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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Mothers don’t have to be homemakers

<ir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-e562c03e-1bcb-efb7-3b49-3acfde8696bb">I can firmly say that I would never be a stay-at-home mom. I know what you may be thinking: you’re 19 years old, how could you possibly know that? Isn’t that a little shortsighted? And the truth is that you may very well be correct. But I know that one thing is for certain. If I ever do have children, I would not give up my job and stay at home to raise them. I have complete confidence in this statement because I’ve seen my single mother keep her partner position at the largest law firm in the nation and be a maternal caregiver simultaneously. She did it masterfully.

I grew up in a suburban neighborhood that survived off of stay-at-home moms. People moved to my community because of the great public schools. And it was the stay-at-home moms that kept the school drop-off, pick-up, and PTA situation afloat. Enormous escalades would frequently be spotted dropping children off at school and them migrating together to a local Starbucks. It was almost as if the stay-at-home moms had their own sort of community or secret society. My mom was inherently not part of this community because she worked full time. There was no way on earth she could make it to their mid-afternoon book clubs or be home to make dinner for me every night. I’m not demeaning the work of stay-at-home moms by any means. Most of my friends growing up had stay-at-home moms, and I relished in the afternoons I would go to their homes and eat the chocolate chip pancakes or tostadas that were carefully prepared by my friends’ mothers. Truth be told, I was jealous. I wanted so badly for my mom to pick me up from school every day and walk me home. I wanted her to sit with me at the kitchen table and help with homework. But she couldn’t, and I found myself to be more independent than a lot of my other friends because of this.

The work of a stay-at-home mom is so essential that my mom jokes that she hired her own. By this, she means that my twin sister and I always had a nanny. This was also uncommon for my neighborhood: nannies were few and far between because most mothers stayed home. I loved nearly all of the nannies I’ve ever had: it was like having a wise and mystical older sister who didn’t pull my hair out and wrestle me to the ground like my own twin did. But the most challenging part of this was that nannies are always temporary: you have no idea when they will pack up and leave out of your life. That’s really difficult for a child to continuously deal with, but it was the only option my mom had.

After I went to college, I wrestled with my own confusion about this dynamic. Sometimes I resented my mother for not being more like my nannies: for not cooking dinner every night or picking me up from school, or taking me to find my first dress for a school dance. I almost believed that she didn’t have the same maternal instinct as the other stay-at-home moms in the neighborhood because she wasn’t like them. But on the other hand, my mother gave me something so much better. By always having a nanny, she taught my sister and I that change is inevitable, but family sticks with you forever. And more so, she taught me that being a mother is more than just keeping the household afloat. It’s most of all, I believe, about being a role model. And I could have had no better one than my own mother. She is brilliant and dynamic in the courtroom or calling out her clients over the phone. She is strong-willed and patient all in one. And although she cannot cook to save her life, I realized that those trivial things I complained about as a child don’t matter. She was always maternal and protective in a way that was not traditionally maternal. She was the “man” of the house because she had to be. She never needed a male counterpart to define her, and she always put my sister and I before everything else. She came to every single one of my softball games, even while we were being continuously crushed week after week, despite her hectic work schedule.  She taught me that being a mom isn’t synonymous with being a homemaker, and that taking on traditionally “masculine” parenting roles is powerful. It made me independent. It made me strong. And it made me aspire to follow in her footsteps and continue working when and if I become am other.

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