Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mormons, Moms, and Master's Degrees

I have a conundrum.

Earlier this year, months before we knew about Roy, I applied to nurse practitioner school.

This has long been a dream of mine--not only to get more schooling, but also to be a nurse practitioner. I've loved bedside nursing but am ready to close that chapter. With Isaac finishing school, and having no idea when any offspring would arrive, I decided it was finally time. I applied to a 2-year Master's degree program, and I got accepted.

Four days after my acceptance letter arrived, the doctor's office told me I was pregnant.

That was an amazing, beautiful, happy day. And that night, as we went out to dinner to celebrate, our delicious Indian food was overshadowed by this troubling question: "What do I do about school?"

More than 3 months later, I still have not decided. Granted, this is from the girl that will try 15 flavors at the ice cream counter and still second-guess my decision, but indecisiveness aside, I also think this is a difficult question. Most Mormon (Latter-Day Saint or LDS) moms stay home with their kids if they are able to do it. There are abundant exceptions to this rule, especially in these days of modern parenting and in this economy. But in general, that is the truth. My mom was a stay-at-home mom for 17 years until she became a single mom and had to work. But she never graduated from college and started out at minimum wage. She engrained in me the need to do better and get my own education.

I planned my whole life to be a stay-at-home mom. I firmly believe that family relationships are the greatest source of joy and satisfaction we can have in life. Working with lots of old people, I have found that in old age, children are your life. People that choose not to have them (if they have the option) often regret it deeply as they age. I still firmly believe that. Truthfully, I still want to be a stay-at-home mom. With a Master's degree.

I have examined the problem from every possible angle.

I have talked to moms that went to school part-time while their children were young (even very young) and loved it. It was their break for a day or two a week, or even just a few hours a day. They say their children benefitted from learning to mind other people, they were still around plenty, and they feel that having more education blessed their families. Also it opened up more chances to serve other people.

I have talked to other moms that chose not to pursue graduate work so they could focus on having children, and felt that was the right choice for them. Others had kids just as they finished a program, but then they felt obligated to work to keep up their skills, and their lives thereafter descended into chaos.

I don't want our lives to be chaos.

LDS church leaders teach that women can do a great deal of good staying home with their children. In fact, they say the greatest good they will ever do will be within the walls of their own home. But they also encourage women to get all the education they can.

A guidance counselor at BYU Idaho summed up the difficulty for young LDS women this way:

[A young LDS female] is likely to perceive her duties as:
-get as much education as you can;
-go on a mission if you feel so inspired;
-get married if a worthy man asks;
-stay home with your children if you get married and are able to have children; 
-provide for your family if your husband dies, is disabled, or leaves you; 
-provide for yourself if you stay single or somehow lose your husband; 
-help provide for your family if your husband gets laid off or your family encounters other difficult 
circumstances…and so on.
There are no certainties on the list.

I love being a women, but that is a bit of a tall order.

In reading extensively on the subject, I've found that women in America in general (whether religious or not) debate this topic of education vs. motherhood vs. career hotly. It is guaranteed an emotional and highly controversial discussion. Take, for example, this front-cover article on the Atlantic about why women still can't "have it all"--but that is the fault of corporate America. And this response that contends that no one can "have it all", and that corporate America is not to blame.

I hate decisions.


  1. My advice (and you probably have already done this knowing how faithful you are):
    *Pray like you never have before
    *Search the scriptures, conference talks, Ensigns, etc. like crazy
    *Take this matter to the temple.
    *Get a priesthood blessing
    *How does Isaac feel about it?
    *Most importantly, how do you feel about it--deep down.

    You'll get your answer eventually. I hope it all works out. I'm curious to see what your decision is. Once our kid(s) are big enough, I'd love to go back to school.

    Miss you Camber. :)

  2. What a tough decision, good luck in the process of figuring it all out. Thank you for that talk from BYU-Idaho, I loved reading it. As someone who worked on a college campus helping and advising women in their future paths and careers, it just really spoke to my heart. I liked how she pointed out the so many decisions and uncertainties women face, which is perhaps why we sometimes second guess ourselves so much, even when we know our decision was good and right. While gathering information is very good and right in helping you make a decision, in my own experience as a mother I have learned that at the end of the day no Google search can replace thoughtful prayer and scripture reading, and the answer you find will be made just for you. So excited for you guys! :)

  3. I totally know what you're going through. I got pregnant right as I started my masters program. I was lucky though, I had the option for most of my classes to be at night when my husband could watch the baby. I did have to give up my job though, and that was hard - I loved it! I've been a stay-at-home mom ever since, and I love it. But I do still occasionally miss the idea of working. Do what's best for you (I'm sure you've heard that a lot) but look into all your options. Are night classes possible? Can you go part-time? Good luck, and congrats on Roy!

  4. What a hard decision! I would just add this to all of the other wonderful advice you've received: You can't change your mind about having a baby! You can change your mind about getting a master's degree, both now and after you've started. It's not ideal to start your degree and then decide that it's not what you really want. But don't be afraid to say, "I've changed my mind," and do what you feel is right.

  5. I would encourage you to do it now, before "Roy" can remember you even being in school. I waited until my baby was in Kindergarten before I went back to school, and now he lives a life where his mom has been in school as long as he has. It makes it hard to get to be a room mom and do the things that are fun once THEY start school. Roy will never remember you being away and you'll be done before s/he is 3 years old.

  6. What a hard decision! I know you will make the right one for your family! But remember, the little years never come back, and wish I would have enjoyed them more with Jonathan and Sarah. Shirlene

  7. There is a perfect balance that will work with each unique family dynamic. Whatever you choose, just make sure it's the right balance for YOUR family.

  8. I am a firm believer things happen for a reason. If you were inspired to start school at one point, I would guess that inspiration is still valid. It will be hard but God will help you make things work. That doesn't mean you can't change your mind but if you felt good about school before, maybe that is your answer.

  9. Bedside nursing is wonderful for the flexibility during parenthood. I work one night a week. But, you have to do what's best for you!

  10. Have you decided yet? If you want another perspective give me a call!

  11. Yeah this is one of those personal ones. :) Everyone's different and the Lord wants us all to do what is best for us and our family, but He'll tell us what that is! Hurray! Fasting and prayer... I have no idea what I would do if I were you. And I guess you shouldn't fast, make Isaac do it for you

  12. Oh man, that is quite the decision. Good luck Camber! You will be great an anything!

  13. I love that list from the counselor :) To sum it up, be ready for anything!