Letters from Mentors: Will the Light in My Eyes Go Out from Not ‘Achieving All I Could Be?’

A few months ago, I had a discussion with RichardP at another blog about going back to school to get a simple training degree (2 years or shorter!) eventually when the kids were older.

RP said:

“I’d hate to see the light go out of your eyes because you one day conclude that you never got the chance to be all that you could be.”

I really don’t think he meant ill-will toward me at all, but something about his comment sounded odd to me, as if the only way the light in my eyes wouldn’t go out, would be pursuing more education and getting back into the working world (which realistically, this may not happen now that we’re homeschooling).  When something bothers me, I tend to ask women I consider friends and mentors what they think.  So I asked a few women who were older (decades older) to see what they thought of his comment, especially in light of our family situation of me needing to be home with our kids right now.

Stingray gave me just an incredible reply with lots of wisdom and encouragement; it gave me much to think about.

The whole point of having these “Letters from Mentors,” is to help other women out there who may feel the way I do, have the same questions or are looking for answers that aren’t readily available anymore in our sinful culture.  I hope her words blesses any women out there who come across this same sentiment like her words blessed me.

***

From Stingray:

Hey Stephanie,

I’ve  been thinking about your email a lot over the past months and I can tell you, this man’s statement is incredibly irritating to me, as well.  I have to say, you need to go with your gut on this one.  The light in your eyes is there because of the joy in your life.  You get to decide what brings you joy.  Not some random man who only knows you from the internet.  It sounds to me like your family brings you joy.
What kind of light would you really have in your eyes if you went back to school, presumably went into a good amount of debt, and missed all of that time with your family?  And while much of the world these days tends to equate the piece of paper you would get for your degree as an education, is that really what it constitutes?
Many would say that since I’m a homeschooling stay at home mom I am wasting my life, but I can certainly tell you that I am FAR more educated now than I was when I got my degree (which was useful in finding me a husband and that was the very best thing that came from it).
Education is not a piece of paper.  It is a compilation of what you have learned.  What better age to live in than the internet age to get a true education. If it is knowledge you desire, you have it nearly free at your finger tips.  If it is status you desire, which is what most women want when the speak of career, then yes, school is the way to go.  But as you said, at what price and will it bring you joy?
You asked if I have run into this.  Not personally, no.  I mean, I’ve seen people who really resent stay at home mom’s and whatnot, but it’s never been said to my face.  (Well, when I was pregnant with my first a woman asked me what I was going to do after the baby came and I told her I was going to be a SAHM and homeschool.  The look she gave me suggested I had a foul stench, but I just thought that was funny).
But being a SAHM has always been my dream since I was a little girl.  I never had any career aspirations. I did go to college, because that is what you did at 18 those days.  I didn’t enjoy it and I didn’t enjoy working for the 5 years I did. 
I get that some women are happy working, but I do not believe that it is true of most of the women who make that claim.  I think they say it because they think they have to.  They believe it, because the alternative is unthinkable.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not unthinkable.

The alternative can really be what maintains that light.

Yeah,  I know that in the midst of diapers and sleepless nights that it might not seem like it, but really envision that dream you mentioned.

Having those Godly children and watching their effect on the world.  In 50 years, in 100 years, what do you think will have a bigger impact in this world?

This is all to say, that man doesn’t know what he is talking about.  He’s mimicking back to you the standard knowledge so many of us were taught growing up.  But were most of us ever taught an alternative choice to this?  Were we ever taught that something else that might bring us great happiness is out there?  Why were we never given a choice to make on our own?  The very fact that you believe you do have a choice says a whole lot.  Don’t let him doubt yourself.  This is your choice to make and you have given it way more thought and have more experience to make the decision than vast numbers of people out there.  It is yours to make.  You know what brings you joy.
Block the rest of the world out and listen only to that still small voice and your husband in this matter.  You will figure it out that way.  The world is not in your home.  Your home is where this decision needs to come from.
All my best to you, Stephanie.  Make this choice in a place of confidence.  Follow your gut.  You know far more about this than most.  Trust that.
Stingray
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11 thoughts on “Letters from Mentors: Will the Light in My Eyes Go Out from Not ‘Achieving All I Could Be?’

  1. “Block the rest of the world out and listen only to that still small voice and your husband in this matter.”

    One-size-fits-all solutions don’t work for everyone. It’s a choice you make alongside your husband.

    My wife became an Occupational Therapist and works with children with multiple disabilities. The work she does touches the lives of the vulnerable and forgotten. It was work experience like this that led us to adopt children with major physical disabilities. The extra income helps us provide for those needs.

    She works part-time now. This makes her very busy. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. The choices we make have trade-offs for sure, but her education and work are invaluable from the perspective of our family. It is unlikely that we would have the family we have now if not for her working. That’s a humbling thought.

  2. I’m reminded of a calculation my wife and I did when our first child was born about how much we’d actually take home after taxes, daycare, and the like; about a buck an hour. And she was earning decent money at the time, really.

    It also strikes me that “you’re not being all that you can be” often just means that you’ve made different decisions, right or wrong. than the other person. Um, while I’m glad to listen to the viewpoints of others, isn’t it me that gets to make these decisions?

  3. Yes, daycare is just waaaay too expensive, especially if you have more than one! We did that calculation, too, and it was funny to realize that we were actually SAVING money to have me stay at home! And that job paid pretty well and was using my degree and everything! lol

    On that wondering if a person will become all that they can be… it is just such an interesting thing to ponder about. Developing talents or artistic pursuits or hobbies, obviously those things can still be done and not require graduate degrees or more schooling. Stingray was right that so much is free and online!

    Even for a working woman, I wonder how many would say that their work gives them great meaning and makes them all they can be in this life? The ones that I worked with who actually accomplished great things had visible trade-offs for all that time and investment into their research and work.

    Simply pursuing a life well lived seems to come from a different mindset, rather than chasing an ever elusive, achievement-based thing that is set on the world’s glory.

  4. I really appreciate reading this. This is something that I am currently really struggling with. I actually completed my PhD in neuroscience in 2015. However, since getting married in 2015 it has been more practical for me to mostly leave my career so that I could follow my husband. I’m very happy with that decision – it’s enabled my husband to get a better job, we’ve been able to move closer to family, and I’ve been able to spend so much more time at home raising my daughter (baby #2 coming in June!) However, there are some days where it is hard not to see myself as having “given up” or “selling myself short”. As a SAHM (or really as a parent), it’s so hard to measure success in completion of daily tasks, or achieving short term goals, like with most ‘jobs’. When I was doing research I could come home at the end of the day and say “I wrote this paper, I met this Nobel laureate, I ran this experiment, I analyzed this data, etc”, but recently that list has sounded more like “I did two loads of laundry, I went to Costco, I got our toddler to take a nap of a reasonable length, I did the dishes, the baby didn’t cry in the bath, etc.” Comparing those directly it almost sounds embarassing.
    BUT – I agree with what Stingray says, in that it’s important to keep the long term goals in perspective. Raising good people is a goal that is of ultimate importance, but the goals are on a much longer timescale. It’s often so hard for others to see that.

  5. I can relate to you, Proprioceptive!!! I was only a research assistant who also did a ton of quality control management for our lab, and it was so fulfilling to me working in research. I loved the project management side of organizing studies, and I got to train and work in one of the few maximum containment labs in our country, a BSL-4, and with Ebola and Marburg viruses, and for me even just doing testing and vaccine development was so much fun. Every week we’d have some kind of new lecture or scientific presentation during our lunch hour and I always loved going and listening to the graduate and PhD students talk. So interesting!

    So I get it… but I’m about 6 years out from that. When I stopped, part of me wondered well, AM I going to become all I can be if I let go of some of those old things? I knew the “light wouldn’t go out of my eyes,” because family is just so much more important. But I finally came to the conclusion that yes, I will be missing out on certain things like that, exciting things, fulfilling thngs, but if I continued, the price would be too high.

    Right after I started staying home, a partner lab I had friends and colleagues in made a major discovery, all their smiling faces were in the news ❤ I was so happy for them and did realize that if I'd stayed there, I could have been apart of that. It was a definite letting go of what could have been. I was already a mom to a two year old and having him in daycare even though it was only for a year, was SO difficult and painful. The pain and then missing out on things really wasn't worth the excitement of work. And then I found staying home was surprisingly much more fulfilling.

    But I totally get it about the things you accomplish being almost embarrassing compared to what you would have been capable of doing – I feel that way sometimes, too. But from what I've seen of women in research (and I'm sure you've seen this, too) work-life balance is practically non-existent! They really need and expect you to put your entire focus into your work. I didn't know any women who were super successful or who were at the top who had good family lives (one who had kids never got to see them and her parents tucked them in at night 😦 a few were divorced and never remarried, and many didn't have kids at all, by choice). That also cemented my wanting something different, I looked around and no one had as many kids as we were wanting and was able to successfully do research. I didn't want to live that way.

    You may be interested in the book "The Mission of Motherhood." A friend got me interested in a mom's group that meets to talk about this book and I've really related to its message.

    Anyway, I'm so glad that this was a good read for you. Thank you for letting me know, too!

  6. @RichardP said: I’d hate to see the light go out of your eyes because you one day conclude

    @Stephanie said: …as if the only way the light in my eyes wouldn’t go out, would be pursuing more education and getting back into the working world.

    If you read what I wrote, you will see that I was talking about the light going out because you conclude something. One day. When the children are grown and this thrilling phase of motherhood is over for good. Looking back. Has to do with what thoughts you will be thinking at that point. I hope you continue to think you’ve made the right choice, I hope you continue to be happy in the doing of what you are doing. And you are correct in thinking that my wishes for you are quite the opposite of wishing you ill will. All of that said in the context of me telling you I was pleased to hear that you had not ruled out going back to school after your children are grown.

    The light does go out in peoples eyes. But not usually when they keep an interest in life and keep pushing the boundaries of their own personal growth. Stephanie, you will always be a mother. But the day will come when you will be needed less, and sometimes not at all, as a mother. There will be a hole in your heart to fill at that point. That will be when you are most at risk for the light going out in your eyes. You can read any legitimate book written for or by empty-nest mothers and see there what I’m saying here. The antidote to the light going out in your eyes is to push on with your own personal growth.

    That is not me talking. That is the researchers talking. And, because I know a thing or two about what the researchers have to say on the issue, I said and will say again, I am glad you have not ruled out the possibility of going back to school when the kids are grown. That doesn’t mean you will – because who knows what the future holds. But hearing you say that made me think that you were aware that you will need to shift gears in your own personal life when the time comes, when the children are grown and have left home. I was happy to hear you say that, because all of the available evidence says that is the right attitude to have.

    Somehow I think you already know all of this Stephanie, and actually did understand what I was saying in the original conversation. You are far too bright for me to think otherwise. But I also understand the need to have a bit of controversy to spark conversation on a blog, even if it is a bit manufactured. And conversation is good. We learn through all of the back and forth and exchanging of thoughts and opinions.

    I hope the teething stuff has settled down for you. And Stephanie, I have written this without reading any of the comments, so maybe some of this has already been covered there.

    Wishing you well in doing the third most important job in the world. Remember what was said previously: creating the harvest is the first most important job, elsewise we would all starve. Protecting the harvest from those who would steal it is the second most important job in the world (kind of what your husband is doing), elsewise we again would all starve. Next comes what you are doing.

  7. “conclude something. One day. When the children are grown and this thrilling phase of motherhood is over for good. Looking back. Has to do with what thoughts you will be thinking at that point. I hope you continue to think you’ve made the right choice, I hope you continue to be happy in the doing of what you are doing”

    Thanks RP for commenting further on it. I know you weren’t trying to be rude or anything, but this sentiment of telling a young mother who really is trying to trust God that this is His path for her right now, planting those seeds of doubt in her mind that maybe she will be missing out on something, I just don’t think it’s good or helpful.

    I thought about posting my full email to Stingray, but thought it would make it all too long so people wouldn’t read this post due to the length. But I did tell Stingray that I just didn’t like how someone telling me this, when I am happy and am pursuing life the fullest, is planting seeds of doubt that this is where God has me and is blessing us right now.

    I was not supposed to be working when I was working – and many things happened that confirmed that to me back then. So when I stopped, it was like a new life was breathed into me. But like normal women (dauthers of Eve) I think we will always wonder about things we don’t have. This could even be a longing for staying at home when a woman is needing and having to work. Women tend to covet things we don’t have, and want to have it all. So if you see one that’s actually content, it could spiritually harm them to suggest they’re missing out. Or that one day, they’ll conclude they did life all wrong and should regret they didn’t accomplish more in themselves in the world’s standard of things like going back to school.

    We do have dreams and are actually excited about life after kids… my husband and I talk about it pretty frequently which probably sounds weird. But we look forward to the adventures we’ll be doing then… he already has big crazy plans! Please don’t think I will have a “hole,” and be unsatisified with how I’m living my life or lived my life!

    Things my own mom regrets… working too much, putting us in daycare… not having more children (she wanted more but didn’t trust God would provide for them), being too focused on money and limiting herself in that way.

    Women DO have regrets when they’re older, and maybe everyone does to some extent… but my husband and I are trying to live out our convictions now… as opposed to regretting that we didn’t later. This often means we are poor, but we are rich in love and affection. Or in the past it meant we didn’t have much food, but we found ways to better our life with hard work and thrift!

    I often think about “who will I be when I’m 40… 45… 50… 55…” and try to adjust my actions to that. I’m still sinful and mess up my own efforts at times, but I do regularly try to keep those end goals in mind. It also helps that I try to keep women like Stingray in my life, so that they’re living examples of what I want to be or WHO I want to be like. I have to tell you, all these women are extremely happy and fulfilled even when they’re older, that they made these choices and let go of some things like careers or going back when they were older to have a fulfilling career. Usually that door has closed by that age, and they have to accept that – not regret that they missed it!

  8. @Derek Ramsey, I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your comment yet, but I thought of your sweet family last night before sleeping, and wanted to make sure I told you that what y’all have done is so wonderful. Adopting children with special needs, taking care of them and making sure they get the necessary medical needs met – your and your wife’s ministry to those children is just beyond what most people do. I get it that needing to work to pay for things like that, if you’re called to do that, is necessary. Adoption is expensive… medical bills are ridiculously expensive. I hope y’all find relief from those kinds of burdens and that God blesses you immensely for what you’re doing in your children’s lives ❤ .

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