If you haven't read my previous post about student debt, I suggest you have a look at the post and especially at the comments, which provide a lot of material for thought and in fact prompted me to write this.
Several women who commented confirm a trend which I have already noticed in comments and emails I received from blog readers: young women invest time, energy and especially money (for which they often have to take loans) for a prestigious degree, and then realize a few years down the road that in truth, that they just want to be wives and mothers. They then face the agonizing choices: should they postpone starting a family? Go to work despite having little ones around? Stay home even though they know that paying off debt will be difficult on one income?
Here are some quotes from my readers:
One of my largest regrets is that I didn't keep my student loan debt down. When I married a year ago I carried about $25,000 in student loans with me… we know we can't start having children until it's gone because we can't eliminate it on a single income. All this for an education that will be of little value to me as a stay-at-home mother.(Melanie)
I have a lot of student debt, but I decided to stay home with my little one anyway, despite the fact that we have no way to pay. My thinking changed radically at the end of college and at that time I wished I had never gone but it was too late.
I hope to warn others that college should not be viewed as something mandatory to be pursued at all costs; something I was brainwashed to believe. I was scammed. (Catherine)
I was foolish and took out way too much money in student loan and it's adversely impacted my family (e.g. making it impossible for me to stay at home with my son, etc.). We live very frugally, so that we might be able to pay off my loans. But, at 24, when I took out my last loan, I didn't realize my PhD was not going to be that valuable. (Marianne)
I am one of those women who started university without the remotest idea that soon upon graduation, I will meet my husband and become a stay-at-home wife, and then, less than a year later, a mother. Thankfully for me, I passed through with no debt. I'm not sorry for having my degree, it has come in handy a few times and perhaps will be useful in the future if we apply for permission to homeschool, but if I had to get in debt to pay for my education, I'd say the price is too high as practically I'm not working in the field.
Why does that happen? I think the key to understanding this trend is the fact that most of us were indoctrinated to believe that college and career are the only true way to fulfill our potential, and therefore, girls who are intelligent and accomplished simply see no other path ahead of them.
The problem is, what looks glamorous to a young single can often turn out to be not at all practical to a woman once she becomes a wife and mother and re-evaluates the choices she has made so far. If she was careful and acquired no debt, she can usually step off the career ladder (although often not without feelings of guilt and inadequacy heaped upon her for "wasting" her precious education). If she has debt, she might discover that she is in bondage and the "freedom" she was supposed to have as a young, well-educated woman is actually slavery to a huge student loan, which doesn't permit her to go and raise her family in peace.
We are wired to strongly desire marriage and children; God created us that way, and the false suggestion that wifehood and motherhood are "just one of the options" brings a lot of misery to women's lives. Even women who are caught up in their careers more often than not feel an overwhelming desire to start a family at one point or another, at the cost of an agony-inducing inner conflict, and then many times they discover that getting married and bearing children is far more difficult than it would have been a decade ago – most of the normal, nice men have already married someone who was happy to dedicate herself to family life, and time is running out.
If young girls are brought up with the goal of marriage and motherhood in mind, it is likely they will think far more carefully before leaping into ten years in medical schools and heaps of student debt to go with it. Ask any young girl whether she wants to get married and have children, and the answer will almost undoubtedly be yes. Ask her how she intends to combine family life with the prestigious and time-consuming career path she is about to start, and you'll most likely get a blank look. If you insist, she will stammer, or cheerfully insist that "it will all work out somehow." Not so; not without a careful plan.
Young women need to take into consideration that the majority of them will become wives and mothers. When this is a background thought, the entire lookout is different. It's possible to choose to study for a degree or certificate that will enable a woman to work flexible hours from home, and/or start her own business. Or it's possible to simply choose broader education that will later help with homeschooling. Those are non-competitive options which do not require lots of debt, and often allow a young woman to continue living at home and being an asset to her family.
I'm writing this because I truly feel for women who are trapped in situations that are bad for them and their families, because of rash choices they made when they were younger. I could easily have been one of them.