Education and our use to society

After reading this post and this great poem by Shelley yesterday, I looked upon his life on wikipedia. Very interesting!

Then, in the middle of my reading about him and his wife, Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, my husband came home, we prepared diner and ate before putting our son to bed. On my coming back in the living room, we started talking about our move, his new job, and how important it is for both of us that it goes well, not only for practical reasons but because I know how much value he puts in his work, and because his career has become, somehow, a matter of pride for me too. I do not work anymore and his work is perhaps the only form of intellectual pride that I currently have. We talk about it, I see what he does, it is my way of participating in something different and talking of something else than the diet and nap schedule of our son.

"RothwellMaryShelley" by Richard Rothwell - Scan of a print. Original housed at the National Portrait Gallery. Source: Wikipedia
Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell – Scan of a print. Original housed at the National Portrait Gallery. Source: Wikipedia

Gradually the discussion evolved until it came to a subject that I have been ruminating for a few months already: my loss of status as a stay-at-home mum. It’s crazy and annoying and frustrating how much value I have lost in the eyes of some people since I stopped working to take care of our son!! I have become a waste – of time, money and potential! My education (I have a master’s degree) and my use to society is lost: I do not have a career.

But what these people do not understand is that I have no doubt that this is not true. I don’t know that I could continue staying at home otherwise. The individual, the wife and the mum that I am today are a result of my experiences and my education, which I know have been useful to my husband in the past (when making important decisions or organizing events) and are now useful everyday to both my husband and our little monkey.

The discussions that we have with my husband and my capacity to follow his line of thought when we talk about his work or his ideas are not a waste. It can even be useful for his work, once in a while. My knowledge and interests are and will be useful to my son, in his everyday life, from the knowledgeable decisions that we (will) take to help him grow, to his school work. It will give him someone to talk to, someone to discuss ideas or historical topics with, if not just someone to help him with his maths…

I might go back to work one day, or not. Both are equally possible and will depend on many factors. But even if I don’t, I know that I will be useful to society, if “only” by what I bring my husband and my son by being me!

It has been said that “behind every great man is a great woman”. To be sure, when a couple is concerned, who the great men were married to has probably made a huge difference. Clearly Mary Shelley was an educated woman, as were Marie Curie (1967-1934), Emma Darwin (1808-1896) or Sophia Tolstoy (1844-1919). These women are (mostly) not as well known as their husbands but even the ones who didn’t work made a difference in the lives and the work of their husbands, and most probably in the lives and intellect of their children as well. We do make a difference in their lives as they make a difference in ours.

Anyway… Big discussion for a weekday evening. Nothing new, it just rings a bell. So I went back to reading about Shelley and his wife.

Mary Shelley, as well as being an educated woman, was also the daughter of the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) who wrote A vindication of the rights of woman in 1792. Funnily enough the first paragraph describing the book on Wikipedia is the following:

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be “companions” to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men.”

Already back then 🙂

"Vindication1b" by Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), source: Wikipedia
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. Source: Wikipedia