Saturday, August 12, 2017

Permission to Want It

I am a mother of three young children, a wife, a homemaker. And in my spare time, I'm getting a PhD in English.

I've had such complicated feelings about this PhD. It was not part of my original life plan. It was never a goal. It was not something I wanted.

I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to be the good little Mormon housewife. I was content with that life, and getting this PhD feels like telling the world I wasn't content with that life. That I wanted more, that I have goals and ambitions for a career outside the home. Which is why, to other Mormons, I'm always so quick to explain, "This is revelation! God basically told me to do this! I don't know why, please don't judge!"

The whole lead-up to this program has been so emotionally fraught for me, so full of second-guessing, and so much anxiety. Mostly, anxiety about child-care. So many nights I've woken up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep over the anxiety of child-care. We struggled to find a nanny, a child-care facility, a situation that felt good to us. I laid awake in bed those nights praying and pleading with the Lord: Please, help us find someone good! Help us find someone who will love and care for my children the way I love and care for them! And tell me again why it won't be me? Why can't I just stay home with my kids? Why is this so hard?

The answers didn't come immediately, but they came firmly and unmistakably, the way all the answers have seemed to come through this whole miraculous process of having the Lord turn my life around. I felt the words, "I have prepared angels to take care of your children. Please stop worrying."

But I couldn't stop worrying. It took weeks of struggle and stress, and even when we finally found a nanny I was comfortable with, even after she visited our home and showered love on my children and expressed enthusiasm and gratitude for the job, I still couldn't stop worrying. What if she quits? What if someone gets sick? What if the baby won't nap for her? What if? What if? What if?

I'm missing my son's first day of kindergarten. His father will be able to take him to school that day, and his grandmother will be there to pick him up at the end, but I will be thirty miles away attending my third day of mandatory orientation, and when I realized this is where I would be on my first child's first day of school, I nearly cried. I wanted to drop out right there. No PhD, no anything, is worth not being there on the biggest moment of my child's life to this point. He knows I won't be there, and he keeps asking who will be there. Who will be there to pick him up? Who will be there to help him find his classroom? Someone will be, but it won't be me.

It should be me.

Will I ever live the guilt of this down?

I have been so distracted by the logistics, so consumed by the worry and the anxiety and the stress and the guilt, that I haven't actually done that much thinking about school itself. I will be teaching this time, two sections of freshman writing. Finally, this past week, when I realized it would be catastrophic to put it off any longer, I started preparing for class.


I got excited. I got interested. I forgot how much I love teaching. I forgot how much I enjoy this subject I'm studying. I forgot that there is something about this whole academia world that brings me a lot of satisfaction. I've been so focused on letting people know that I did not choose this path, so focused on stressing about how hard this is to figure out, how crazy it is to be a mother of three and go to school, so conflicted about asking someone else to watch/love/raise my children for thirty hours a week(!), that I forgot to actually want it.

As I prayed that night, the spirit filled me with these words again, "I have prepared angels to watch over your children. Do not worry about them. I will take care of them, for they are mine. But you are mine too. You are my child too, and I have given you gifts and opportunities, and I need you to make use of your gifts. You have my permission to enjoy this. You have my permission to want this."

I think this time I will listen. I am still working on letting go of the worry. I'm still snuggling my baby a little bit extra, still relishing in the last slow moments home with the boys, still anxious about meeting all their needs. I'm still full of confusion about why this is my life path, still so full of conflicting emotions.

But I'm also excited. And I'm giving myself permission to enjoy it.

To want a PhD.


  1. I really, truly appreciate you sharing this. I've always been the opposite---I NEVER wanted the whole stay-at-home gig, or at least I didn't think I did. It took me a long time to even HAVE the desire to start having kids. Of course, now I love it--I love being a mom. I'm so glad I took that leap of faith. But a big part of me still misses teaching, still misses that pursuit of a career...and for me, I got the opposite answer---that I need to choose staying at home again, as opposed to taking on a job again. That was a hard path for ME to take, even though it's more "socially acceptable" in the Mormon culture at large. But I'm a firm believer that revelation often takes us where we least expect to go, and I'm so excited for this next leg of your journey---you're going to do amazing things, both in your home and for your family (because of this degree) and also in the larger community. Go get 'em, girl! This is only for a season, so enjoy it.

    1. Thanks Torrie! It is funny how the Lord often seems to tell us that we need the opposite of what we want. And kids grow quickly, some day there will be time for more for you too!

  2. What an example you are! I loved your thoughts for many reasons. You're going to do so much good in every aspect of your life because of your education. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Excited to read more. Have you read the BYU talk given recently about women and education? You probably have but I re-read it again tonight and thought I would share.

    1. I'd not read that talk before, but thank-you so much for sharing! It was so perfect for me at this moment right now, so wonderful to hear another mother's educational journey! What a great talk!

  3. Oh my goodness, this is beautiful, Suzanne! You are an inspiration! Good luck with it all. I can't wait to follow along on the adventure!

    1. Thanks Amy! It is going to be an adventure for sure!

  4. Oh Suzanne, this post made me cry, experiencing your emotions. You are amazing to follow promptings and continue to trust even when it doesn't make sense. We are all proud of you!

  5. Suzanne, Sending you hugs and love as you walk these new steps. And remember this is a season in your life, you never know what's around the corner, He will reveal all in time. xx

  6. Wow! I can't imagine the anxiety of it all--so much to figure out and work out (logistically and emotionally). Good luck! Prayers :)

    (also, you probably already know, but, Aldi has formula now--which is awesome since it's half the price of anywhere else)