With Mother’s Day on the horizon, and thirty plus years of being a mom under my belt, this seems like a good week to post some reflections on motherhood. And a few funny stories too, since humor is one of the reasons this blog exists. As I look back on my adult years, I realize that I have lived a variety of stages of motherhood- from being home full time, to working part time, and working full time. Those stories will come later. First, I’ll start with the working full time, childless era, distant memory that it is.
Baby Boomers were the first generation that had a lot of dual income married couples, without kids. I saw this referred to once as DINKS- double income, no kids. This time of life was interesting, because we were navigating our first professional jobs, and getting used to being married too. In most ways it was a fun time, with disposable income and time to enjoy family and friends. The only downside was that interest rates, which I never paid attention to prior to this time, were sky high. In 1982, we got a 13% interest rate on our first mortgage, and were lucky to have one below 16-17%. Luckily that didn’t last forever, but it made buying your first home a challenge. After you were married a year or two, the questions usually started. Questions from this era– when are you going to have kids? How many kids do you want? These were usually from well meaning friends or family, but a bit intrusive. I would smile and say “someday” and leave it at that. Or pretend I didn’t hear them, and look confused.
Stay At Home Mom
After child number one arrived, I decided to take off what I thought would be a few years to stay home with her. There wasn’t a part time work option in the legal field, or I might have tried that at some point. But I was fortunate to have the ability to take time off. Baby number two came along three years later, so a few years off stretched into eight. These were very busy times, and if you had a spouse who worked long hours or traveled for a living like mine did, it was also very tiring. In a strange way, the days were usually long but the years seemed to fly by. And for some reason, these days were also part of what came to be known as Mommy Wars. What a bleak term. But it pretty well sums up the divide between some moms who were working full time, and some who were home full time. Although the idea was supposed to be that women could choose how to approach motherhood and paid employment, that got lost along the way. It was as if your choice was the only correct thing to do. It also didn’t take into account that many moms don’t have a choice at all, and need to work to survive. For me, it also lead to some strange interactions. Questions from this era– why did you go to law school, if you were going to stay home with your kids? Don’t you get bored being at home all the time? And my personal favorite, what do you do all day? After a few years, I started losing my patience with all of this. By that point, my answers were as follows- I went to law school because I though seven years of college would be a barrel of fun, and I am so busy taking care of two little kids I don’t have time to be bored. But I saved my favorite answer for the last question. What do I do all day? I was asked this once at a cocktail party, and said ” I sit on the couch, and eat bon bons. The toddlers feed, cloth, and change themselves. Sometimes I turn them loose outside, unattended.” I may have had a glass or two of wine. And it may have been a little more colorful than that, but you get the idea, since this is a wholesome blog.
Full Time Mom and Employee
I was able to work part time for several years when my kids were in grade school, and that was an ideal arrangement at the time. I got to keep up to date in my field, but also be available for the many activities and events that the school years bring. Eventually, a full time position became available at the college where I was teaching part time. So I applied and was hired for what became a long career as a law professor. I enjoyed teaching, and I found the job’s time off and flexibility ideal for raising school aged kids who became teenagers and college students during my career. Just as the stay at home years flew by, the high school and college years went even faster. I remain gratified that I was able to find a job that allowed me to do what I needed to do at home and at work. Questions during this era-not really mom related, but there was the occasional, why aren’t you practicing law? Easy to answer this one. I did a lot of free legal work for my family, and teaching law was way more fun than the practice thereof. I made less money, but having summers and lots of other time off was worth it.
Every Mother Is A Working Mother
So my various work/motherhood arrangements have lead me to the conclusion that every mother works her hardest at whatever path she chooses to take. And the way employers treat their working mothers has a lot to do with how they feel about their jobs. Unfortunately, I think moms are frequently expected to work as if they don’t have children, and parent as if they don’t have a job. Talk about a “no win” situation. Sadly, I think Mommy Wars still exist to some degree, and I have read that it extends now more toward different parenting philosophies and practices rather than stay at home versus career moms. Add in the advent of social media, and there is plenty of room for judgment and discord. But I also think there are lots of moms who want to connect and support each other. Maybe the pandemic has given us all a reminder just how hard it is to raise kids, and that connecting with other parents is something that moms and dads really need.
In the coming week, I will be remembering my late mother, who was a working mom in the 1960’s, long before it was a common thing to do. I hope you all have time to celebrate the moms in your lives, or their memories, next weekend. Happy Mother’s Day, one and all.