From Harvard to... homemaking? It was not a big jump down- as most people assume...

After graduating from Harvard University at the top of my department in 1977, I went on to medical school- responding, seemingly well, to the intense "nouveau" pressure for young women like me to succeed professionally. But during my first year in medical school, I started to panic. It felt as if only my outer self was moving ahead, leaving the most intrinsic, characteristic parts of me behind. It was as if I was starting to remember the way I used to be- before the societal influences shifted dramatically.

Couldn't I choose not to become a professional career woman? Couldn't I still have a choice, I wondered? Couldn't I choose not to become a professional career woman? Could I actually work up the nerve to do something extremely embarrassing- like devote my intelligence and creative abilities to building a good marriage and trying to raise my own children in an exemplary home? Was that option still available- even though I never heard it mentioned anymore? The more I let myself wonder about it freely, the more I knew it was what I most wanted- even if everyone else at that time thought I had flipped my lid.

Today, people no longer think that I'm nuts. Today the value of my choice is clearly evident. Not in shining glassware or sparkling clean floors like a stereotypic 5O's homemaker might have squealed about. It is evident in the shining character traits of six children, now grown big, and in the extra sparkle that's in their eyes.

Through the years, many people have asked me how a Harvard grad, a woman who loves to think, could become a homemaker. I feel that in order to be devoted to being a homemaker, a mother, a guide to trusting souls, a woman has to love to think. Being a homemaker, with an awareness of the potential inherit in the position, is the most challenging intellectual pursuit I could ever envision.

While I cannot possibly counterbalance the many influences that devalue homemaking by considering it a mindless endeavor that anyone can do, I can hopefully open up a few minds, at least, to the fact that in order to do a great job as a homemaker, we really have to make great use of our most prized mental capabilities- and that homemaking is far from simple or mindless.

Homemaking is far from simple or mindless In marriage and in parenting, we are given the opportunity to create something far, far more beautiful than a Rembrandt masterpiece. We have the chance to help create a real live masterpiece of a human being. A gigantic amount of thinking is required in order to shape and mold fine character traits. Even though some people are born with easier dispositions to work with than others, there is so much room for growth in every person. Each individual holds many hidden treasures. And in digging for them carefully we invariably end up uncovering some of our own.

It takes much time and thought to guide children to become truly good people. And it is still possible in this day and age to raise pure, appreciative, joyful children. The thing is- it requires a lot of brain power to override the abundant influences working against achieving this goal. We need to understand well who each constantly evolving individual child is in order to be able to guide him or her along the unique pathway that can lead to the fulfillment of his or her highest potential.

More than most of us realize, in a myriad of ways, parenting is as systematic as a science. In other ways, it is an art. Art is defined (by my little Random House Dictionary) as "the production and expression of what is beautiful." That's one side of parenting. Overwhelmingly, though, and unfortunately, it is becoming a lost art.

What kind of intellectual skills are needed in order to strive toward greatness in parenting? There are the finely tuned skills needed to assess whether or not a child is capable of moving on to his or her own next stage of development. There are the perceptual powers required in order to determine the best time to step forward and help out a child, or step back and let the child try, without our involvement. And there are cognitive abilities that are a prerequisite for teaching children the skills that will enable them to make themselves happy in life. These are the skills like transforming negative experiences into positive ones, working through angry emotions, and learning how to appreciate all that they have.

Today, people no longer think that I'm nuts There is a tremendous amount of pre-planning that goes into good parenting, and there is also plenty of on-the-spot quick thinking needed, too. Parents have to figure out the most effective ways to help their children understand how to get along with others- how to circumvent fights, and how to feel confident being themselves. Parents also need to study well and know when to implement the systematic skills that help minimize whining, tantrums and disrespectful behavior from children.

Everyone readily admits that parenting is physically and emotionally demanding. But, intellectually demanding? That's overlooked. The ironic part is that parenting would be dramatically less demanding physically and emotionally if more of our intellectual abilities were utilized in the process.

Then, there are the people who tell me that with today's economy the way it is, it is no longer a viable option for women to be home with their children. I'm here to prove that it is still a wonderful choice readily available, especially for women with intellectual prowess. We live simply, but with a much higher quality of life, I think, than most harried families, who are always rushing about with no time to enjoy what they're hurrying after.

In a myriad of ways, parenting is as systematic as a scienceA lot of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and creativity does go into our daily lifestyle. Clothes, leftovers and even those little plastic sandwich bags get "recycled" again and again through the family. But our children have an enthusiastic appreciation for even the smallest of things. And that, I believe, is one of the most valuable gifts a person can ever receive.

A synthesis of values from the homebound 5O's, freeing 6O's and 7O's, and overextended 8O's, 90's and 00's can now, hopefully, begin to culminate into a much deeper and broader view, encompassing all the options from which a woman can honestly choose.

As women come to respect parenting more, making their theoretical priorities a reality, they can devote more of their talents and concentration to their children. When we help our children grow up beautifully, we will at the same time be helping ourselves to grow- in the most authentic way possible.

We can still have fulfilling marriages. We can still have respectful, responsible children involved with us in a mutually rewarding relationship. But too many minds still remain shut to the intellectually stimulating potential of homemaking. Well, they always told me that my Harvard education would open doors. These are the closed doors I hope to open.