Happy Mother’s Day Week to all of you lovely mothers, but most especially to my own dearest, most beautiful mother. She has always been and always will be my number one lady to look up to, admire, try (very hard) to be like, and look forward to laughing with. I’ve never seen such a tiny woman have so much power: power to love, to teach, to lead, to be content, to follow when necessary, to endure, to create, to learn, to adapt, and to be forever and always my incredible mother. I know everyone thinks that their mum is the world’s best mum, and I’m ever so glad that they do, but I am also happy to announce that I’m sorry, but I think I still have everyone beat. Love you mum.
I think I love Mothers Day even more than my own mother because it’s the only day you are frowned upon if you aren’t seen getting a pedicure, drinking far too large of sweet coffee beverages, and drifting through a day doing all things feminine. I can’t speak for the gentlemen who speed off to the card-aisle hours before their mom-date, but for me, I thoroughly enjoy my mommy-time.
I’ve written many times on the topic of working women. And the debates are endless about whether women should or shouldn’t work when the next generation comes along: Is it cruel to have a child and then never be around to raise it? Is it archaic to think modern households can tread water without two incomes? Do we even want to stay home anymore? Is it better for them? Is it better for us? But… what about if you don’t have a choice? What then? Even if you’re a staunch supporter of the stay-at-home ladies or an ambitious arguer for the go-out-and-live-and-work-and-have-a-family women, whatever side of the proverbial fence you’re on, doubts from the “other side” always seem to creep in don’t they? Claire Gutierrez, in her article for Elle magazine last Tuesday, took the stance that she is happy to have to work when she becomes a mom, not because she’d rather have a career than have more time to spend with her family, but because she has to have a career in order to raise a family. Though married, her partner doesn’t bring in as much income as she does, and besides that, her job has the ever-important benefit card going for it. In a nut-shell, Claire makes the point that for her, removing the option of to work or not to work was like having a weight lifted off her shoulders because she would have something to say if and when someone ever asked, or if and when those “bad-mother” doubts began to creep in and cry, “why are you leaving your kids again?” She could simply say, “because I have to for them to survive.”
She hits on an interesting point, that is that ladies should only feel guilty about choosing career over a family if they don’t have to have a career. That is, less choice equals less guilt. If you have to be at work for your kids, it’s not so “bad” as if you’re just working for you. If she stopped at that point, she might have something. But, she went on to muddle through the argument that all anti-stay-at-homers fall into, that is that motherhood isn’t anything to aspire to, that desiring to be with your children is like a teen girl never growing out of, or maturing from, the Friday night babysitting phase. She says that her own mother encouraged her daughters to “not be like her” because they were “too smart.” Further, she states that no moms with daughters that she knows hope their daughters will cast aside their ambitions to be “just a mother.” She then references (and is seemingly agreeing with) a young girl from Hanna Rosin’s now famous article The End of Men, when the young girl asks her own mother a rather disturbing question:
Why is [my education] important if I’m just going to grow up and be a mommy like you?
Motherhood doesn’t have a very good reputation, maybe it never did, maybe the good mums have always been under-appreciated because many times many mothers really are just baby-sitters: wanting to dress up little ones, decorate nurseries, organize play-dates and not deal with, or prepare for, shaping a small life. That’s kind of what Claire makes it sound like…at least when she says that though she has no choice not to work, she actually finds great relief in, and joyfully toasts “(her) good fortune not to have to change quite so many diapers, not to have to push the swing for quite so long, not to have to read Green Eggs and Ham a thousand times.” So, if that’s how our culture sees motherhood, then maybe we should toss the job to the guys and tell our little women to grow up and do something else more estimable. Who wants to be a 35 year-old baby-sitter anyway?
But, what is “just” a “mother”? If you look it up in the dictionary, one explanation is simply “a female parent.” Ok, that’s a given, but other explanations give a little more insight into what the term means:
MOTHER: (n) (2.) a woman in authority; (3) something that is an extreme or ultimate example
Wow. “To be an extreme and ultimate example”? Holy crap, that’s quite the job description, a job that you should enter as well-equipped as possible. That’s why education, ambitions, and achievements are important if you are, will be, or want to be a mum. The idea that if you “just” want to be a mom then you don’t have to be educated or have your own desires, goals, and life-achievements is a very upside down view of motherhood. In The End of Men article that Claire references in her own monologue, the article retells story after story of how young women who have degrees, goals, and good-jobs, are anticipating letting their current or future boyfriends, fiances, and husbands “play around with the kiddies at home” since the men in their lives are essentially failing in the grown-up world.
Ok, sure, so caring for a three-year-old doesn’t require a law degree. Raising a child doesn’t require a degree at all. Sure, if the one parent who happens to have the law degree is the mum and the dad chooses to stay home then great, but what I’m saying is, what does raising a child well require? What does the idea that… if dad is kinda “the dumb one,” well, he’ll raise our kids…do to the kids? When you graduate from college and head out into the world for whatever job you’re seeking, don’t you want to be the over-qualified one? Hardly anyone gets hired by just having the minimum listed on their resume. Don’t you want to know what to do in every circumstance? To bring experiences, knowledge, and insight into situations that someone else doesn’t have? Why wouldn’t you want to do that with your own child? Since when has motherhood become the janitor job? The unqualified position? The GED optional job? Since I guess girls started being told that being a mother is “just” something to do. Since our culture stopped looking up the definition of motherhood. Since mothers stopped at “just” being a female parent instead of an extreme and ultimate example. And, since motherhood became a choice instead of a privilege.
If you are the breadwinner for your family then good for you. If you have to work, and that’s the best thing you can do for future or current little ones, then it’s wonderful that you have that opportunity. But, if you have to, or even if you want to work, don’t ever let the least qualified raise your kids and don’t ever become the least qualified that will be raising your kids because you won’t “just be a mommy” you will be embarking on setting the “extreme and ultimate example.”
I have lots to celebrate today. For one thing, its the first monthiversary of the blog! It seems both much longer and much sooner than a month ago that I began. Thank-you to everyone who has been reading along and commenting, its so great to hear feedback of what you’re enjoying most.
It is one of my main intentions with this blog to offer to all of you some examples of women who embody the definition of a classic woman: one who is graceful, kind, seeks to lead by example, is able to love and be loved, supports, inspires, is ambitious without being aggressive, and selflessly nurtures when called upon to do so.
Perhaps you say though that this still doesn’t prove it can be done in the modern world; that this style and way of life is archaic. That the modern world necessitates that we re-think how women dress, act, achieve, and live. You even may say that the era of golden girls like Grace and Sandra is long gone, and Mary Poppins’ lessons are fine and dandy for when you’re five years old, but what about when you grow up and its 2012? What then?
It is possible though. I am convinced because I see it acted out everyday. The muse is a real woman; in fact, she’s a modern woman, and I offer her to you as a perfect example of what it means to represent femininity at its best.
She’s my real life Grace Kelly, my Mrs. Gigglebelly, my Mary Poppins. Everything that fills my life with joy and beauty, I first learned from my mother:
I learned about Jane Austen from her copy of Pride and Prejudice, placed always on the dining room bookshelves and read so often the binding was falling to pieces. I learned that reading the entire children’s section of the Beale Memorial Library was not impossible. I learned that writing was fun; that Doris Day and Cary Grant are the best on-screen couple. I learned that the most powerful job you can have is being a wife and mother; that showing love is not measured by dollar signs but often by a handmade gift, always (willingly) showing up to every dance rehearsal, putting someone’s hair in the perfect bun, or racing home to fetch the forgotten essay. I learned that arguments are settled by conversation, and that there won’t be arguments if there is conversation. I learned that you don’t have to know what you’re doing to decorate a room, you just try it and love it or hate it and change it and have so much fun in between. I learned that being selfless makes you the most precious, that laughter is the most beautiful sound in a home, and what reliability looks like.
Most of all though, what I learned from my Mom is how to love. How to show someone that they are your whole world, that you cannot imagine a life without them, and how you never regret anything that is for them. So, thanks mom, for being a muse far better than any other woman, real or fictional, and for effortlessly acting out what it means to be a wonderful woman. Oh yes, and happy birthday.