Recently I read an article in The Federalist Papers that caught my attention. It seems appropriate for this week’s Perspectives article since Mother’s Day is right around the corner, so here we go:
There seems to be this belief among some that women who eschew a career to remain home and care for their families do not know what it means to work hard. This preposterous assumption is based on the belief that it takes much more effort to go to school, earn a degree and work long hours at the office than it does to care for a family.
But anyone who is or has ever had a mother (that’s pretty much everyone) should know that the role calls for significant effort. Whoever wrote the following certainly understood that:
A woman renewing her driver’s license at the County Clerk’s office was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation. She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.
“What I mean is,” explained the recorder, “do you have a job, or are you just a …..?”
“Of course I have a job,” snapped the woman. “I’m a mom.”
“We don’t list ‘mom’ as an occupation. ‘Housewife’ covers it,” said the recorder emphatically.
I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall. The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like “Official Interrogator” or “Town Registrar.”
“What is your occupation?” she probed.
What made me say it? I don’t know. The words simply popped out: “I’m a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”
The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair, and looked up as though she had not heard.
I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.
“Might I ask,” said the clerk with new interest, “just what you do in your field?”
Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply: “I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn’t?) in the laboratory and in the field (normally, I would have said indoors and out). I’m working for my Masters (first the Lord and then the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to disagree?), and I often work 14 hours a day. But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money.”
There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice as she completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door.
As I drove into our driveway, buoyed by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants — ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (a 6-month-old baby) in the child development program testing out a new vocal pattern.
I felt triumphant! I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than “just another mom.”
Motherhood … What a glorious career, especially when there’s a title on the door! Does this make grandmothers “Senior Research Associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations” and great-grandmothers “Executive Senior Research Associates?” I think so! I also think it makes aunts “Associate Research Assistants.”
This story, brought to us by The Federalist Papers Project, makes an incredible point. Just think about how much work it takes to raise and care for a child — work that really never ends. The job starts the moment a child is born and continues indefinitely, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year!
And you had best believe that there are no breaks. A mother must be ready 24/7 to tend to her child, regardless of whether it is a holiday or not and regardless of how she herself feels.
If anything, being a mother is the ultimate career choice, for no other job on Earth matches it in intensity and labor — pardon the pun!
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!