Tuesday, December 4, 2007

MRS Course Requirements

At BYU, where I went to school, there are lots of jokes about young women getting their “MRS” degree. I took a demanding load of random classes: Art and Technology, Environmental Biology, The Philosophy of Wealth, Cultures of Africa, Advanced Literary Theory. And I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the result. I went on to get a master’s degree in women’s studies and folklore--all of which is patently unmarketable--but I feel everything I ever learned has helped me to be a better mother. Also I think the fact that I got an education helps me feel more content with my choice to be a housewife.

As a student of third-wave feminism (the first wave being the suffrage movement, the second wave being the 1970s emphasis on equal rights and women’s access to the workplace), I learned that women today should feel empowered to make whatever life choices they wish--including seemingly unenlightened choices such as being a housewife and spending days nurturing children, keeping house, and supporting husband.

Nevertheless, there are some gaps in my education. Things that as a housewife I would really benefit from knowing. I have gone through BYU’s entire course catalog and compiled the following list of classes future housewives should take. In this post-feminist world, let’s admit it: Lots of us girls are going to choose to grow up to be housewives.

Here, for your education and enlightenment, is my courselist for your MRS degree.

(I’ve omitted anything from the following departments: Home and Family Living, Education, Religion, and Marriage Family and Human Development. Anything from those departments would fill degree requirements. Although, it’s both feasible and enjoyable to learn things like cooking, sewing, and interior design on the fly as a mom.)

Accounting 200: Principles of Accounting
I do resumes for people who manage the finances of major corporations through major organizational changes. And then I struggle to keep our family finances straight. I wish I were better educated in this area so my simple household budget looked easy.

Accounting 320: Introductory Income Tax
Over the years I’ve wrestled thousands of dollars for our family from our income tax returns. What if I was actually educated in this area? And what’ll I do now that I have business expenses to consider?

American Sign Language 101: Conversation ASL
I love the trend of teaching babies some basic sign language for those months when they know what you’re saying, know what they want to say, but can’t talk yet. What a nightmare for poor them! And a nightmare for Mom as Baby resorts to screaming and whining. Also, very helpful for telling kids what to do from across the room or during sacrament meeting. How many times have I looked down the pew and wished I knew the signs for, “Please pass the diaper bag down here” or “Where’s the binkie?”

American Sign Language 301: Deaf Culture
This one would be fun, but I include it as a joke. What housewife hasn’t spent days thinking, “Is everyone here deaf?”

Ancient Near Eastern Studies 310: History and Culture of Ancient Israel
For explaining Bible stories and imagery to children with some accuracy.

Anthropology 101: Social/Cultural Anthropology
I was an Anthropology minor in college. I unreservedly and passionately recommend that everyone take this class. Everything you think is just human nature? Culture. Just the way it is? Nope, culture. This class will permanently change your perception of the world and make you grateful for what a crazy, rich place it is.

Business Management: Personal Finance / Planning for Financial Security at Retirement / Basic Entrepreneurship Skills / E-Business Lecture Series
How many housewives end up starting a business? How many more wish they knew how?

Construction Management 311: Quantity Takeoffs
Course description: “Compiling, organizing, and analyzing all the items that influence and contribute to total cost of residential and commercial construction projects.” How many housewives end up needing to know how to manage the cost of residential construction projects?

English 220: Composing Personal History
As an English graduate, I’m a big fan of taking all sorts of literature courses. But this one seemed most relevant for housewives. We’re often the only ones witnessing our children’s histories, and certainly the only ones who will take steps to record it.

French and Spanish 101

I’m certain Roscoe would be flunking Spanish right now if I didn’t know enough to help him with his homework and say “Si hijito, muy bien” when he gets it right.

Information Systems 105: Creating Personal Web Pages

Microbiology and Molecular Biology 221: General Microbiology
Course description: “Microbial world, emphasizing communicable diseases, their causes, and control.” How much time do you spend trying to understand and control communicable diseases?

Organizational Behavior 347: Managerial Leadership Development
How to be a good leader. Isn’t most of being a housewife about getting people to do what you want?

Visual Arts-Photography 210: Introduction to Digital Imaging
Visual Arts-Photography 275: Classical Portrait Photography

This is probably the one I wish for most often. I have all these beautiful children doing charming things and I take terrible pictures of them.

Women’s Studies 392R: Women’s Studies Colloquium
One of the best things I did in college was learn about the history of women’s lives and feminism. I think that when you’re penned in your house helping everyone else in the family go and thrive in the world, it’s nice to feel that you were fully informed about your choices. Plus I resist that feeling that feminism and women’s history is scary. We should know who we are, girls!


  1. Hysterical.
    Anthropology does sound interesting. I wish I had been interested in anything other than being done with college when I was in it. But, who knows? I only have my Associates. Maybe some day I'll decide to go for more.

  2. Brilliant! Definately agree with you on accounting and sign language, but haven't yet had to explain a bible story or budget for a kitchen remodel...some day.

    May I add a class about physics? We certainly did lots of gravity, fire, and chemical experiments at our house.

    And what about a basic architecture class? I disctinctly remember announcing to my parents at 11 at night that I needed to construct a model igloo out of sugar cubes for school the next day. They've never forgotten.

  3. Good point about physics, Jenny. Also, the kids are constantly bombarding me with Bill Nye the Science Guy-type questions and rolling their eyes that I don't have a pithy and accurate answer for how clouds form, how hot metal must be before burning, or the origins of matter.

  4. Interesting - I took several of those courses _ I guess I am on my way to earning my MRS.

    Reagrding metals bruning. It really depends on the metal - they all have different melting and "burning" points. For example, Sodium iirc (a metal) and aluminium instantly oxidize at normal room temperature. WHat this means to you is that you have NEVER seen either of those metals...what you have seen is a coating of oxidation over those metals and assumed it is that metal.
    Magnesium is used as a firestarter on boyscout firestarting kits. You shave some off and light it (the metal) on fire and it, in turn, lights the rest of the fire.
    One last tidbit - if you throw sodium in water it reacts so violently, it will actually explode - oh and it is as soft as butter. Not what you think of when you think of metal is it? We have pigeonholed "metal" into our perception of how "steel" (a compound, not a single elemental "metal") behaves.

  5. Wow, Joe. Way to make my point about the value of that MRS. My kids would LOVE to have a parent that throws out that kind of info. (They have, on occasion, been impressed with my scintillating literary analysis of Harry Potter books--but more in a mom-you're-freaking-us-out kind of way.)

  6. Great list...I espeically miss the photography classes now. How I wish I learned how to take good pictures of people!

  7. I don't mean to be rude, but I feel we are not in a post-feminist world now. I feel we are still in a feminist era.

    I attend one of the top engineering colleges in the US and I plan on having a career where I will most likely earn more than my future husband. I do not plan on having children until my 30s (atleast) and I do not plan on getting married anytime soon.

    Also, the classes that you list are not as challenging as you may think....there are many people (and many women included) that take classes such as
    "International Logistics", "Advanced Biophysics", "Graph Theory", etc. One of my classmates will be a Physics professor, most likely at MIT. I will be an engineer working in international business and Chinese markets. I will also graduate speaking Chinese fluently.

    I do not understand why women still want to be housewives when there are so many opportunities out there for them to take now-a-days?