On Being a Graduate Student Theologian and a Stay-at-Home Mom

In the coming weeks, the editor at Catholic Exchange will post a podcast interview we did together that focuses on my life as a graduate theology student and a mom, as well as my increasing interesting in abandoning ideology for the full expansiveness of the authentic Catholic Faith. I will post a link when it is published. It was my first 30 minute interview, so be easy on me. ;o)

The interview did get me thinking about what it is really like being a full-time graduate student of Theology and a mom who is homeschooling her 4 year old. The biggest word that comes to mind is: sacrifice. My husband, daughter, and I are engaged in an extensive period of sacrifice of time together as a family. There are many nights a week when my husband comes home and immediately watches our daughter until bedtime so that I can hit the books or write an essay or term paper. Our daughter spends all day with me, but she still wants my attention as I trudge through St. Augustine’s Confessions one night and Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy the next, as is the case this semester with my full-time school load.

The reality is that something has to give and it does every semester. I do not get to spend Saturdays with my family right now because that is the best day of the week for me to get 6-8 straight hours of studying in. The truth-of-the-matter is that my time is divided and not so evenly. Some weeks my studies suffer and I race through material in order to understand enough to write a paper or engage in the discussion. I then come back to it when I have more time. Other weeks I barely see my family, especially in the last two weeks of the semester when term papers and final exams are due.

I am a mom, 35 years old, and will never be a great scholar. I have dreamed of a PhD or S.T.D since childhood, but there are not any programs available at present which are conducive for my vocation. Three-Five more years of study in another state would come at too much of a cost for my family. The nearest Catholic university to me with doctoral programs is 4.5 hours away: Washington, DC. I married a country boy and I promised him that I had left DC behind for good when we got married, so applying to CUA is out of the question.  God has given me a compromise. I had 3 years of Veteran’s Education Benefits left; plenty to cover the cost of my entire Master’s program. He opened up a window for me to pursue my academic dreams, but with the caveat that my vocation as a wife and mother comes first. That means using these gifts in a manner complimentary with my primary vocation. It also means a Master’s will have to be enough for now, or ever.

There are plenty of women who are called to scholarly work outside of the home. If I were younger and not a homeschooling mom, I could see it being a possibility for me and my family. And who knows?! If God does not provide us with anymore children, I may be one of those women who looks at a doctorate in her mid to late forties. For now I will focus on homeschooling my daughter and completing my Master’s degree and seeing where God calls me as a writer and potential speaker. I guess those years as a debater and debate coach might be useful down the line, God willing.

So what is it like being a graduate student theologian and a mom? It’s hard, beautiful, amazing, sacrificial, stressful, and a blessing. As is the case with all major tasks there are big sacrifices being made by my family and me. I try to spend the 3 months a year I have off of school focusing on fun activities with my daughter. My particular program at Catholic Distance University is a year round program with a month off in between every semester. With all of this sacrifice it may not make sense why we do it, but the reality is that God gave me a certain kind of intellect and he wants me to use it for His purposes. Part of that use comes from further formal study. I have no idea what God’s plan is for me after I graduate next year. In the past year alone I have been stunned to become a freelance writer, been on Ave Maria Radio/EWTN Radio twice, and been asked to do my first paid speaking engagement. I am happy with the pace right now and I am excited to see how He will use me in the mission He has set aside for me. Part of that mission is homeschooling our daughter and I am constantly learning, albeit slowly and poorly most days, that my vocation is primary and everything else is icing on the cake.

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