Picking out produce at a neighborhood grocery store on Saturday, I overheard a conversation that made me hover a little longer than necessary. Okay, I was being nosy.
So an older gentleman had engaged a rather younger mom who had a child in her shopping cart. My ears perked up when he quickly came to the subject of kids. “Shopping is a lot easier with all my kids grown and living their own lives,” he said.
Still reeling from the Big Leave, with tears threatening regularly, my stomach gave a lurch. Cue tears.
He continued. “Of course, now my daughter is finding out what it’s like to shop for a family. They’re hours away,” (another stomach lurch) “…and I don’t see them much” (tears now escaping) “…but she’s happy. Being a mother was always the thing she wanted most in life.” (full silent sobbing)
And then came the real kicker, the reply of the friendly stranger he had engaged:
Older gentleman: “Being a mother was always the thing she wanted most in life.”
Friendly stranger, with true despair evident in her voice: “Oh, no!”
I have to give her credit for abruptly putting an end to my sob-fest. I was so taken aback by her attitude I stopped in my tracks, onion in hand, to contemplate why shock and sympathy would be an appropriate reaction to a woman’s chosen life path of motherhood.
I knew from my teen years on that I really wanted to teach. The rhythm of the school year, the company of funny, challenging, and interesting children in my classroom, the joy of planning engaging lessons and decorating a classroom – I couldn’t wait to get through college and find my first teaching position.
When that special time came, it wasn’t quite what I had hoped (definitely a lot of blog material there for another day) but it was still good and I was very good at it.
Everything changed when we became pregnant with our first child. I knew with every single atom of my heart, mind, and soul, that there was absolutely no way I would ever be able to leave that potential human being with a sitter or a day-care center for 1/3 of every day of her tiny life. It wasn’t just the immediate and indescribable connection I had with her. It was also the fact that I knew from the beginning that no one else could ever care for, teach, and influence our child (and later children) as well as I could. I realized that though I really enjoyed teaching in a classroom, my number one gift in life was being a mom.
“Mama” continues to this day to be the best and most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. And I say that from the perspective of having a really great, paid job that I think I’m very good at. I also say it from the perspective of a female who was raised to be a feminist and to roar when women are held back in opportunity, social status, earnings, whatever.
It’s just that being a mom can absolutely be a legitimate and fulfilling career choice.
Put that in your grocery cart and chew on it, Mrs. “Oh no!”