What I want you to know: I have a Ph.D. and I’m not using it

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Jennifer.

I was in graduate school for six years. Beginning in 2007 and up until the summer of 2013, I was slaving away over books and articles and papers in an effort to earn my Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. In short, I was working my tail off non-stop for what seemed like an eternity.

But another pretty miraculous thing happened over the course of those same years—we had four kids. I had my five-year-old half-way through my Masters, my four-year old was born the semester in between degrees, my two-year-old came along in the middle of my Ph.D. coursework, and our last little guy was born a mere 8 months prior to my dissertation final defense.

It has been an overwhelmingly frustrating, exhausting, amazing, fulfilling, transformative time for our entire family. But what I want you to know is that now, with degrees in hand, I’ve decided to be a stay-at-home mom. While my colleagues are spending hours polishing their resumes, I’m polishing furniture. While my former classmates are submitting conference papers, I’m working on letter recognition and sight words. While my academic acquaintances are vying with other candidates for interviews and tenure, I’m vying with toddlers for just a few minutes of time to use the restroom alone.

What I want my professional friends to know is that my choice to bypass the job market does not mean I am short-changing myself. I am not ruining my career by having a huge gap on my curriculum vitae. I’m just making a little trade, and it’s only for a little while.

I’m trading the “could be” of my academic career for my current role as taxi-cab and snack creator and keeper of the markers. I’m doing it for many reasons but mainly because I know I won’t get this time back; they won’t stay little forever.

What I want my stay-at-home-mom friends to know is that you are not “just” a SAHM (your words, not mine). How the words SAHM and “just” could ever logically be used together in a sentence and then repeated over and over again by those of us embracing the position, I’ll never know. But I am proud to be among your ranks and proud of you for the diapers you change and the dishes you wash and the never-ending laundry you keep clean.

In and amongst that pride, I have to be honest with you, too. At the beginning of this new SAHM role I felt constantly torn between two worlds and unhappy and unsettled. I was not appreciative of having this opportunity to be with my kids and thought I was missing out on my professional life. I felt really disappointed.

But now, I’ve regained some purpose. As a mass communication scholar I think it only fitting that a blog could help ease my transition. Writing has motivated me to keep in touch with the academic world in a different way—but one that allows me to hang out with the little people in my life at the same time. And won’t I have great first-hand advice to give future students about the wonders of social media?

What I’m trying to say is that it’s ok for a mom to have aspirations and ambitions. It’s ok for her to follow her career dreams and professional desires. But it’s also ok for her to put those things aside for a season too. From what I hear, it’s one of the shortest seasons we get as mommies of babies, and toddlers and preschoolers. I’m going to embrace it while it’s here and then move on. For the first time in a long time, I’m ok with where I am. I hope you are too.

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