“Well, that was a waste of an education.” I’ve heard it from people. I’ve thought it myself.
I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in graphic and website design. I had a fun run doing just that for six years, and then two more years after I had my first child. Is my particular education lucrative to staying home? Not really. I rarely use my degree skills — unless you count designing photo books and birth announcements — which I never really did.
So, technically, I don’t use those skills for my day-to-day activities. It’s not too often my kids need a brand style guide or animated banner ads designed for their website. No one needs logos or business cards, just water, some crackers, and 47 band-aids for a teeny, tiny cut that may or may not even be there.
Now, classes I took in high school — those are a totally different story. Sure, I was required to take classes I didn’t want to take, questioning their relevance, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?” Now, three kids and 20-plus years later, it’s all finally making some sense.
These are the classes that turned out to be useful for parenting:
Basic Math: Also known as creating and following a budget. You can’t do this if you don’t know basic math. Even if you’re like me, and all you can do is count on your fingers, it still counts. I have no issues standing in the grocery store counting on my fingers the amount of money I’ll have leftover if I buy that roasted tenderloin for dinner — so my kids can say, “Ew, I want peanut butter and ketchup for dinner.”
Chemistry: There is actually a correct amount of vinegar to baking soda ratio you need to successfully clean the pee smell out of a mattress. Maybe I don’t use a Bunsen burner or test tubes to mix it all up, but I’ll be damned if all that talk about bases and acids wasn’t useful. If it all feels very distant and irrelevant to you now, wait until your kid figures out how to remove their pull-ups the “easy” way, then forget to tell you they peed the bed for four days.
English: Without it, I can’t read my children bedtime stories. I also can’t help them learn their letters, sounding out words, phonics, and reading. Mostly importantly, without this, I can’t help them learn how to write.
Cooking: I can’t cook an egg over easy, holy hell in a handbasket, people. I cannot flip the damn thing over without breaking it. I failed my Foods class midterm because of it. That was over 20 years ago, and I still remember it every time I try. Still, I remember enough about cooking class to, for the most part, keep us all alive and fed, and not happily fed with overcooked pork chops that are the same texture and flavor as balsa wood. Seriously, though, if you’ve seen the show Naked and Afraid, it puts the term “bad cook” into a whole new perspective. For example, we have never eaten roasted rat kabobs for dinner — not that I would be able to successfully cook rat. Burn yes, cook, no.
Fine Art: One of the most valuable things I have taken from my career to staying home with my kids is teaching my kids how to draw. Every drawing starts with shapes. Then it moves into colors and shades. Art is about technique and beauty, but it’s mostly about perspective and expression. This is, by far, one of my most favorite things I’ve had the privilege of fostering in my children.
P.E.: You’ll do more sprinting, lifting, and dodgeball in the first five years of your children’s life than you ever did from eighth to twelfth grade, combined.
Nutrition: I don’t use this on myself as often as I should, but I do on my kids. In our house, everyone under 5 feet tall has to eat a serving of fruits or vegetables at every meal — except the cats. I’m not sure what’s in their food. Thankfully, because of my nutrition class, that means actual carrots end up on their plates and not candy corn.
Speech and Debate: If you’ve ever tried to negotiate with a toddler on anything they are very passionate about — like wearing pants to the store — then you understand the power that comes behind what you learned from this class.
Typing: It’s my only link to the outside world anymore. Writing to you all, right now, this second, and connecting with anyone on social media is only and always done by typing. And texting. That’s typing too. It totally counts even if you can just use the one thumb. Or a knuckle. I’ve done that.
Physics: An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. I can usually figure out how far someone is going to skid across the carpet after tripping on a Tonka Truck based on their velocity, so I know where I need to stand and step into their path to stop them.
And here are the classes that turned out to be not-so-useful for parenting:
Physics: An object at rest stays at rest. Unless it’s a toddler. Toddlers don’t stay anywhere, especially if rest is involved.
Algebra: I’ve never gone to the store for x amount of bread over y cans of soup ever. The only linear equations I’ve ever had to solve are who threw the watermelon chunks from the kitchen table to the living room couch.
Mythology: Greek mythology, as interesting as it was, was the most useless class I took in high school. Medusa is not someone we come in contact with regularly. So I find that the less we talk about a woman who has snakes for hair, the better.
Child Development: In high school, I took child development and that included working in an adjacent daycare that was on campus. Our curriculum was learning about different stages of development and creating activities for small and large motor skills. This class did not prepare me for actual child development, like rotating your baby like a rotisserie chicken so their head can fit inside a hat. Or how to handle tantrums in the toy aisle at Target.
Sewing: This would be extremely useful had I paid attention. I send everything to my mother-in-law.
Geography: To date, the only thing I’ve used this for is to point in the direction that Grandma lives. If the Rocky Mountains were less prominent, I’d be at a loss for which direction I was going. The foothills are my beacon in the night and the only thing separating me from knowing which way is west and being a complete navigational idiot.
Astronomy: The most anyone has ever inquired about this subject is as follows:
Toddler: What are those things up there?
Toddler: Can I have candy.
Geometry: We have no need to find the area of a triangle because we haven’t seen the triangle in months. It’s probably with all the missing single socks.
Spanish: I’ve had many people come up to me asking if I speak Spanish. They ask because I look Hispanic, because I am Hispanic, but I speak no Spanish. Sadly, the only reason this very useful subject is useless for me is because I spent this entire class not paying attention.
So, next time someone asks you about your wasted degree, or you ask yourself if you are wasting an education, think about everything you have learned from grade one to wherever you stopped. I promise that everyone has skills to pass on to their kids to help them flourish and grow. Maybe you can’t draw, or velocity isn’t your thing, but cooking an egg over easy? You got this!