Trying not to choke on my high standards


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.

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7 responses to “Trying not to choke on my high standards

  1. Pingback: monthly theme, March 2013: “high standards” posts listing – PAIL Bloggers

  2. Phew…it’s hard to balance those different desires, isn’t it? Even harder when you realize putting your own dreams out there as a priority means that the way you parent your child will HAVE to change. Ugh. Good luck making the decision that’s right for you.

  3. You have some serious personal goals. I only had one goal and that was to be a mom. But I think taking time to realize you have dreams beyond motherhood is amazing. I need to do that again, when I get time 🙂 Good luck….I think you would be an amazing college professor.

  4. I also had aspirations of earning a PhD and teaching college (I have a Master’s Degree as well), but now that we have Alexis, I just don’t see that dream becoming a reality – for all of the reasons you mention. Being a mom, to me, is far better than the college professor dream, so I have come to a place where I am at peace giving up that dream. Maybe someday I will regret it, but I don’t think so. I am gearing up to be a stay at home mom in just a few months (once this school year is over) and at times it scares the hell out of me (but who am I kidding, I work from home now so I am essentially a stay at home mom – just with another job) – the part that scares me is not having an income and “contributing” financially to our family. Obviously I am contributing as I will be raising our kids – not some daycare workers.

  5. Speaking as someone pursuing a degree, oof it’s exhausting. That said, for me it’s worth it because I know it’s what I want to be doing when the kids are in school and don’t need me at home (in my opinion, based on my experience with my mom who suddenly attempted to return to work after 18 years home with kids and found no jobs) and I know there are jobs in my field and still will be when I finish. Many of the women in my program are moms of elementary aged children. If you decide it’s right for you and your family, you can make it work. It does very heavily shape our family life, but we’re all right with it for now. One thing to think about is if you can or want to relocate to take that professor job. There aren’t many places with enough colleges that you can get your degree at one and find a good job at another without having to move, which means having a spouse with a career flexible enough to move if needed (and not everyone has that). Good luck with the choice! Don’t rule it out until you’ve really considered it, and when it would work with your life.

  6. teachmetobraid

    That’s such a tough decision, one we’re making right now. But not about me, about my husband. He’s considering nurse anesthesia school which means three years of full-time school, which means that we’re going to be super strapped financially, which means that I’m going to have to work more, which means BIG changes for Harriet. I wish you wisdom and peace in your decision. It’s not an easy one to make.

  7. The sacrifices we make for our kids. I know you’ll figure it out. Being a mama may not be the easiest thing always, but it sure is worth it! I just wanted to let you know I’ve awarded you with the Beautiful Mama Blog Award. You deserve it!
    http://instantmama.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/beautiful-mama-blog-award/

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