The summer after I studied abroad in London I had a crisis of educational faith. I had never learned so much in such a short period of time. By the time I had finished class, the galleries, the homework, and the dinner-table discussion with professors, I’d erased the fifth grade to fit it all in.

I loved spending all of my energy learning. When I got home from London, for various reasons I sort of became a mom.  I cooked, I cleaned, I picked my brothers up from football practice, I went to parent-teacher conferences. My mom was gone and so I did the things she normally did. The sudden switch from learning student to scrubbing mom was a bit . . . terrifying.

It was too stark. I started to worry about the purpose of all this education. If my personal endgame was motherhood, what on earth did the Venerable Bede and Vera Brittain have to do with this parent teacher conference? One afternoon, as I was canning peaches (yes, canning peaches) with my sister-in-law, I brought it up. Wendy, brilliant and educated mother of four, would help me understand the value of education in mothering. She would say the things I needed to hear about enriching my mind, preparing for the future, opening my eyes, etc. “Wendy,” I said. “Why am I working so hard in school if I’m just going to be a mom?”

 “I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I forgot everything I learned.”

 For some reason I keep thinking about that.