encourage my kids to live at home for a few years and attend school locally unless they end up with excellent scholarships.

    However, most of this discussion makes the assumption that the husband can fully support the family, and that the woman's income, if any, is just "extra." My husband has an excellent, full-time job in the field he trained for, but it is in the non-profit sector. Even without our combined student loan debt – which only runs us about $3600 per year – we could not get by on just his salary. And daycare costs so much that it's almost not worth it if you are not working full time.

    If a woman is engaged or married when she is pondering additional schooling or her career choices, then by all means, she should try to consider what would be best for her family. But many of us pursued our education before having any idea how our family lives would end up. You can't assume that – even if you DO get married – your husband will be able to fully support you and your family, and I really think it is best to assume they will NOT be able to. It's much better for a woman to have the ability to contribute to the family financially and not need to, than to need to and have no education or skills.

  51. my two worlds

    Just wanted to chime in with another perspective, one that involves nothing going according to plan and learning to accept a non-traditional path.

    I always knew that I wanted to have children and stay at home with them. I met my husband during college, and he was on track for a profession that would have allowed me to stay at home. Soon after we married, things started to seem 'off' with my husband. He thought a career change would make him happier, and so he went back to school to pursue a noble but lower-paying career. I decided to go to graduate school with the idea that I could support my husband until he got his new career off the ground. However, I soon found myself as the primary parent of our child and also the primary breadwinner as my husband spiraled into an addiction that put us in financial and emotional ruin (even after we had done all of the preparation that a good Catholic couple should do before marriage). I resented my husband, God, and my job because none of my life plans were coming to fruition. I decided to go ahead and finish my doctorate and took a job that I knew would take me away from our child more than I wanted but would allow me to survive as a single mom, and I remember crying in the hotel room after the interview for the job wondering how my life had gone so terribly wrong. However, what I soon discovered was that for being in the position of being the wife of an addict with a young child, I was actually better off than many of the women in my support group. I wasn't trapped financially. I knew that I could make it on my own a single mother because I had my career.

    My husband has now been in recovery for a number of years and holds a real full-time decent paying job. But I will always work from now on, because you just never know what the future holds. I have since had the opportunity to take a more flexible job that still pays well so that I can always be home when my child gets home from school. I say all of this to hopefully provide encouragement to women who have dreams of being stay at home moms but whose plans just aren't working out. I was so angry with God for a long time because I resented being a working mom, but now looking back I feel so blessed because I feel that having my career during that time allowed me to provide a stable home for our child amidst addiction, it allowed me to get extensive therapy as I needed, and ultimately it contributed to my husband's sobriety because I was able to set firm boundaries about what I was willing to tolerate and not tolerate in a marriage without financial constraints holding me back. I received some criticism from my Catholic friends about being a working mom and about only having one child, because if you didn't know the full story, you might just think that I was choosing my career over motherhood and using contraception to prevent having another child (neither of which was ever true).

    I think it's a miracle, really, that we've made it to the other side. I no longer hold firm views about what women *should* do with their careers/motherhood…because really, you just never really know the whole story.

    • Kendra

      Wow, thank you for sharing this. It's really inspiring.

  52. Kelsey

    Thank you for linking to Daniel Bearman's article, Kendra. This issue – the broader issue of home life and leaving the family to earn a wage – has been on my mind for the past couple of years. Ever since my husband and I got married and started having children in rapid succession, I have really pondered how weird our current societal set-up is. My husband does work, sometimes very long hours, and I do stay home. (Right now I am actually teaching twice per week and my children come with me, which is an extraordinary blessing, but the paycheck is almost negligent so it's more a chance to get out than a moneymaker.) We are happy. But I wonder how much richer our lives would be if our home was the center of our economic life, if we were able to work side-by-side each day on something that meant everything to us. I think about our son, and how much I want him to be able to spend time with his father at work. Our children are very young now, and who knows what the future holds, but it's a lot to think about as they grow.

    None of this directly relates to the original question, which was a very good one. I read all of the comments, and they are spectacular! (Especially the emphasis on avoiding debt! AMEN!) I have nothing pragmatic to offer that others haven't already stated. But I do think it's important to reflect on the meaning of home and how the choices we make in career and lifestyle dramatically affect the quality and tenor of our home and family – and human – life.

  53. comemorning

    This is a great topic and great discussion all around. Reading the responses, you realize what varied experiences we all have. There are no straight forward answers, to be sure. I graduated from Yale, the top law school in the country, and thoroughly enjoyed my four years as a federal law clerk. However, when I became pregnant with my first child, I was totally conflicted about working (even when a part-time situation was offered me by my judge). I decided to stay home and tutored the SAT/ACT to make ends meet, while my husband got his MBA. A year and a half later a part-time-from-home option became available to me and I very much enjoyed that opportunity until my third child came, at which point it became clear that I needed to be home full time with my children. I am now expecting number seven, and am thankful I never took on debt (thanks be to my parents!) and that my husband is on board with pursuing (and indeed is able to pursue) a career that can support us (and also is willing to live a lifestyle in accordance with a one-income situation). I guess the one thing I would add to this discussion is that, depending on what institution you attend, the vocation of motherhood is almost always framed in a derogetory fashion (at worst) or, at best, as a "factor" that may be shoehorned in with whatever else you may be doing (and, indeed, one's career outside the home is the thing given an inordinate amount of consideration). While I understand all of the women who say they find their careers inspiring and important, I would caution all unmarried women against taking on this mantle of the academic world—namely, this career-centric vision of life. Women have *always* done work in and outside of the home, alongside their domestic responsibilities. And we will continue to do so, of course (as I said, I have done so in the past and at present do so by educating my children from home.) But our historically-recent obsession with career is misguided and does a disservice to women who may later find their desires for motherhood and for the domestic kindled by the birth of a child. —Emily Barton

  54. Annery

    I loved reading this, especially all of the comments and the kind way in which different views and experienced were shared. I finished my bachelor's three months pregnant with my first and started my master's when she was a year old. I've homeschooled and worked from home for years, but have been feeling called to send our girls to the local Catholic school, in part to allow me to pursue my career while they're in class. It's so so wonderful that God made us all for such different things. Loved all the sharing.

  55. sophia

    I also loved reading this as it's a topic I'm passionate about. God gave me this body and the brain that's in it and I feel the best way to honor that gift is to expand, strengthen, exercise it in every way I can. Making money is only one of many uses of my knowledge. I don't doubt for a second that my BA is best used within my home for the sakes of my 7 children. My formal education was just one piece of my lifelong learning, which I hope my children will want to emulate. And who in my circle of influence is more impacted than my own children? "Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work." C.S. Lewis Certainly, once a mother always a mother, but, really, they're only in my direct care for about 18 years. Shirley Temple Black said, in effect, that she practiced her craft for 20 years, raised her family for 20 years, then served for 20 years(and for most of us that's nowhere near the end). I like that perspective, which for a 20-yr-old, is hard to see. Giving 20 years to raise a family seems like a lifetime.

  56. Melissa

    I think it's so, so important for a woman to have a career to fall back on. My mom always assumed she'd be a stay at home, but she became a single mom when my sister and I were 3 and 5, respectively. Thank God she was already a registered RN! We're equally blessed that she wasn't saddled with tons of student debt! I saw other single moms in our community struggle to try and support their kids with minimum wage jobs.

    There's a huge difference, though, between education that will get you a job and teach you to learn, and education that just costs a lot of money. Unfortunately, I have so many friends who have gone to receive Master's degrees that won't help them in the job market (looking at you, English and Theology).

    It's hard because learning is so much fun. I'm in what I call my "homeschool masters". Basically, I just take curriculm designing stuff off of mommy blogs and make semesters for myself. I would love to study French or History, but instead of going into debt for a piece of paper that won't help me in the job market, I'm using books, online tools, meetups, etc. It's kind of great, honestly.

  57. Miss Jill and Mister John

    Re: a bit to Sanasi…
    I see some of a young me in you. I was ultra ambitious and headed to medical school. Until I was diagnosed with cancer. One gift my diagnosis gave me was a real look at medicine on the inside and somehow at the ripe old age of 21 I realized I wanted a robust life outside of medicine. I saw young female docs working and not having families. It made me sad.

    If medicine interests you, talk to female docs that do make it work as well they can. I think about our pediatrician who rocks– she has an amazing practice.. and she's there for my 10 pm panic calls now and again. She's mom to three. To make her life work, her husband is their business manager and takes a huge roll as primary caregiver for their children. It's different but works in their world.

    My personal situation– I'd love to change my story but we've gotten in a groove which works. I have to work some outside of the home. My husband is a Catholic school teacher (if you marry a teacher… make sure you admire them for their vocation because the pay will likely not be enough to sustain your family.) Anyway… I've found a way to spend two longer days outside of my home in my chosen profession (health care/non profit management). The days outside of my house are my "easy days". Seriously… don't ever be fooled by anyone who says working is harder than mothering 🙂
    My days outside of my house are also my days filled with the least passion. I do it to make my family's life work.

    Would I do life differently? No. I know God has a hand in it… My husband is my partner and my gift. He is meant to be a teacher and he is meant to be my spouse. My sacrifice is to live in an urban area I must contribute some outside of our home (urban area is important because my family is transracial and making sure my kids have friends who mirror them is a big deal for me).

    You seem so sharp… keep forward moving and thinking. Keep Christ in the midst of what you do and wonderful things will happen.

    PS- A law degree gives nice flexibility if you need to work. 🙂

  58. Catherine

    This resonates a lot with me… I have never had a "proper" job (i.e. excluding summer jobs) outside the home, despite 5 years of college and 2 masters degrees. That said, I now do translation work as time allows, which has nothing to do with my degree subject, but uses skills I picked up on a year abroad, and works perfectly for our family. I think you just have to follow your heart, up to a point, and trust that God will lead you where you need to be, when you need to be there.

  59. Carolyn

    I think the hard truth of it is, you really can't give 100% to your career and 100% to your children at the same time. As much as we may try, someone suffers. I'm a physician assistant. I knew I loved medicine, but I knew I loved family enough that going to medical school would be a bad idea. You can't be a part time doctor. It's all or nothing. I still work less than part time. I only work nights and weekends so that my children aren't hurt by my absence. Now that we are more financially stable I am looking to work less and less.

    One day my children won't look back at their childhood and say "wow my mom worked really hard taking care of strangers in the ER and my childhood was better because of it!" No, children are the first to notice, and to suffer, if something takes precedence over them. I want my children to know that they came first, as God intends. Motherhood is about sacrifice. It's not about me. It's about raising saints to populate heaven. I can't raise saints if I'm not home with them! And truthfully, we will only find true and lasting fulfillment in doing the job God laid out for us.

    This took some time, but I'm at a point now that I don't even mention to people that I'm a physician assistant. It's just not important. I am a Catholic. I am a mother. If I put ANYTHING before that, I will have to answer to God for it. I am grateful we can live off my husband's salary.

    It's okay to waste my degree. It's far better to waste a degree than to waste my brief and important time as a mother.

  60. Unknown

    I'll add one more consideration from my experience: really bust it in those years before you have children. I worked in a field I did not consider open to part-time work (engineering, most on construction projects) but I loved my job and learned all I could from the old-timers, took advantage of company opportunities (advanced degrees, leadership programs), etc. For five years, I was a full-time employee. When pregnant with my first, I thought I was committing career suicide by asking for a half-time schedule. Their answer was an unequivocal yes with the rationale that my previous performance had earned the opportunity to try (I was shocked–I didn't even have to go into presentation put together to convince them!). I loved worked part-time and the company was happy with their end of the bargain too. How you do your job before children come along may open doors to shape your career after the little ones come along.

  61. Amo

    Sanyasi, I don't know your exact situation, but I have two young children and work full-time as a career advisor at a university. My two cents: plan for a career that will make you a good amount of money. You may end up needing to work later in life and if you can make as much money at a part-time job as you could working full-time, you will be much better off. Jobs in the medical field tend to have a lot of part-time options after a few years of working full-time (RN, RT, Med Tech, PT, OT etc.) You might also consider accounting, web development, or law like you mentioned earlier. If you work a few years and get to a place where you are indispensable at work, your boss might even create a part-time position for you if you get pregnant. Of course there is no magic way to plan for everything, but I just find that scheduling seems to be less important than wage for me right now. Having a good schedule (like a teacher) seems nice, but the amount of money you spend on daycare, clothes for work, a housekeeper (trust me you need one when you work full-time!) it just adds up. So my advice is to find something where you can command a higher hourly wage to make it worth the time away from home. And maybe you won't need to work at all, but at least you'll have the choice. God bless!

  62. Mary Millington

    I found this blog post at a perfect time for me, since my husband and I just had a discussion about how he doesn't respect me as a stay at home mom. That's what I'm doing now, and I have an almost one year old daughter and love being home with her. I always thought I'd have a "career" so I feel guilty enough that I love being a stay at home mom, without my husband pressuring me about how all I do all day is sit on my smartphone… That I don't stay busy enough… Etc etc. I feel like his opinion is indicative of society as a whole, i.e. disrespect for SAHMs. Anyone have any tips or advice to reverse this mindset?? How do you deal with this crap?

    • Unknown

      Sorry, Mary, for your dilemma. A few things come to mind: I think it's easy for people to think of all that could be done with that second income while overlooking the costs associated in getting that paycheck. If you work a typical day-time schedule in a professional field, you will be spending significant amounts for: transportation, daycare, clothing, and eating out AND your taxes will increase significantly (painfully!). I have friends that loved their careers and made it work but there were intense negotiations over who stayed home with sick kids and who did what housework as a result of both parents being in demanding roles.

      However, I did have a friend, an early morning person, who worked the opening shift at Starbucks while her husband got the kids off to school. She enjoyed the social interaction, her husband made it to work on time, and they had a little extra cash flow. The costs associated with her working were low–no daycare, no wardrobe, and not enough extra income to boost their taxes. Similarly, a couple of years ago we started dog-sitting in our home through a web-based company. Little to no cost for us, no tax implications, easy to fit into our lifestyle, and my kids loved spoiling the dogs that stayed with us.

      All that to say is there is more than one way to skin a cat. If your husband just wants a little extra cash flow, then there may be a way you can brainstorm a solution. If he wants you to launch into a professional career, then a realistic assessment of the true cost of that second income might dissuade him.

      Your husband's issues may be emotionally based (being the sole breadwinner in today's economy is a daunting prospect), financially based, or it could be as simple as jealousy–if he has to go to work all day, you should too! Hear him out but don't feel like you have to fix it. Maybe point him in the direction of another family with a SAHM to get their breadwinner's perspective. I will be praying for your family to find resolution that respects everyone's roles.


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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