Motherhood, Writing and a College Degree
That moment when you realize your teachers think you’re “quite bright” and may even be destined to bring glory to their school, has a powerful weight of terror behind it, especially if you’re a city kid attending a school where one young woman every blue moon qualifies for a bluestocking high-class university like Oxford or Cambridge. The moon was blue, and I was actually one of two—a really good year—which made me determined to prove myself worthy of the honor.
Of course, when I got to college I found I was a very small fish in a very big pond of super-educated piranhas. I went to parties, but they really weren’t my thing. I haunted libraries. And mostly I hid in my room, trying to figure out whatever it was that everyone else seemed to know about the language of mathematics.
Eventually I caught up, caught on, and got into my stride—kind of like pushing up the speed on the treadmill until running feels like nothing at all. I could do this. I was (almost) a woman and I was succeeding. Meanwhile I’d met a guy who was just as determined as I to be a credit to his family and school. We sat together in lectures, went to talks from famous professors like Stephen Hawking in our time off, encouraged each other, and eventually both got first class honors degrees before getting married.
My husband asked what I wanted to do with my life and, feeling free to be honest with him, I answered that really I wanted to be a Mom. He didn’t believe me. He said he was sure I’d change my mind; I’d be bored; I wouldn’t want to waste all that expensive education; plus I had a talent and I really ought to use it. But I didn’t; I wasn’t; it’s not wasted—it’s part of who I am and how I see the world; and I have other talents too. Still, words matter. They weigh on you. They nibble at your self-confidence. When the kids hated me I wondered if they’d have been better served by my going out to work. When they shut themselves in their rooms I thought I must have poured my inhibitions into them. When they had problems, I imagined I’d given them mine. And when they succeeded—I’m blessed, now they’re grown, by having three college graduates all happily employed—I knew their triumphs were all in spite of me.
Meanwhile, motherhood had freed me to return to an earlier dream—the one that came before being “quite bright,” and was related not to math but to the way my nose was always buried in a book. I wanted to write. I told stories to my kids when they were small. I helped in school and told stories to groups of kids learning to count, made up storygames for children struggling with learning to read and write, used stories to teach chess, added stories to math lessons, told stories in Sunday school, and tried to show my kids and their friends that their problems were just part of the story of their lives. But the question nibbling away at my self-confidence was still the same—was I wasting that hard-earned education? Was I letting down those teachers who’d seen me as “quite bright?” Was I denying the mathematical talent I’d been born with?
I went back to work and it wasn’t the same, because I wasn’t the same person I’d been before. Getting into Cambridge didn’t complete me. Getting a masters in math didn’t define my final path. Succeeding in my job, even having kids who succeeded, just wasn’t enough. I’m a story still being written and I wanted to tie all the magic of motherhood together with the logic of math and pour it out in words. So when I lost my job, I wrote.
I am who I was—a skilled mathematician, a credit to my school, and happy mother of three—and who I am—a writer—and who I will be, dreaming my impossible dreams. It’s not inconceivable I may even still be “quite bright” but you’ll have to read my books and make your own decisions about that.
Sheila's latest creation is a book called Bethlehem’s Baby:
Meet the Emperor Augustus’s advisors, the quiet research student helping wise men study stars, the shepherd whose granddad keeps complaining, an Egyptian fisherboy, a Roman soldier, and more in this set of 40 5-minute read-aloud stories based around the events of the Christ Child’s birth in Bethlehem.
Amazon kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EY172MA/
Barnes and Noble nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bethlehems-baby-sheila-deeth/1116985949
Sheila Deeth is an English American, Catholic Protestant, mathematician writer, author of the Five Minute Bible StoryTM Series for children, several spiritual speculative e-novellas, Divide by Zero (a novel), and various poems and short stories. When she’s not writing she’s usually reading, posting book reviews to the internet, or wandering the neighborhood talking to all the local cats and dogs.
Find out more about the Five-Minute Bible StoryTM Series on the publisher’s website: http://capearagopress.com/Five-Minute.html
Connect with Sheila at:
Sheila Deeth: http://about.me/SheilaDeeth
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sheiladeethGoodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2853735.Sheila_Deeth