Ode To The Career Mother
Given the strong reactions surrounding Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent article, I thought I would share a different perspective. Below is a letter to my mother, a woman who worked a full-time job throughout my childhood:
For those times when you couldn’t make my games, plays or have cookies waiting for me after school. For the times I cried because it was dark, and I thought you forgot about me at daycare when really, the early winter nights were creeping in. For when I only had snippets of your time and attention, while you cooked dinner, tended to the needs of my dad and sister, sometimes while getting your own homework done for your master’s degree, thank you.
Thank you for showing me, through your actions, that I can be whomever I choose and that there is space and appreciation waiting for me in the professional world. Through your success, you taught me that my contributions and talents count towards helping businesses grow. You showed me that I can strive to do it all, and through my striving, my sons and daughters will be gifted by my accomplishments in their own way.
Thank you for demonstrating to me that having a career does not mean abandoning my children, but teaching them how to handle professional demands and have a family. That the lack of my physical presence will be replaced by a role modeling of tenacity, perseverance, and a tireless climb through the ranks of the working world, and for reminding me that I can choose to excel and thrive, rather than just exist in a job.
Aside from being a career mother, thank you for making sure that many ingredients for my meals came from the soil in our back yard, rather than from a box. And for telling me that I could not troll the mall with my friends on a Friday night, while I sat sullenly watching TV, burning with the fever of adolescence and impending freedom. Thank you for forcing me to take all those classes I resented, because I came away with so many skills, the most important of which is my ability to interact well with others (when the introverted side of me wants to sit home with my blankie.)
Thank you for seeking art, beauty and travel in your downtime. For putting on makeup before you left the house, ever glamorous and self-aware. For a trip to Portugal when I was 8, which gave me one of the best memories I hold close: that field full of yellow flowers. Thank you for forcing me to come home and write about that trip in my school journal until I cried, and cried. Erasing the first draft, and then the second, furious at you and now grateful for teaching me discipline and respect of my craft. Thank you for that trip to Greece when I was 14, and missing my thug boyfriend. I was among ancient ruins, eating my first Souvlaki, and both were gifts I didn’t deserve, and have never forgotten.
For pushing me, and corralling me, urging and guiding me, all while you navigated your own career development, I am ever grateful. Thank you for teaching me that I didn’t have to be either, or. I could be: artist, pianist, gardener, mother, sister, wife, graduate student, full-time (well-loved) employee, and nurturer. Thank you for being: whistle-blower, sounding board, guide, scribe, audience, cheerleader, and all things mother.