Tamar Asraf
Tamar Asraf Tamar is married to Eyal and mother of five children. She lives in Eli. Tamar is the spokesperson for the Binyamin Regional Council. Tuesday 14.6.16 No comments 1108 views

A Masters in Motherhood

I earned my Masters in motherhood.

Why don’t I have a “real” degree? During the years when everyone was in college, I chose to do other things. I studied Judaism, which of course changed my life, and to this day I am thankful for the choice I made. Afterward, I began to study Ceramic Design at Bezalel Academy of Arts, but in the middle of the first semester, I got married. The night I started dreaming about the projects I had to submit, I realized that Bezalel was getting on my nerves. Being a slave to the system just wasn’t for me. Toward the end of the semester, I excitedly discovered that I was pregnant, and that was the best reason to get up and leave. For quite a few years afterward, I pursued a degree in raising my children.

I felt that I wanted to be with them. Knowing myself intimately, I knew that I would be unable to compromise on anything, and that deadly combination of perfectionism and fatalism left me at home for many, many years. I have tons of friends who did it, giving birth and studying, and they were all hugely successful – with charming children and a perfect degree. But I knew that I was not that type. I don’t go with the flow, I don’t take anything lightly and I don’t know how to occasionally play hooky.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret it for a minute. For the past six years, I have been working outside my house, and I understand that I made the right choice. I wouldn’t have managed. When I started working, despite the fact that the children were pretty old, I felt literally torn between home and work. Every Thursday, I promised myself that I was quitting on Sunday. It took me two years to find the balance, to feel that I could actually breathe within this madness. When I started to calm down and lift up my head and take a look around me – I understood how unusual I was. Because almost everyone around me had a degree, or even two, and their salaries, levels and potential for advancement were and still are far beyond mine. When I dared, two years later, to try to understand what lies ahead for me in terms of advancement, I realized that the answer is – not much. Not that employers wouldn’t be happy to advance me; in fact, they would be very happy, but it’s practically impossible when you’re working without a degree.

Occasionally, I was lucky to receive interesting phone calls with offers that I never dreamed I would receive – a large corporation here, an important position there. Despite the fact that the conversation began with “We’ve heard wonderful things about you,” or “We received very warm recommendations,” the call quickly ended with “Oh, that’s too bad, because without a degree, we can’t progress.”

About a month ago, I was invited to an interview. There were a few interesting offers on the table. They asked to hear about me and what I do, and they had also received very warm recommendations. I told them about myself and the conversation was going really well, until we got to the topic of degrees. The young woman who was interviewing me was utterly shocked. Of course, she has about a hundred degrees. In just one second, everything she thought about me was over.

I left the office feeling horrible. Darn it, I know what I’m worth, I know how much ability, strength, talent and willpower I have, and I know what I can do. But without the degree, I’m just not worth anything. Sorry about sounding arrogant, but there are people with two degrees who aren’t able to handle half of what I can handle. Very quickly, I felt those familiar feelings of “I’m worthless” gaining momentum, and the truth is that at that moment, I did feel useless. But then on my way home, one of my kids called me, and as a powerful feeling of love swept over me, I realized that I don’t regret it. I am sure that one day, I’ll get that degree that I can wave in the air. Although until that happens, the truth is that no one will be interested in me anymore, because in the cruel world of the employment market, there’s a certain age when you’re considered an antique, or to put it delicately, there are younger prospects who are much more talented.

After I got over the self-pitying stage, I decided that although the problem is mine, it doesn’t start with me. The fact that we are measured according to our degrees and not according to our capabilities is part of a system that looks at the cover instead of reading the book. This is one of our biggest weaknesses as a culture. I have nothing against academia and definitely nothing against the desire to learn and develop, and I’m sure that I would not want to be examined by a doctor who didn’t study medicine or let an engineer without a degree build my house. I just hope that one day, we will be able to make room for those who don’t have a degree for various reasons but do have talents and capabilities.

One of the strongest feelings that I carry with me is the fact that there is one employer who did agree to hire me despite the fact that I don’t have a degree, and for that huge vote of confidence I am grateful and very appreciative. Today I know how rare that is.

A few weeks ago, I read a eulogy written by journalist Dror Idar about his mother, a simple woman who immigrated from Iran and raised her children with great effort. His words about his mother touched me deeply. The feeling I felt while reading the eulogy was that there is a lot of truth in his words. Along with my dream of advancing and developing, of realizing my potential, of contributing, at the end of the day, the most significant thing that I have done in my life is my five children – the time, thought, love and dedication that I invested in them. The people who they will grow up to be, the families that they will build, are my biggest mission in this world. I know that this might annoy some of you, and I will probably get quite a bit of criticism for what I wrote here, but I know with complete inner certainty that this is the real thing.

Of course, there is a time in life for everything, and every woman is different, and there are women for whom working does them well and they are still wonderful mothers at the same time. For me, knowing that is very encouraging. True, I don’t have a degree and perhaps I won’t be able to advance professionally, and my salary won’t be very high either, but I did what I believed in, and I don’t regret it.

 

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