My fourteen-year old recently asked me this question. He overheard me telling a friend how happy I was to be able to say “soy una escritora” in my Spanish class and mean it. He asked “why didn’t you answer soy una madre?” Why indeed?
When I was in high school, I was one of seven valedictorians of my senior class (yes, that is and was ridiculous and we could debate at length why our school couldn’t pick just one valedictorian, but that is beside the point). One of the other valedictorians, a girl named Julie, said to me in a not very nice moment, “you’ll never have a career. You’re going to be just a mom.” “NO WAY!” I thought, right before I thought to myself how much I really didn’t like this girl.
Today her words haunt me. Why “just a mom?” Why not family CEO and human development engineer? When our oldest was one, we left him at my parents’ home and went to Vail to stay overnight and ski with friends. A man I didn’t know very well asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was a stay-at-home mom. He said, “Oh, no. You mean you are a CEO, a CFO, engineer, chef…” and about ten other high-powered and flattering titles that I can’t remember.
These days, with my children much more self-sufficient, I often think of myself not as someone with high-powered titles, but more as someone who does the mind-numbing, exhausting work of illegal immigrants: cleaning, lawn care and food preparation. Recognizing that many of these immigrants may have Masters degrees just like me, but couldn’t find work in their home countries, I bear them no ill will. We are comrades in arms in the domestic labor mill.
I love my sons and there are times when being at home with them has been magical. I am relieved that as they progress through their teen years that I am home after school to supervise and support them. I know they appreciate me being at home, as they have actually told me they feel “lucky.” I feel “lucky” too.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a mom. Soy una madre.
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