This past summer I was visiting one of my best friends from junior high and high . Her husband is a script-writer in Hollywood. That was neat and we provided lots of conversation. She now also has a son and so we talked about motherhood. Eventually, the conversation turned towards what we are doing currently. That’s when she told me that she was almost done getting her helicopter pilot’s license! She wasn’t sure exactly what she would do with it, but it was fulfilling a dream for her.
Over time I’ve thought about my own dreams and what I’ve wanted to do. Our prophet has counseled the women of the church to continue their education—whether that is to help out with the economic needs of the family now or to provide stimulation and enrichment that will bless her and her children for generations to come. He said, “It is the obligation of every woman of this Church to get all the education she can. It will enlarge her life and increase her opportunities. It will provide her with marketable skills in case she needs them” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “In the Arms of His Love,” Liahona, Nov 2006, 115–18). Sometimes it can be difficult and challenging. I thought I might share some of my own struggles to further my education.
When I first got married, I was only 20 years old and three semesters away from graduation. We discussed starting our family immediately but it seemed impossible to be able to do that, have enough money to live on, and for me to finish college. Fortunately, because of inspiration received as a direct result of a priesthood blessing, we figured out a way for me to graduate in only two semesters and work to save money for our family all without further delay in our plans for a family. Finishing three semesters of school in only two semesters was difficult, but do-able.
Several years later, with my husband in law school and our third baby on the way, I felt like it was time to further my education again. After prayer and fasting, we made the decision that I should go ahead and apply to graduate school. I was committed to being a stay-at-home-mom, however, and it was important to us that my education not override the counsel that mothers should be in the home. Again, it took some imaginative scheduling at times. And it meant that I went through the two year program much slower than my classmates. But we never hired a babysitter in that time. My husband and I arranged our schedules so that one of us would always be with the children. Usually, this meant that while one of us was in class, the other was home. But sometimes, it meant that I would take the children to campus with me and they would eat lunch and play with their daddy for an hour or two while I was in class. Then I would take them home again.
Other times, the difficulties in furthering my education have been financial. Several years ago we went through a very hard and trying time on our family because of tight finances. I can’t emphasize enough how desperately hard it was and how many tearful prayers for help we offered. Nevertheless, I had it in my head that I wanted to certify as a doula and a childbirth educator. There seemed no possible way for me to fulfill those dreams. Even though it didn’t cost nearly as much as a college education, the price at the time was completely and utterly out of reach.
But “necessity is the mother of invention”. Or better yet, “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). As it turns out, I found a certifying organization who offered need-based scholarships. I applied and was denied. But the next quarter I applied again and was accepted into the scholarship program. Eventually I was certified as a childbirth educator and it hadn’t cost me anything.
Still, what could I do about certifying as a doula? I wasn’t sure. But I joined an on-line group of birth professionals and began learning from them, participating in discussions and making friends. As it turns out, it wasn’t long after I joined that another woman joined the group. She was moving from the east coast to my city. She didn’t know a soul here. I offered to go around looking at some of the places she was considering renting and telling her my opinions on the living arrangements and the area. I did this over a period of two weeks for her. In the meantime, we became friends. And when she and her family finally arrived her, my family and I were there to help them unload their moving van. And guess what? She was a doula trainer from my childbirth organization. She was so grateful to me for my help during her move that she offered to give me the training for free! I still had to cover other costs, but we were able to scrape that together somehow.
Most of the education I am doing right now isn’t formal. I just like studying topics out on online. I particularly like to research women and children’s health issues. The great thing about this type of education is that it is essentially free. And with public libraries and the internet, there’s almost no limit to what you can learn or when you can learn it.
So what do you want to do? What are your dreams? What would you like to know or be good at? Will it require a degree? Maybe you started college, but never finished. Classes? Maybe you want to take that community photography class or attend the sewing class at your local craft store. Certification? An apprentice program? Can you gain this knowledge by reading and researching on your own or talking to more experienced women? Now once you’ve decided what it is that you need to do, find out what’s stopping you for accomplishing that? Is it time? Finances? Scheduling difficulties? Needing a babysitter?
I am sure that if we keep these needs in our minds and are prayerful about it, the Lord will open up a pathway for us to follow to pursue the dream. It may take time and it might not be a direct path. But we know that the Lord needs educated women and he will provide a way for us.
For me, my education has meant that I’ve been able to make a little money here or there. But more importantly, it has expanded my mind. For instance, although I am currently not doing anything with my college degrees, the critical eye and questioning attitude that I learned in my master’s program has helped me to evaluate many decisions I am faced with. Reading research and understanding research design that was necessary for my thesis has helped me as I’m reviewing literature on childbirth studies. So although some might see me and say that I’m not “doing” anything with my education, I know that it has greatly enriched my life and blessed me in my daily work as a mother and homemaker. It has blessed my children as they see their mother studying and learning and struggling to accomplish something just like they are.