Using Our Brains

May 12, 2008 at 9:21 pm 6 comments

For many of us “educated folks,” much value is put on whether we are “using our brains” in our day-to-day lives. There’s an idea (what I believe to be a fallacy) that stay-home-parenting doesn’t use one’s brain.

Try answering the question, “Mommy, why do birds eat worms?”

Try coming up with a creative way to coax a wiley two-year-old to get into the bathtub.

Try to notice your own behavior as you react to inane situations like beets smeared all over the table, and then behave as a person you’d want to emulate.

Yes, of course, parenting little ones can have those days of finger-painting for more hours than your patience might enjoy easily, and conversations with too many one-syllable words (like “no!”). But, I think the question of whether we “use our brains” as stay-at-home parents is, as usual, one of perspective.

We can see all of this mommy/daddy work as vapid and useless to the higher-learned society. Or we can see this work as challenging, rewarding, and incredibly meaningful as we shape the next generation’s leaders (we can only hope). We can see how we must stretch our minds and our spirits to parent consciously, to challenge ourselves and our kids.

I realize that the “using our brains” panic is much more loaded than this, and is entwined with all kinds of social structures that make it very hard for parents to have well-paid, professional, part-time positions that would allow for some official “brain work” during the intense years of parenting, as so many people want (documented brilliantly by Miriam Peskowitz in The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars — yes, this is one of my favorite books!). I realize that this is often a veiled complaint about our lack of options and support for real career/family balance, even for those of us in the privileged sectors of society.

But, we can still fight for more options, and see these societal problems, and still, at the same time, appreciate the work we do as full-time parents as just as brainy as our outside jobs — just a different kind of brainy.

By the way, my answer was, “Because they’re warm and squirmy and fun for birds, and they fit in their little throats.” (I’m still trying to think of a better one.)

Happy Mother’s Day, a little late (I was busy enjoying yesterday). 😉

Entry filed under: Career, Parenting, Success/Failure.

What’s Old Is New Again P.S. Go Cali!

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. hermit  |  May 12, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Could not agree with you more as a dad of 3 & 1/2 yr old twins.
    When i have to manage them for days \ weekends, i realize what a brainy challenge it is along with the fun factor. I salute all the mothers along with my own who has made me what i am today.
    Very appropriate thoughts.
    best wishes,

  • 2. caroline  |  May 13, 2008 at 2:51 am

    Absolutely, “just a different kind of brainy.” And I quite like your answer about why birds eat worms… The questions I get these days are all “how does X work” (how does a cup work, how does a duck work, how does tofu work) — definitely stretching my brain!

  • 3. jennifer  |  May 14, 2008 at 4:25 am

    What a timely piece…I have been thinking about this topic all week long. I think something about Mother’s Day brought it up for me. As a former classroom teacher, who did her graduate work in early childhood (primarily birth through age 5), I’ve been finding it ironic how much harder it is to ‘work’ with my son (16 months) compared to large groups of other people’s children. I’ve also been contemplating the strange fact that if I did this same work for someone else I’d be getting paid (money) for it, while my pay right now consists primarily of sloppy hugs and kisses from my baby.

    Thanks for putting this out there for others to think about as well.

    p.s. your answer about worms is spot on. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly why birds eat them!

  • 4. Mama Zen  |  May 15, 2008 at 1:31 am

    “Just a different kind of brainy.” Absolutely!

  • 5. rowena  |  May 15, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    I pay a lot of attention to getting rid of all the “shoulds” in my head.
    One of the “shoulds” I have to fight is that I “should” be making parenting into an academic endeavor (and I have a masters in education, so it’s a big one.) I don’t want to make my parenting into an intellectual task. I want it to be a living experience, one that uses all the intelligences I have at my disposal, including ones that have been traditionally undervalued.

    But there is something I want for myself, and that is a passionate creativity. I suppose what I am trying to say is that I do not want to be defined solely as a parent, but also want to remember who I was before I became a parent. I worked so hard to get there. But it isn’t about a role the world says I should take on, it’s about something I deeply want to have for myself and for my children.

    Actually, there is so much running around in my head about this topic that I don’t know if I’m making much sense. I hope you get a part of what I’m trying to say. (Plus naptime interfered in writing this.)

  • 6. Mrs. Jones (aka Sugar)  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    We are all so lucky to use the other parts of our brains with this parenting thing. The parts that were never alive before questions like “why do birds eat worms” and understanding that a simple answer is all she will take in before splashing you to giggles.

    It takes a while to get used to this life when being “smart” has always been your identity. Intelligent people know the truth.


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To spark conversation about redefining success (as individuals, families and institutions) and to counter "never enough" messages currently circulating in our culture.

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Megan Pincus Kajitani: Writer, Editor, Former Academic Overachiever and Career Counselor, Mom, Wife, Feminist, Gen Xer, Californian who believes that change is possible View Megan Pincus Kajitani's profile on LinkedIn

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