What is it that causes mothers who work in the home to hang their heads when they are asked what they do?
Just the other day, I asked a lovely woman I met on the tennis courts what she does, and she replied, with the requisite bent head, “Oh, I’m just a mom.” Upon further discussion, I learnt that she used to work for one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the United States, overseeing a multi-million dollar budget, and a stable of employees. Clearly she is a very intelligent and accomplished woman, so why is it that she could not claim her “mother” role with as much zest as she used to claim her role as a corporate worker?
Unfortunately, she is not alone in this dilemma. I have met numerous doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, executives from businesses of every type – women with amazing resumes, who suffer from this same affliction. Each of them decided to put their careers on hold to raise their children, oftentimes after wrestling with what their peers and families would think of them for making such a decision. While they are adamant that this was the right decision for themselves and their families, they just don’t think that society ‘gets’ that decision, hence the hesitation when they are asked what they do. I know how this feels, and I too went through way too long a period where the one question I dreaded being asked in a social setting was what I did for a living. Thank goodness, I have come a long way. I now wholeheartedly embrace the wise words of the great Dr. Seuss:
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Some would say that my embrace is a little too tight. A few months ago, at my first meeting as a newly appointed member of a nonprofit board (a situation that in the past would have filled me with dread), one of the attendees asked me “the question.” When I replied with much gusto that I am a mom (NOTE – no mention of the word “just”), her eyebrows raised in surprise, and she said, ”Wow, you say that with so much ease.” Perhaps she was more accustomed to hearing the trepidation in many of our voices when giving the “just a mom” response.
I have to wonder if society would show more respect for the work that mothers do if we showed more confidence and enthusiasm for our work. Even in the face of “the look” or the “Ooohhhh” from those learning of my work status, I refuse to treat the word mom like a dirty word, or to assume the expected role of the shrinking violet commonly known as “just a mom”.
Although I am just as interested as the next person in the numerous surveys quantifying the dollar value of a mother’s work, I wish that as a society, we did not need financial data to wrap our heads around the value in raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children who will grow up to become productive members of society. In my book, the value of this task is – priceless!
Do you think “mom’ has become a dirty word? Do you believe that society values the work of a mother?