The First Day of Class

11 Sep

Or, Feminism, have I failed thee? (I say no!)

Yesterday was my first day of school in a long time. Besides a photography class at ND, I haven’t taken college courses since graduating several years ago. AUC was kind enough to offer free courses for faculty spouses though, and seeing as how Egyptian students are paying the equivalent of $120,000 per year in tuition, I figured that was a pretty good deal. You know, free. Always good.

Getting into classes was an ordeal in and of itself and I almost gave up and resigned myself to a semester of thumb-twiddling. After days of yelling at Admissions, and them yelling back (seriously, everyone yells) I was able to convince them that yes, I was capable of taking college courses, however it was established that they were not capable of running their own office. The problem was they had lost my transcript, found it, sent it to a completely random office, told me I never turned it in, found it after I pointed out that it was sitting in a random office, then told me that I couldn’t take classes because I had not yet applied, despite the fact that my application was attached to my transcript, had been sent in a month before, and was already entered into the system. Once this was all squared away, I asked how long it would take before I could enroll in classes. The answer? Not until you’ve turned in your application. I. kid. you. not.

But that’s all behind me now, and I prefer not to dwell on it. I enrolled in two classes and was excited to start them yesterday. The first was an art seminar called Children’s Books. The course has three objectives: to study the art in ancient manuscripts and folk tales, to study the art of contemporary artists whose work is influenced by children’s art (Klee, Miro, Picasso, Chagall), and to learn illustration and bookbinding techniques with the ultimate goal of creating a children’s book. Is that not the coolest description ever?

The class was really interesting and the professor is enthusiastic. The class is made up of eight Egyptian women and myself. In talking about the purpose of the class, the professor said that the overall goal was to teach us something that would help us be better mothers. No one batted an eye.

Now if we were at a US school, say Notre Dame, the women would be up in arms! We’re not taking this so we can be a better mother! We’re taking this so we can be a better person! To build our characters! How dare you imply that motherhood is our only purpose and worth! We’re thinking publishing career, Eric Carle, Harry Potter! It’s none of your business, Mister Professor, if I even want to be a mother, let alone a good one!

Well ladies, I have failed you. Normally, I would have gotten all irate at this patriarch deigning to teach these little woman not to further their education and career goals, but to focus on their innate nurturing abilities, disregarding whether they could or even wanted to be mothers. However, I must confess I am pregnant. And a little sentimental. So instead of rolling my eyes or correcting the professor, I had dreamy visions in my head of reading hand-painted bedtime stories to little Jihad every night. Yes, I thought, what a great purpose.

Being pregnant has definitely made me a little softer. I used to inwardly roll my eyes when women acted as if pregnancy was this mystical, spiritual experience. It sounded pretty miserable to me, followed by being chained down, halting your plans, and dealing with a lot of smells that no one would normally choose to deal with. However, I am now one of those women. Go ahead, pity me if you will, I have become…maternal.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been sick at all and there really has not been a single miserable moment of my pregnancy but I really am enjoying this. In fact, I love it, this being pregnant thing. Hearing the heartbeat and feeling the little bumps of a tiny wayward elbow are more thrilling to me than hearing a speech I worked on being read aloud in Parliament. Doesn’t that sound crazy? But it’s true and yet I still feel like me, I don’t feel like I’ve aged or turned into this cardigan-clad soccer mom. Rather than taking over the world in a snazzy business suit and great earrings being my priority, doing a good job at this mom thing has jumped to number one. And I can still do it wearing great earrings. The business suit might be a little impractical but believe me, there are no “mom jeans” in my future.

So back to this class. It wasn’t until later that I thought back and realized what the professor had said and how out of place it would have felt in an American classroom. But I didn’t mind, because I have reached a point where I value my potential as everything from an ambitious learner to a loud laugher to a future career woman to a soon-to-be mother.

14 Responses to “The First Day of Class”

  1. Dre September 11, 2007 at 6:52 pm #

    And you are – and will be – superb at all the above.

  2. tracy m September 11, 2007 at 9:12 pm #

    “Hearing the heartbeat and feeling the little bumps of a tiny wayward elbow are more thrilling to me than hearing a speech I worked on being read aloud in Parliament. Doesn’t that sound crazy?”

    Nope. Welcome to motherhood!

  3. ldl September 11, 2007 at 9:13 pm #

    YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  4. Jeff September 11, 2007 at 11:45 pm #

    This must be a part of growing up, I now understand much better many things that I used to roll my eyes at. Many of them being child related. I’m 31 and I’m finally starting to mature, I guess. Just don’t tell my wife! 🙂

    Was it really a “patriarch deigning to teach these little woman?” American culture has devauled motherhood so much that maybe it is our sensibilities that frame it like that. I admit, my first reaction is the same as yours, but maybe that is the wrong way to take it.

    Having dealt with people from a few different cultures (mostly Indian and Chinese), their sense of family is leaps beyond mine in some ways.

  5. Yvette September 12, 2007 at 12:25 am #

    Who would think that bureaucracies are the same all over the world! I just found out that you have to apply to graduate and pay a fee!!!

    Well, welcome to the parents club. We all want to be the best mom and dad, but I think we will always doubt our efforts and our decisions. The one thing that is universal to us all is that we want the best for our little ones and that’s what makes the next generation more advanced than our own. We are constanly evolving and we are a part of what was, is and will be.

    I guess that’s enough of my rant. Much love, and send me your first childrens book. My son needs to read!

  6. Melissa September 12, 2007 at 9:17 am #

    Jeff, you’re totally right. I was being tongue in cheek in my description of the professor. That reaction is the immediate one my American quasi-feminist sensibilities tell me to respond with. But like you, I’m disappointed in the extreme shift away from valuing motherhood that has occured in American culture and comforted to witness a society in which it is a badge of honor.

    On the other hand, the emphasis on family here certainly seems to be the right direction, however beyond the surface, I think the pendulum swings too far. With the positive consequences of a family-centric society come the negative. The women receiving a higher education are the exception and are that only because they are extremely wealthy. Even so, many of them will never have the option for a career outside of mother. One only needs to walk around after dark here to see endless groups of boys playing and hanging out while their sisters are inside cooking and watching the younger siblings to get a sense of this.

    Oh for a happy medium!

  7. Uncle David September 12, 2007 at 1:16 pm #

    You know that photography class will really help you when you start the little Tut’s first scrapbook.

  8. mom September 12, 2007 at 2:41 pm #

    Do you now begin to see the rationale behind my
    “mom tax” o wise one?

  9. becca September 12, 2007 at 5:36 pm #

    Melissa, I have been pondering this post for a few days. I have always tried to be loyal to the independence of women and our ability to do whatever we want. we dont have to all be moms! we can do anything! And dont let the men tell us otherwise. LOL. But…. I too am a mom… and I sooo know what you mean. I do think its nice to hear that motherhood is so special and critical and important. You are so right about finding a medium. Ugh…In a dream world I suppose. Within motherhood I find it always depends on the day! One day it all feels grand and good and righteous doing, and others, a job away from the kids, outa the house sounds down right heavenly! So even the mothers ourselves search endlessly for the perfect balance. How nice to hear you are having a nice pregnancy! I can relate to that. Be glad you are far from those who dont have such luck, they may try to throw a book at you! Enjoy it! (the easy pregnancy, not the book throwing!)

  10. Melissa September 12, 2007 at 7:53 pm #

    I just can’t help posting this, courtesy of Elaina:

    “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”
    — Pat Robertson, fundraising letter, 1992

  11. Cody September 12, 2007 at 8:18 pm #

    I take exception to the cardigan remark.

    I’m all for unconventional names, but Jihad? Since Patrick’s from Utah, shouldn’t it be Geehodd or something?

    Or even better, Gerald Hod. Then when he’s a general authority he’ll be G. Hod Mason.

  12. Kay September 12, 2007 at 9:29 pm #

    Melissa, I remember years and years and years ago when my children were little going to Jim’s office parties and being embarrassed because my only career was changing diapers. Many years later and probably a few episodes of Oprah (Phil Donahue never talked about the value of being a mother) I realized how important my role of “Mom” was and what an important contribution to society I was making. I have many regrets in life, but becoming a mother, even with it’s heartaches is not one of them.

  13. Uncle David September 13, 2007 at 1:49 am #

    I can’t believe I didn’t get Pat’s letter. I am sorry for your oppression.

    I think Cody is on to something. G. Hod, man I wish I’d of thought of that. That would make the flights home fun.

  14. Miranda September 14, 2007 at 6:29 am #

    Sounds like a cool class, Melissa. I hope you have fun. Is there anything wrong with learning about neat things to teach your kids. I confess I have dreams about reading fairy tales (even Harry Potter) in Latin to my kids.

    What is the other class that you are taking?

    I am finishing my second week of classes, and the semester is already settling into a regular pattern. I have already read responses from all my students and know what I’ll have to work on to help them improve their writing and to learn about medieval Christianity.

    I was called to be in the nursery last week, which makes me happy. South Bend’s nursery was mostly girls, but my new ward has fifteen or so boys and two or three girls as well as two sets of twins. This nursery lets the kids play with play-do in spite of the carpet. Who wouldn’t want to go to church and make play-do animals?

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