Saturday, January 2, 2010

Why education isn't always a good thing

I have a college degree in family studies. I can cite research on developmental aspects in all stages of life (infants-old age). I am a research snob. I read newspaper accounts of studies with a very pessimistic mindset. I prefer to read the primary source without grappling with another author's interpretations. I know the root cause of toddler tantrums, infant colic, separation anxiety, poor attachments, and a myriad of other issues.

This is why I feel so dang guilty all the time.

I know it is important to read to my daughter. I rarely can get her to pay attention for 5 minutes, let alone a whole story! Research doesn't explain how to capture a young toddler's attention.
I feel guilty that I read only 2 books a day (on a good day).

I know I shouldn't become irritated when the Queen gets into things. It is a part of her development. She is learning. But, gosh darnit, after the millionth time of taking her away from the trash, I am on the verge of freaking out! I use a harsh tone and grab her hand rather aggressively. (More like firmly, but harder than I would like.)
I feel guilty about the harsh tone, the irritation, and the hand grabbing. I should be doing better.

I know how important it is to hold my little Manly. He needs his mommy's closeness. He needs his mommy's love. At least the research says so. Manly has other ideas. He prefers the swing. The swing! Over his mommy's arms!
I am terrified that he will develop a flat head because he sits in the swing so much. I feel guilty that I am not holding him, even though he doesn't want to be held.

Tummy time is emphasized all over the research. It strengthens their neck muscles, improves their vision, and increases their core muscle tone. Ah, but for colicky babies it means screaming time. If I put him on his tummy, I will inevitably have hours of screaming to look forward to. No thank you.
Guilt, guilt, and more guilt. I am not doing tummy time. I am a horrible mom.

The funny thing is, I feel guilty about feeling guilty! I know I am too hard on myself. I know I shouldn't be so nitpicky about my mothering. Good grief, I give other people a break, why not do the same thing for me?

It comes from being a perfectionist. I want perfect children. I want to be the perfect mom. I want to do everything perfectly.

This. Is. Impossible. Impossible! I know this! Why, then, do I ignore my own advice?

I ignore my advice because I have too high of expectations for myself. Since I have a college degree, I should an example.

This mindset is slowly disappearing. Having my second baby chilled me out big time. I don't obsess over Manly as I did over the Queen. I am more willing to let him cry a few more minutes and put him down more. My guilt doesn't overcome me nearly as much.

Education is important. I am so proud of my degree. I worked my butt off for it. However, education does not solve every problem. Research is fraught with holes and it normally focuses only on one child. It does not include sections for parents with more than one child. I am beginning to recognize the importance of adapting what I know with my unique situation.

I still use my education. I just use it differently.

As for my guilt? Writing eases my sufferings. I realize that all mothers struggle with the same issues. We want to be the best, but often find ourselves short of that goal. This is important. Very important. I believe this life is a time to learn. A time to grow. A time to seek perfection, but recognize it is impossible. It is the seeking that is necessary. It helps us turn to God for support.

Does guilt torture you?
How do you use your knowledge and education to benefit yourself? To torment yourself?
Do you think education can sometimes be a negative thing?


  1. I have my degree in elementary education. I did take some early childhood ed classes, too, but opted not to get the second degree, since it would have required another semester of school and I was ready to be done.

    I taught for 6 years before my oldest child was born and now, I'd like to go back and correct some of my arrogance.

    Like the parents who said things like, "We try- he keep telling him what to do, but he just doesn't do it." Because I used to think that of course they could MAKE their children act a certain way.

    Oh, my, I really knew nothing.

    I also used to be super-organized and anal about schedules...but 3 kids in 3.5 years will cause you to chill out a lot.

    Try not to be so hard on yourself. I figure that as long as we aren't complacent in our parenting, we're doing a good job. It's when we stop questioning that I worry.

  2. Luckily I have never been worried about "the normal" or "the expected" for my kids or my parenting. I never even read any "What to expect" books. With a degree in physics I have yet to worry my kids are breaking Newton or Einstein's laws (although they seem able to move quicker than possible when making a mess...)

    That being said, none of my kids would sit through any book AT ALL till between 2 and 3 years old. But they all love to read now (or be read to). So don't stress too hard, just keep trying.

    My favorite quote "When I got married I had 6 theories about raising children. Now I have 6 kids and NO THEORIES" (John Wilmont) I have that hanging on my fridge.

    My favorite

  3. Yes, yes, yes. Yes to the guilt over knowing what we "should" be doing. Yes to the guilt over feeling guilty.

    My degree is in history and, although I was a teacher for many years, my formal education hasn't affected my parenting per se. What has affected it (and probably for the worse) are all of those books that suggest that there are right and wrong answers to every question in parenting. And I completely agree with you that sometimes knowing too much makes everything feel worse.

  4. My parenting got off to such a rocky start - my son was a pound and a half preemie - that I knew everything was out the window immediately. How many other parents had to lug around apnea monitors and oxygen tanks? How many others had to pump their milk and enhance the calories with formula so he'd gain weight? Ugh. So, right off the bat, even when he was in the hospital forever, it was instincts all the way.

    I do feel like there's way too much pressure on moms now to be perfect at everything but I feel like you've got to pick what you're going to be good at. I'm really good at religion and good at raising them to be moral, thinking people. I'm not so good at nutritious meal preparation - my husband does that. That's just the way it is, even if it's a sorry, sorry thing not to be into cooking nowadays!

    About books - when my kids were young I had these rhyming board books that they both loved. And not only did they love them, they memorized them and ended up reading them to me by the pictures! As they got older and were ready for stories and more pages, we moved up. I also had about a million Spot Lift the Flap books, which never failed to surprise and delight.

  5. I have a degree in forestry and recreational use of forest lands and a degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing. I use either degree very seldom.

    Do I feel the guilt? I have but as the children grew, I knew that I needed to put it aside and trust my gut. I needed be an advocate for my children and without my gut instinct, that was not going to happen. Guilt would paralyze the gut instinct so I let it go.

  6. Ugh. The guilt. I think it weighs at least 100 pounds, that sack of guilt on my back.

    And you are right; how can we be so forgiving of others and yet so tough on ourselves?

  7. Someone very wise said to me, "When they take the baby out, they put guilt in." And how true. Parenthood is laced with guilt. Yes, even guilt about feeling guilty. We all hold ourselves to such ridiculous standards and inevitably fail. This is life. And you capture this incessant striving and stumbling very well here.

    I am very proud of my education and I miss my school days, but I do agree that education has its limits and even sometimes ill-effects.

    Happy to be back reading your words in this brand new decade!


Comments are disabled.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.