When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, one of my young daughters answered “a mom”.
But instead of a smile from the well-meaning adult who had asked her the question, what she got in response was this little gem of a comment: “Well, I think you need to get yourself some higher aspirations.”
And then came the laughter directed towards my child’s comment, as if she had just said she wanted to be a fairy princess or a dollar bill ironer…what a cute little kid answer…ha. Ha. Ha. I took up for my wonderful kid, smiling proudly at her and encouraging her to keep on keeping on and made sure she was okay. And then came my annoyance with this interaction and also my disbelief that this was said with me, THE MOM, in earshot.
There is this view of motherhood as simply something to do or maybe not to do, but definitely not something to aspire to. And I think that stinks. I think motherhood can be a dream and a passion, and I’m okay with a child of mine aspiring to be the owner of a world’s best mom coffee mug when she grows up. But to be honest, this passion for motherhood as a career, a solid career, is a newer one for me. I didn’t always see it that way.
I had a good childhood. I made good grades and knew without a shadow of a doubt that my straight-ish A’s and lists upon lists of extra curricular activities would take me right to college, then to grad school, and then to an exciting career with at least six digits following the dollar sign. I thought about the pencil skirts I would wear to my corner office, and I designed my business cards before I could pull my own hair back in a pony tail. I was going places, because that is what I learned students with sparkling transcripts did, and going places meant a 9 to 5 job with exciting letters before or after your name. But in the midst of this growing up in the world of career fairs and seeing the belief that stay at home moms are those women who sit around and watch their stories on the tube all day, I felt something. And this is what I felt: I felt really, really happy to walk into a friend’s house with a stay at home mom at the helm. And I didn’t think about what this meant for my worldview or my future at that time. All I was thinking about was: it’s nice to have a grown up just a room away in the afternoon. This mom knows where her kids’ stuff is….all of it….that is so very, very helpful. There is a snack ready on the counter, and it doesn’t come from a box. Also, the beds are made in this house, and house guests aren’t even coming. The mom is here when we need something. Now, readers, these are honestly, honestly the thoughts I had as a kid. I am not making some blanket statement here that stay at home moms have better homes. I had a lovely home growing up with a working Mama. And I’m certainly not saying all we stay-at-home moms do is make beds and snacks! What I’m saying is this: the excitement I learned to feel for a mom in the home, was similar to the excitement I felt in a bookstore. My desire to be a mother took shape in my heart in a similar way as my desire to write creatively.
Fast forward to now, being a stay at home mother myself, I know beds are not always made and fruit is not always sliced in cute little shapes ready for kids to munch on with a smile. Believe me, I know this, BUT, what I am saying is that as an adult, I’m not willing to throw out my childhood impressions of the home of a stay at home mom because now I’m embarrassed to say these things, or I feel like I’m going to offend someone. Because they were my real thoughts as a kid, and being in the kid raising business, I think there is some importance to thinking about a child’s mind. So after thinking about my girlhood impressions and adding to them the things I know now, here’s what I want to say: We can all just do the best we can do for our kids, for our family, for our home. And if that best means I stay at home during the day and try to squeeze in writing or teaching time when everything else is accomplished first, then I’m okay with that, and here is why: THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE. I do not stay home with my kids because that whole career thing did not work out. I went to college. I finished grad school. I worked, and I liked it, but here’s the thing: I LOVE creating a warm home environment for my kids, I LOVE teaching my kids, I love organizing our stuff, I love creating lesson plans for my kids, I LIKE knowing the finances and bills and appointment schedules are all taken care of, I love educating myself on food choices and medical choices and educational choices for everyone under my care, I love creating a space in my home that makes us feel at peace, I love helping my kids find their own personal style, I love reading literary works to my kids, I love being there when they cry and knowing why they are crying, I love my home, and I choose making it what it is as my first career path. Kids matter. I would never tell a public school teacher her job doesn’t matter, because teaching kids matters SO MUCH. I would never tell a chef her career doesn’t count, because food is necessary and when you put a necessity with flavor, then that is just amazing. I would never tell an interior designer, a fashion designer, an accountant, a counselor, a life coach, or a piano instructor her job choice is not valid, because those jobs are valid. Those are solid jobs. And I wouldn’t tell someone volunteering at a non-profit organization that her work is not really work since it doesn’t pay in actual dollar bills, and I wouldn’t say that, because despite a lack of a paycheck, it could be very important work.
So maybe we want to stop telling little girls that mothering isn’t a valid life goal, because a mother’s work is important, it is valid, whether or not everyone takes it seriously, it is important. Maybe we could tell these girls that if what they want to do is to raise people, teach them to be world changers, show them how to bring light into a dark world, and take care of them in a full-time way that will not only impact the lives of their children, but the lives of every person those children come into contact with for hopefully the next hundred years and also generations in the future who could potentially be affected by their actions, then hey, that’s a pretty valid choice. And if we supported those moms and encouraged this path in society, then maybe we would have better equipped and trained and prepared moms, and that could have so many, many effects on the world. Mothers are world changers, either in a positive way or a negative. Motherhood is powerful, so please well-meaning person, please do not tell my daughter when she says she wants to be a mother when she grows up that she needs to get “higher aspirations”.
I am NOT for taking away the choice of motherhood for my daughter because some unstudied-on-this-topic person says she’s too smart to be a mother. I’m for telling girls they can be a full-time mother. I’m also for telling little girls they can be astrophysicists. I want my daughters to know they can spend their days creating art, performing scientific experiments, for taking care of their children, or a combination of motherhood and another kind of work. It’s not cool with me to tell little girls that they must have a ton of kids and cook for them all day long. It’s about choices. Dreams. Aspirations.
I wake up at 6:30ish on most mornings, and I know that my job will be all things mothering until the end of the day. That’s my choice, and I love it, and I’m seeing fruits of that labor. But I’m thankful that I can say I live in a world where I got to choose this career. But I would be even more excited to live in a world where more people saw the validity of motherhood as a career. Just think of it as a non-profit position, working towards training the next generation of society. But if there is someone out there who doesn’t think she can bring herself to call my choice valid, then I can live with that. I still choose this life. But it would have been nice to have considered this way sooner, to have someone say, “Wow, with that work ethic, you could make a wonderful mother someday. Oh, the things you could teach your children with that kind of insight!” But you know what, those things weren’t said to me, and that is okay, because so many other positive things were said to me, and while there wasn’t a motherhood box to check on career fair day at my school, there were excellent mothers to be found in the world around me. They inspired me before I even considered the idea that my days would be spent in making a house a home and doing the work of family.
There are times when I feel like I should put teacher or writer or the other things that I work at on the side on a form where I am asked to fill in my occupation. But I want to shed that need to explain to people that “Hey, I’m so much more than a mother!” Because really, there is more to me than a laundry folder and a hair braider, but those aren’t the things that make me a mother. I know that. Moms know that. This is important work, and I’m not ashamed of the word homemaker as I once may have been. Because I believe in following your dreams. And I am so thankful that I am doing that. I’m so thankful that I really do think that at the end of my days on this earth, I would be more proud of the work I did in my home with my family than I would be of the other things I enjoy working at. For me, it isn’t about saying that staying at home is better than working, because that leaves out dreams and passions and individuals and choice. For me, it’s about saying, that working hard and well at motherhood is a fantastic aspiration. There are many fantastic aspirations. And I cannot wait to keep working at this one, on the good, bad, beautiful, and not-so-beautiful days.
And for the record, stay at home dads are doing important work, too. My blog today is just focusing on motherhood, but I clearly have an appreciation for the great dads of the world, too. My husband is a pretty stellar dad, and I so respect him. Also, my dad is fantastic. So there’s that.