I was the kid who preferred reading novels all day to playing outside or with toys, or even watching tv. I would escape for hours into a novel, and as soon as that was finished pick up another. Most things I read were not great literature, but as my excellent high school guided me in my reading choices, I became more selective. In college I was a part of the honors Great Books program, and slowly learned to become a scholar. My final degrees of choice were theology and philosophy, and through several inspiring yet academically rigorous professors I learned how to do research and write a good paper. My then fiancé and I both decided to take a summer and school year to work on our Masters degrees, I chose theology and he philosophy. That year was very formative. I realized that I truly enjoyed the intellectual rigor of studying the liberal arts, the one I studied being theology. Once I graduated the studying ceased. I discussed prayer last week, here I want to discuss continuing the intellectual life.
The first thing to do is READ. However, since time is so precious, one has to be particular about what to read. I spent much of my first pregnancy immersed in classic novels, and then if you go back a few years on this blog you can see my feeble attempts to “get something out of them.” I was not very good at reading more than fiction after four years of intense study at the university, but I read the occasional history and essay. My husband continually encourages me to read philosophy and theology. It helped that there were several books he wanted me to read. I have read a quarter of his dissertation. He convinced me to start the Summa Theologica during my second pregnancy. I made it a few questions in. I am also reading the assigned readings for his class on Catholic Social Teaching this semester, and am in the midst of a good novel. The point is to make good choices about what you read and take the time to do it. I do most of my reading after the kids are in bed, and sometimes I can do a little when they are playing together (though that time is usually for housework or playing with them).
The next thing I do is TALK. I talk to my husband, of course. It helps that my best friend whom I live with loves great books, theology, and of course philosophy. It did take several years of marriage for me to realize how important it was to him that I converse with him about what he is currently researching and about what I am reading. It is really good for our friendship and marriage when we keep up with each other in an intellectual way. I also am blessed with friends from college who are geeks like me and read classic novels. These we discuss via phone. But having people who share your interests to talk to really helps.
The last thing I do is to write this blog. I am determined to write one more intellectual post a week about some of my reading or based in conversations I have had. My husband likes to write ideas in a journal. He also gets paid to think, so that helps him. But as a stay at home mom, reading, talking, and writing is a big struggle and it is a challenge to make it a priority.
Making the effort to do these three things has helped me find balance in my life, and keeps me happy. The intellectual life is as essential to my life as regular prayer and regular exercise, and it make my husband happy. Knowing these things about myself, I also know that I really have to work at it. It is not easy to develop the habits, but it is possible even while taking care of small children and a home. I know it make me a better mother and wife, and when I get bombarded with questions about God or life by an almost three year old I feel confident in my answer and pleased to be beginning a liberal education for my children.