Feminism As A Stay-At-Home Mom And Other Over-Thinking Topics

Last week, I was interviewed by Meredith at the (Over) Thinking Mom.  She does a great podcast series, and more importantly, she has an AWESOME radio voice of which I am completely jealous.

Me, my belly and Scott. All grateful I was finally graduating.

This blogcast (blog + podcast. she really is brilliant.) is called The Overeducated Stay at Home Mom, and is based on these articles: “The Opt-Out Revolution” by Lisa Belkin in The New York Times, 26 October 2003 & “Most Stay-at-Home Moms Start That Way, Study Finds” by Donna St. George in The Washington Post, 1 October 2009. And me, an MD turned stay-at-home mom. I was extraordinarily nervous to tackle this somewhat sensitive topic because, unlike writing, I don’t get to edit to make my points more clear.  And kind.  And SMART.

The one issue we didn’t talk about that I’m going to address here is the idea that we can be “overeducated” to be a stay-at-home mom.  Seems a little condescending.

Although no one NEEDS a medical education to be a good mom, it has it’s perks. I probably freak out less about MOST health and developmental issues.  Kinda.

On the other hand, I often feel under-educated and lost.  The parenting and medical books don’t mention the point where you use up all their ideas on how to coax your child into school.  And brute force is not an option because you have a toddler in your arms already. So you are sitting in the preschool parking lot for TWENTY MINUTES wishing you could use all those stupid parenting books to beat the onlookers.

Perhaps a better term would be moms-with-lots-of-letters-after-their-names-who-don’t-use-those-letters-like-they-are-supposed-to-be-using-them.  Which is way less catchy so I’m pretty sure we’re stuck with overeducated.

On the podcast, we tackle much more interesting issues such as whether I was (or moms are) forced out of the workplace or are we making a CHOICE to stay at home.  Is becoming a mom is just an acceptable excuse to stop working?  And I answer the pointed question: Do you believe that you let down the feminist movement?

Go here and settle in for a chat. It’s a podcast so click the (Over) Thinking Mom icon in the red and blue rectangular box below the blog post (it took me a little bit of overthinking to listen to it. thanks.)

Thanks Meredith! Happy listening everyone!

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

19 thoughts to “Feminism As A Stay-At-Home Mom And Other Over-Thinking Topics”

  1. Well, I’m certainly overeducated, too. I remember at a party, I was talking to some woman, and when she heard I had two master’s degrees and stayed home with my kids, she asked me, “Don’t you feel like you’re just wasting them? Wasting all that education?”

    Not surprisingly, I am not friends with that woman.

  2. I do not know how many times a day I want to scream “Feminism is about CHOICE!” to some moron who’s decided to judge my life.

    Perhaps one day I’ll keep count.

  3. Yeah, I don’t understand using the word “overeducated” to refer to one’s ability to be a SAHM (which in my head, I always hear as sawwwwmmm). Like, does a woman need to dumb as a brick in order for it to be a better match? And are bricks even dumb?

  4. Meh, I don’t believe in the notion of over education. It probably holds merit from an economical perspective, but from a usefulness-for-life perspective, the more education the better. (Perhaps this is simply a defense mechanism for all my years of schooling to get the Ph.D. – “it was worth it, it was useful dammit, it was!”) You’ve got more skills than most other moms due to your MD. You win – I’m making that official.

  5. Thanks for the plug! I agree about the term “overeducated.” It is fraught with other subtexts, but you are right, a podcast called “moms-with-lots-of-letters-after-their-names-who-don’t-use-those-letters-like-they-are-supposed-to-be-using-them” might look a little weird in itunes. Plus, I’m a sucker for any word with the prefix “over.” Oh, and you have a radio voice. I was just the one with the fancy microphone my husband bought me.

  6. Except sometimes the “over” educated mom didn’t get a choice to stay home… When you’ve got a two career family, sometimes you have to make a decision you don’t like for you to work best for your spouse & for your family. And it really sucks. So for me, yes, the debate includes ways to make two career families work better & it starts with more affordable childcare. If we’d had that, we might have been able to stay in Northern VA & I could have kept the job I passionately love & miss & I would have been an infinitely better mother than the stay at home one I am now. Not bitter. Nope. Not at all.

  7. Oh my gosh, I could write a book here.

    I did not get SAHM opportunity when my son was little. The best I could do was some serious arranging and budget cutting so I could work 4 days a week. At the time, I was career-minded, ladder-climbing crazy woman, so I did not understand what I didn’t have. I thought I was less of something if I did not work while I had kids.

    Now, I am occasionally heartbroken over what I did not have, over what my (ex)husband would not have helped me create. And I get really, really angry over women who take that gift – being able to stay home with their kids – for granted or who think they are somehow entitled.

    It is what it is, or, was what it was. And I own a home (even after divorce, and no, not the house I had – I lost that house when the marriage died), I have a high demand job that gives me a security few people have, I have a wonderful son and two stunningly beautiful step-kids.

    But sometimes it’s ok to grieve for what we lost, or never got to have, and sometimes I grieve for that.

  8. I’ve got all kinds of letters and credentials after my name, and I sometimes feel like the worst mother. Sometimes, I think I’d be better off stoopid. Being a former school teacher (authoritarian), then masters-prepared RN (differential-diagnoser), I sometimes know TOO much, and it works against me.

  9. Obviously, no matter what choice you make, you are making the wrong one according to someone. My aunt flat out said it was a waste for me to have gone to college when I just ended up staying home with my daughter. And that was 2 degrees ago. We don’t talk much anymore.

    It’s a pretty fraught topic, but good for you for taking it on.

  10. I would hope that feminism isn’t about being as good as men, but being our best selves. And guess what? We’re the only ones who know who that is. Stay at home, part time, full time, we all juggle and haphazardly balance. That we can choose is a tremendous and wonderful thing.

    By the way, I really don’t care for thinking any mother can be overeducated. But, I like what you said about the letters after our names…

  11. I see a lot of different sides to this subject and really I agree that feminism is about choice … the freedom to do what we want with our lives and not be judged for it no matter what that is …. my cousin stopped going to school after her freshman year of college, because she knew that she wanted to be a SAHM and in her mind she was wasting her family’s money, and that of her future family in the form of student loan payments by continuing and education she knew she wouldn’t use. Her sister-in-law has a double masters degree and had job offers from the UN that she turned down to be a SAHM … I dropped out of college the first time around when I was pregnant with 2 of 3 … and now am struggling to go back to school and get a job post divorce … which is my biggest stance on it … I think all people, both women & men need a backup plan … because maybe you won’t get divorced like I did, but anything can happen, a car accident, a slip in the tub … and what may seem like a waste of time and money could become a necessity … I think that should at least factor in to the decisions that people, not just women, make … my decision to be a SAHM burned me in the end, when I had no education or career to fall back on to support myself post divorce … but I wouldn’t change the time with my kids for the world … I don’t regret a minute of it …

    1. That’s an interesting point. So I HAVE heard of people not getting hired for being too educated for a position. Maybe that’s where it comes from? (making it even a WORSE to couple with “MOM”)

  12. As an English dork, I kinda love the debate going on over the semantics of “overeducated.” I’ll admit I didn’t agonize over the word choice too much; I was thinking about the stereotype of the 1950’s woman who went to college simply to find a mate and procreate (ala that movie with Julia Roberts with the name I can’t remember) and even about the 19th century argument against educating women who were destined to remain in the domestic sphere. Obviously, I don’t agree with any of those arguments, but I’m intrigued by the way that image still seems to stick in the culture. But everyone brings up great points about different interpretations of the word!

  13. So many great points have already been made. Feminism IS about choice, although so many moms don’t have the choice to stay home. I grew up with a mother who didn’t work and was happy about it until my parents split when I was 8 and she had to go to work.

    I have friends who work and don’t work and the common denominator is that everyone of them has been on the receiving end of judgment for what they are doing. It’s helpful if women can learn to have healthy boundaries and tell someone when their input is unhelpful or downright snarky, but it won’t stop the number of times that someone just has to dump some unhelpful judgment on them.

  14. This is a great post and an important topic. I am a stay at home mama too, with a master’s degree. Although I am on the job market right now, I have intentionally been with my son over the past 9 months because as a family, we knew it was best for him.
    It is interesting because I don’t really consider myself over educated or not using my degree. In reality, all of my higher educational experiences (academic, social, political) have shaped my identity as an individual and provided me with a vast amount of experiences I wouldn’t have had elsewhere – all of which make me a better mother – hands down. In a society focused on gaining capital as a way of contributing to society – we are also job or career oriented/focused when it comes to higher education.
    I believe that mama’s and caregivers provide one of the most important jobs in any culture – so even better if they have degrees!

Comments are closed.