Back in the day, I was determined to go to college to be a theater major. But during the first semester of my senior year of high school, Fate swooped in and decided I'd focus on writing. While neither field is known for its plethora of related careers after graduation, it worked out for me. I'm a professional writer and I frequently draw from the literature portion of my B.A. in my daily life, including my life as a mother. Turns out, there are ways being an English major prepares you for parenthood that you wouldn't necessarily expect.
I reject the derisive "English majors are useless!" line I hear a lot from people who don't have one. (And even from some self-loathing chaps who do.) There's even a song from the musical Avenue Q called "What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?" (It's funny, if slightly painful.) And, yeah, there aren't too many jobs out there that rely on an encyclopedic knowledge of Melville or anything, and chances are as an English major you'll leave college thousands of dollars in debt. But this is hardly a plight exclusive to English majors. And it's not like one gets nothing out of an English degree. I feel like you can't not grow and develop as a learner or creator after spending four years immersed in building your critical thinking, writing, and rhetorical skills. And, of course, there's the sheer joy a bookish person experiences when they're buried in books. (It takes some of the sting out of being buried in student loan debt.)
And a bonus for moms and dads? It really does help you on your parenting journey, and in the following ways:
You're Used To All-Nighters
I once read all of Dante's Purgatorio in a single night. That many pages is a lot, to be sure, but it's doable. Still, that many pages of Purgatorio? Probably the densest (and most tedious) section of The Divine Comedy? I'm pretty sure I've never been the same ever since (that much Medieval Italian philosophy will change a girl).
And it wasn't just Dante? I've spent many a night obsessing over high-brow content until the sun came up. When you're taking 24 credits and 18 of them are upper level literature courses that's just part of the deal. It's great practice for having an infant who thinks 2 a.m. is high noon.
You Have Stamina For Tedious Tasks
Anyone who becomes an English major loves to read and is probably at the very least not adverse to writing a paper or two (or 9,284). But that doesn't mean all written word is created equal, my friends. I'm sorry, but they can't all be winners (see also Purgatorio). And sometimes "important" literature isn't always the most interesting, but you have to get through it in order to get a fuller understanding of stuff that is in your wheelhouse. As such, English majors get really good at plodding through some real snoozers while remaining sharp and engaged.
This is a crucial skill in parenting, both in the infant stage and in the stage where you're watching Frozen for the 9,284th time.
You Like To Get All Information When Assessing A Situation
Context is crucial. The era in which the writer was working, the political backdrop, the cultural references, their own personal history and relationships, when in their lives they penned a certain work: it all matters. All details are relevant details and every sentence is there for a reason. English majors like as full a picture as possible when analyzing a work in order to do so effectively and accurately.
Context is also crucial when dealing with babies. Are they hungry? What time of day is it? What kind of morning did they have? Being detail oriented and knowing the full scope of what you're dealing with is really going to help you out.
You're Tremendously Talented At Talking Out Of Your Butt
Because I'd be lying to you if I pretended English majors were always on top of things. I'm pretty extremely Type A when it comes to school, but I didn't always have the reading done or have a great idea of what I was talking about. But over time you learn to make do with what little information you have in order to skate by until you can get your sh*t together.
This "informed improvisation" is great for when your kid is on the verge of a meltdown and you need to talk them down from it.
"No, we can't go to the playground. Oh, didn't you hear? It's closed for repairs. Yeah, apparently a big branch fell on the jungle gym and the workers need to come and clear it and then make some repairs. It'll be open again tomorrow. We can go then."
You guys, I pull this kind of thing all the time. Thank you, English degree!
You're Good With Subtext
You become adept at reading between the lines when you engage in enough reading (also you're probably pretty good at it to begin with, since this is your chosen academic field). This is going to come in handy as your kids get older and start getting shifty.
You Can Incisively Get To The Heart Of An Issue
Because what is studying English if not figuring out what All This Really Means and supporting your conclusion? For all the details and the subtext and context, what ultimately matters is cutting through the words on the page to get to the meaning. Everything you're looking at in the process is there to help you figure that out. Parenting is a lot like that, too, because your kid doesn't always know what's going on with them (especially when they're itty bitty but, in my experience, it's a theme that carries on for a while) and they need you to figure it out.
You're A Wonderful Storyteller
If that English degree came with any creative writing classes then you've got some experience in spinning a yarn, which will surely entertain your littles.
Your Well Of Baby Name Inspiration Never Runs Dry
Seriously, you could have a million babies and still have names to spare! It's the best!
This Is Not The First Time You've Felt Unprepared For Real Life
Again, I fully stand by the idea that an English degree is useful and good... but I will fully admit that it doesn't exactly prepare you to go off and adult. Then again, I'm pretty sure that's true of 99 percent of all degrees out there. Nothing prepares you for adulting, aside from the act of adulting. Similarly, no amount of study or prep will ever prepare you for parenthood. You just have to do it.
You're Excellent At Arguing Your Point
Again, this is mostly going to come in handy when your kids get older and think having an opinion is the same as having a law degree.
You're Aware Of A Lot Of Psychological Weirdness That Accompanies Parenting
Because let's be honest here: one of The Big Themes throughout all literature is "how our parents screwed us up and how our relationships continue to be weird and toxic." So, really, your English degree was four years of cautionary tales for your own parenting years!
You're Used To Dealing With Other People's Sh*t
If you meet an English major who cannot describe, at length and in detail, that one guy in their program who constantly monopolized class discussion and interrupted every woman in the room to tell them they were wrong and argued with the professor and couldn't admit that someone else had another interpretation of the book and was also insufferable during writing workshops, then that person is lying to you about being an English major. That guy is somehow in every English program in every college and university in the country. Probably the world.
Handling his complete crap for years will prepare you for handling your child's literal crap by making it look pleasant in comparison.
You're All Set (And Excited) To Read With Your Kids
You've been building their library since before they were born. This is going to be awesome.