This month’s theme for PAIL (Parenting through adoption/infertility/loss) is on the standards we set for ourselves in regards to parenting. I’m the moderator “hosting” this theme over at the PAIL website and I honestly cringed when I realized this was the topic I was presenting. Not because I don’t have a lot to write on the subject, but because I do.
To get to the point, yes I do hold myself to a high standard in parenting, and yes it is in part due to our infertility. It took us so long to get here, I am going to parent the heck out of this kid, is essentially what it boils down to. Plus I spent years as a nanny and taking courses on child development, I was already going to be ‘über parent.’ Add into that our foster care experience and how we saw our parenting techniques make actual positive changes in our foster children’s lives.
So yes, I hold myself to high standards. And it is in part my way of coping with our infertility. I can’t control our infertility, but I can control how I parent. But the hard question I have been asking myself these past few months is, am I preventing myself from doing certain things because of these high standards?
Specific to me is I have a Master’s Degree, and I have always wanted to get my PhD and teach college. And I also have a really good dissertation topic, like a topic that has not been examined before in any real significant way. Yet enrolling in a PhD program would mean a radical change to how I want to parent Stella, and any future children. It would mean daycare for Stella. It would mean having to limit the number of future kids or put them on hold until the ‘right’ time in my program. And I’m not getting any younger. I’m 31 now, a PhD would be 5-8 years of more school. So I can’t really put having more kids ‘on hold.’
And the thought of that. The thought of not being able to parent and have kids the way I want, makes me feel as hopeless as I did when we were struggling to get pregnant.
And so my desires conflict. I want to be a Mom, and I want to have more kids. And I like being a stay-at-home Mom. I feel that for me and Stella that is the right decision. But I worry. What would this all look like if we’d never struggled? Would I have had a couple of kids and enrolled in a PhD program? Would I be more at ease with the idea of daycare?
The fact is, I’ll never know. I do know right now I LOVE being a Mom. I know I would really like to do research and go back to school. But I also know I don’t particularly care to commit to the crazy demands of school with deadlines and papers and grades. I would love to teach at the college level. But do I want it enough to spend another 5-8 years of my life in school, getting into more debt, just so I can earn the degree that would let me be a college professor? I don’t know. If I was offered a fully funded program I would not turn it down, we’d make it work and Stella would do ok if she needed to be in daycare for part of the time. But the likelihood of getting such an offer, slim to none.
Even before I was married and had a child I knew I would want to be a stay-at-home mom for a good portion of my future children’s lives. So I know I won’t regret it if I do not pursue a PhD. But this topic has reminded me to continue to ‘check-in’ with myself. To make sure the high standards I have set for myself, in part due to coping with infertility, do not paralyze me from attempting to fulfill other dreams I may have.