Back in the day when I was in college at Gonzaga, the university started a new ad campaign. For an entire semester, there were stickers, buttons, and posters all over campus that read "WHY GONZAGA?" It was so prolific that it became a campus joke--"WHY GONZAGA? Because the cafeteria food is awesome!" "WHY GONZAGA? Because I can ALWAYS find a parking spot on campus!" We were all ready to find out what the punchline was by the time their "big reveal" happened--a gigantic pep rally where they finally announced their answer to the question:
"Why Gonzaga? Because we're educating the people the world needs most."
At the time, I thought it was at best a grandiose overstatement of the importance of the university. Lately, though, that tagline has been going through my head quite a bit--but not because I've been pining over my alma mater.
A few weeks ago, as I was pulling out my hair trying to pay the bills, my mind started to wander (as it often does during bill-paying). I started worrying about the future--about the fact that by the time my children are in school, I will have been out of the workforce for 6 years, which will leave me with no resume and depleted Social Security funds. As I was brooding, I went from worried to angry, beginning to question why these should even be concerns in the first place. I'm not changing the world directly right now, but I do believe that I'm doing one of the world's most important--and severely underrated--jobs.
I started searching for more information about this and found this book, which I am very anxious to read. The more I researched and read, the more fired up I got. Lately, I've been daydreaming about writing an extensive research paper on stay-at-home parents and envisioning a stay-at-home rights movement while doing the dishes. And this brings me back to that great slogan once coined by Gonzaga that keeps running through my head.
Higher education is undoubtedly important, and it certainly produces many of the specialists that the world "needs" to run. But I keep thinking how sorely this slogan misses the mark in my current situation. It actually highlights the lack of respect for child-rearing quite starkly now in my mind. Yes, universities are responsible for giving their students the specialized knowledge they need to pursue a career, but I think when it comes down to it, much of an adult's essential education is learned much earlier. It is from our parents that we learn our values and morals--that's where we start to develop our sense of what is important and what WE think the world "needs." So I've been imagining that Gonzaga's ad slogan could be much better used like this:
WHY PARENTS? Because we're educating the people the world needs most.
It's my new personal motivational slogan. I keep reminding myself of it every time I start to get stressed or when I feel like I'm not really doing anything of value being at home with the kids. I think that our society could do with a little reminding of exactly how important the task of parenting is. People give it lip service, especially around holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day, but the proof is in the pudding, and my bowl is empty. No one is in the least bit interested in giving parents the time they need to raise their children, because it isn't (directly) economically viable. And whether you are blessed with the opportunity to stay at home with your children or if you are working full time, our first and most important job right now is to be parents to our children.
I'm not saying everyone should quit their jobs and stay at home with their children, but I AM proposing that it should be a more realistic option for a greater majority of our society. I can remind myself all I want that I am "educating the people the world needs most," but how many other people see it that way? And how many people think I'm just watching soap operas and eating bonbons?
Ok, I think I'm done here on my soapbox for now. I fear this post was a little more scattered than I intended, but I really needed to get this off my chest. And the next time you're knee-deep in dirty diapers and laundry, just remind yourself that "you're educating people the world needs most." Maybe it'll help.