I’m a pretty quick judge of character. My first impressions of a person usually end up being fairly accurate. This is not to say that I am always right. If I went with my first impression of Chris, we’d NEVER have started dating…but that’s another story for another time. So, yes, sometimes my initial assessment can be wrong.
For example, I could be having a perfectly lovely conversation with another human being, clicking along, and thinking to myself, “Hmmm, I could TOTALLY be friends with this person” and in my mind, I’m planning lunch outings with them or play dates or envisioning our kids going to college together. But then, they say something SO outrageous, SO crazy, SO WTF!?, that my neck gets virtual whiplash from the shock of it. Perhaps they announce that they have to dash off soon to make their monthly Klan meeting or face the wrath of the Grand Wizard. Or, that they hope that their Mother Ship will take them back to their home planet of QTY-56 before the polar ice caps melt. You know, that sort of thing.
Well, the other evening, I had just such an experience. Chris and I were in a large group where the only two people we knew were our hosts. In the spirit of being good guests, we struck up a conversation with another couple seated close to us. Well, lo and behold, the wife was a stay at home mom too (1 daughter, 1 son roughly the ages of Sarah and Katie) and it turned out that Chris and her husband went to the same college. So a lot, initially, to talk about….our children, other people we might know in common, etc etc.
As we continued to share our life stories, the woman asked me what brought me to Minnesota all those years ago. I told her about going to business school at the University of Minnesota and my subsequent jobs afterwards that kept me here. When she asked if I had a Masters degree, I replied in the affirmative. She then commented, “Wow, you’re really educated for being a stay at home mom.” While some people may take offense at this (is being a SAHM reserved only for the ignorant and uneducated?), I was unfazed. In response, I made some quip about how my children remain steadfastly unimpressed by my credentials and all they care about is whether I can make bacon whenever they demand it…which if you think about it, would be a pretty awesome perk if you could swing it.
Then, came The Comment. My new acquaintance then said to me, “You know, it really makes me think that I should tell my daughter that she doesn’t need to, you know, go all the way in school.” Hmm? Did I hear her right? My facial expression must have froze up a little because she quickly tried to explain herself, “Well you know. I mean, she should definitely go to college. That’s a for sure. But you know, after that. I mean, we send her to private school and have her in all these activities and everything but it makes me think, does she really need all that? I mean, what’s the point?”
Am I hearing these words correctly? Are we living in the United States of America in the Year of Our Lord 2012? Could she possibly be suggesting that we provide less of an education to our daughters because it would be wasted? Does she think that all girls will grow up to be stay at home moms? And even if they do, that they deserve less of anything because of it? WHAT?! First of all, doesn’t she know that suggesting to me, an Asian, that you don’t need to “go all the way in school” is an anathema? Like suggesting I switch from white rice to brown for its health benefits or that P.F. Changs really is the best Chinese food EVER?
I was speechless. At this point in our conversation, Chris had joined in and I knew by his face that he was hearing the exact same thing I was hearing. Yes, I realize that I am not using my degree on a day to day basis. Does that mean that the time I spent earning it, studying in school, and working towards a goal was all for naught? I don’t think so. It wasn’t in my life plan to be a stay at home mom, it just played out this way. If things had gone another direction, I know that I’d still be working and supporting myself in a challenging and interesting field. Luckily for me, I got this gig and while I depend on Chris financially today, I know that should he pass on for whatever reason, I’d be able to support my family thanks to his very generous life insurance policy. (Ha ha)
But seriously, as the mom of two daughters, I hope that I can help them achieve any goals they set for themselves, whether it be college, medical school, law school, or business school. My wish for them is that they grow up to be independent, self-supporting young women with a passion for whatever work they choose. And that through education and other life experiences, they attain one of life’s priceless treasures: choices. If they choose to be a stay at home mom, great. If they choose to be a rocket scientist, that’s great too. If they choose to be a sculptor or a painter…well, we may need to talk about that one. We Asians don’t have a great history of supporting low income generating pursuits.
If I made any money, I’d end this post with a pledge to go and make a deposit in our children’s college savings account in a symbolic act of defiance against the inequality of women everywhere. But since I don’t, I’ll just be sure to give my girls extra cuddles tomorrow and tell them again and again that they can be anything they want to be. Even a painter…or (gulp) a sculptor.