The Aftermath of Equality
This morning in bed, my husband and I were catching up on things. At one point, he said, "thanks for dealing with the plumber yesterday and getting our kitchen sink fixed." Instead of saying "you're welcome," or something else moderately positive, I somewhat bitterly said, "that's why I got a Law degree."
Let's back up.
When I was growing up, there was no question that my brother, sister and I would go to College. In fact, there was no question that we would continue on to graduate school.
I am second generation American. My family came from Eastern Europe. Our family succeeded in America by getting educated and working hard. The family saying I heard over and over was "get the piece of paper (your degrees). They can't ever take that away from you."
After college and my two graduate degrees, I began dating with the goal of meeting the man that I would marry. Prior to that, I dated for fun, but not with any specific intent of marrying any of the men that I was dating.
I sought out men who were also over-educated. I had fully bought into the cultural norms that had been instilled in me.
Eventually, I met the man who would become my husband. We were both Jewish (from the same region of Eastern Europe) vegetarians without televisions with law degrees.
I loved that he was overeducated, kind, and had a sense of humor. He loved my education, my intellect, my curly hair and my blue eyes.
We were familiar to each other before we even knew each other. Our family values were the same. We were brought up similarly.
For many years of our relationship, we both worked more than full time. We balanced day jobs with our entrepreneurial endeavors (another cultural norm that was instilled in both of us). We had a kid and then it all got harder to juggle.
We would come home at the end of a busy day of commuting and working feeling exhausted and with little capacity. We didn't have much emotionally left to give each other, our household, or our daughter.
Recently, we've had some life changes (my dad died, my husband's dad died, I started perimenopause, and we've realized that there are probably more days behind us than there are in front of us.)
So, we've shifted some things. I've quit my full time career as a Law Librarian. Our goals are that my husband will now be the primary money maker of the family, I'll make some money coaching women in menopause, and I'll be the household manager.
Now my days are filled with laundry, dishes, dealing with household logistics (smoke detectors, plumbers...), figuring out logistics for our kid (I registered her for a sleepaway summer camp today), making dinner, going grocery shopping, being a shuttle driver for our daughter, volunteering in her class, and trying to get my business off the ground.
These are all totally worthwhile endeavors and I am not at all putting down those activities.
But, why did I need all that education? Am I wasting it now? Would I not have been able to "attract my husband" if I was not as educated?
If our family functions best with one adult primarily at home, then why was it such a priority for me to get overeducated?
I know that some families function well with both parents working full time and commuting.
Perhaps they have more capacity than Scott and I do. Perhaps they make more money at their jobs so that they can outsource more of their household logistics. Perhaps they don't also start businesses in their free time which sucks away all of their "extra" capacity.
Who knows why and how it works for some families, but I know that it does not work for us.
Given our family's new reality, how do I let go of this "education guilt" that I'm feeling. It feels like such a waste of resources that I am not using my education.
With my undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, my law degree and my masters in library science, I am helping kids recognize the long i sound in a poem. I am sitting around the house for hours waiting for a plumber who promises that he will be here in 30 minutes (this went on for 4 and a half hours yesterday). I am going grocery shopping and cooking dinner (neither of which I enjoy nor am I very good at.)
I understand that this is a problem of privilege. I am lucky to be struggling with this. But, it is a tough struggle nonetheless.