Before we begin, I’d like to say a few things about my mom. First, I adore her. I admire her, cherish her, and ultimately hope to be her. For those of you who have never had the privilege of meeting Debbie, she is kind, creative, brilliant, beautiful, wildly capable, and an absolute riot – in the good way. I think the world of her, but I don’t always get the impression that she feels the same way about herself.
After 25 years, I think she still feels guilty for being a working mom.
To be clear, Debbie is now retired and sailing the high seas as a Carnival junkie. So, I guess she is a former working mother if you want to get technical. Whether it’s a self-imposed burden or some strange, unspoken societal pressure I’ll never know, but I want to make one thing incredibly clear. I am who I am because of my working mother. Plain and simple.
I wouldn’t trade Debbie for five stay-at-home moms.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Stay-at-home moms have an indescribably important and undervalued job, but being a working mother offers its own set of unique experiences too. I think we forget that. Take sick days, for example.
As a kid, I got to go with my mom to work when I wasn’t feeling well. Maybe it’s rosy retrospection, but I remember loving it. I had my own tiny office connected to her, complete with a phone (used frequently to pester her), a Windows 98 computer freshly stocked with Disney PC games, and a hand-drawn name plate for my desk to match hers. Although this disappointedly does not involve Disney PC games (spoiler alert), I remember wanting a career because my mom had one.
I realized I could be a successful, professional woman because my mom was one.
Beyond the sheer capability, there was a passion. I think I noticed this for the first time when my mom spoke at my middle-school career fair. It was a lot of dads – firemen, salesman, etc. – with a few ladies mixed in. The exact words are lost on me, but I remember one thing above all. My mom loved her work, and that made me proud. She didn’t just work to pay the bills; she thrived in her field. She held her own with the best of them.
She took pride in her work, and I took pride in her.
**Note: For the record, my dad also had a cool job and attended his fair share of school functions. That’s a story for another day.**
Of course, it wasn’t always a bed of roses. There were times when I unknowingly and unnecessarily broke her heart with incessant phone calls, begging her to come home simply because my sitter wouldn’t bake me cookies for breakfast (which was a real conversation, FYI). And I’m sure I asked her to play hooky just because I missed her – and, honestly, who wouldn’t want to spend all day with Debbie?
But in the end, I’m really grateful for those caregivers and the time I spent with them. They are now my friends, my extended family so to speak. Somehow, every single one has stuck with me for 25 years. They’ve attended multiple graduations, band concerts, and I was even the flower girl (yes, flower girl) at one of my babysitter’s weddings in 2015. It takes a village, right?
Sitters aside, I never once felt short on time with my mom. Growing up, she used to curl my hair every day before school. She would play Barbie’s after a full day at the office, write napkins notes in my lunch, sew costumes for the school play (not just mine, literally every costume), and magically serve as a serial homeroom mother. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. But now? It’s beyond my comprehension. Sometimes I can barely remember to feed my dog. At any given moment she had approximately two billion better things to do, and yet she chose me.
It’s beyond comprehension because it’s a love beyond comprehension.
As I wrote this post, I struggled with exactly what I wanted to say, what I hoped to accomplish with these words. Why even bother? It’s because I’m willing to bet a lot of working moms feel just like mine, and that breaks my heart. To all of the working mothers out there, but especially my own, I hope you get the opportunity to see yourself the way your kids see you. I hope you know that your kids don’t see the exhaustion because they’re busy having fun with you. They don’t mind the long hours, because they only feel your unconditional love.
Originally, my mom never expected to have children. She wanted to be a career-woman until she had me. I suppose she may have felt torn between two worlds, but I never viewed it this way. I hope she doesn’t either. To me, she will never be anything but perfect. I don’t resent my mom for being a working mother – I admire her for it.
I like to think she had it all because she deserves it all.