The question came one morning as I was pacing and bouncing and shushing my hysterical newborn daughter.
“Mama, what are you going to be when you grow up?” my 4 ½ year old son, Beans, wanted to know.
“I’m not sure,” I answered over Tallulah’s screams. Yeah, sure, I could have told him that I am grown up, but I thought it would be more fun to follow the mind-trail.
“What do you think I should be?” I asked.
“I want you to be my mama,” he said.
I asked why.
“Because I’m a kid.”
Oh. Of course.
Well, I asked him, what does a mom do?
“Um, they do their toenails,” he said after some consideration. “And they make you pasta with cheese and they write stories.”
When he grows up, he informed me, he wants to be a superhero. He’ll work from home, like I do, he says, and together we’ll fight off all the villains.
Sounds like he has a fairly good understanding of the wide berth of responsibilities we moms assume.
I left my full-time job soon after Beans was born to be a freelance writer so I could be at home with him. I guess back then I thought the idea of being a mom was pretty basic. Not that parenting was basic, mind you – Lord knows that one’s even more complex than the assembly instructions in a box of baby gear. But I thought it was just a given that I would take care of my son and earn some money to pay bills and that would be that.
Sure, I’d heard rumblings of the Mommy Wars, but I wasn’t itching to join any fight. I just wanted to do my own thing, my own way, and I thought it would be easy enough to just stay out of the fray.
One morning early on, I took Beans to the park and we encountered a Mommy who questioned where he went to school. He was barely walking at the time, and I replied that he didn’t go anywhere, that he stayed home with me.
That Mommy gushed her approval of my at-home status (I didn’t ask if my having professional responsibilities and frequent deadlines would temper her approval.), and went on to harshly criticize other Mommies who deigned to leave their children in someone else’s care just so they could spend their days in some office.
I wasn’t sure how to respond so I just nodded and then turned my attention back to the pile of sand the Beans was pushing around.
Over the years, I’ve been criticized (occasionally even to my face) for my decision to stay home. The Mommy Wars, of course, pit one kind of mommy against the other, and the hybrid group – Work At Home Moms – gets the best and worst of both sides.
It’s easy to understand why moms – me included – might have chips on our shoulders when it comes to the decision we make about how to continue our lives after giving birth.
Motherhood is hands-down the most meaningful job we’ll ever have. Whether we like it or not, our children define us in ways that last throughout our lifetimes and theirs.
We each have our own day-to-day challenges, and we could argue until the dawn of never who has it harder.
There is, however, at least one thing I’m willing to bet we can all come together on: I think all of us would really just love to hear that we’re doing things the right way for our families, whatever “right” might be for us.
I know I love to hear that. I believe it, but it’s always nice when someone else says so.
And if they would be so kind as to add that my toenails look great, that would just be extra cheese on my pasta.
Connie on Birth story Arkie Mama on Birth story Yavonda on Birth story Shannnon @nwaMotherl… on So … Shannnon @nwaMotherl… on He ate it.
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