September 10, 2010 § 2 Comments
“I want to be a mother. I want to be a wife and a mother.”
Do you know what happens after I speak those words to most people? A puzzled look, a shoulder shrug. An instant rebuttal. They are patronizing me, waving off my desire with a flick of their hand. “You have plenty of time for that,” they tell me. “Don’t rush things. Don’t hurry.”
I have been hearing this counsel since I was 14 years old and realized once and for all, on the day I received the Sacrament of Confirmation, that I was not meant to enter a convent, but was called to the married life. I cannot recall a single time when someone -outside of the Catholic community to which I belonged, or a priest, or a nun- someone who was secular ever told me that I had decided on a noble calling, or a respected, dignified profession. Not one single time was I encouraged. Can you imagine? What if I had told them “I want to be a teacher. “ Maybe: “I want to be a doctor.” “I want to be a lawyer.” “A professional athlete.” “A scientist.” “A movie star.” “Dream big,” they would encourage me, because that’s what older people do when dreams and ambitions are confided in them by the young. “Good for you. Work hard, go to school, do it!” “Fulfill your dreams of becoming a doctor! You’ll do so much good in the world!” Or “You’ll make a perfect teacher! You love kids!” Or “Go for science! There is financial aid, there are scholarships; there are so many ways that you can make your dream a reality.”
But a mother? A mother? I got strange looks. At 24, I still get strange looks. Shifting eyes. “Oh. Um. Okay, but I meant what do you want to DO? You know, what do you want to BE?”
What do you think people would say if I told them that not only will I be a doctor, I will also be a teacher. And a lawyer. I will be a scientist and a police officer and an athlete and on top of that, I’ll be a magician, a hero, I’ll be a nightmare-slayer, a 24/7 chef, a source of hope and wisdom and love. I will be a mother. I may not cure cancer but I will bandage countless knees and elbows, I will pull splinters, I will kiss imaginary wounds. I may not receive tenure but I will teach every day not only from books but from life and my own experiences. I may not pass the Bar Exam but I will strike deals about bedtimes, make plea bargains with stubborn teenagers, intervene and solve thousands of arguments between siblings. I may not discover a new species in the Amazon but I will discover the exact amount of chocolate my child prefers in their milk and what stain remover will work on soccer shorts and how glassy my teen’s eyes look after they have been drinking without my knowledge. I may not work for Scotland Yard but I will know without looking what vegetables they are eating and which ones they are feeding the dog under the table. I will never be in the Olympics but I will show them how to ice skate and when they are young, there will be no difference to them between me and Sasha Cohen. I will have eyes in the back of my head and six hands and the power to kill bad dreams and soothe fevered bodies. I will have Christmas mornings and Easter egg hunts and Thanksgiving wishbones. I will pass on to my children the courage I have gained in the world, the ideals I strive for, the faith that I love, the God whom I worship.
This is my ambition. This is being a mother. Being a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an athlete, a chef, a hero, all at once, every day, and having to become a better doctor, a tougher lawyer, a more mature teacher as my children become better, tougher, and more mature.
So don’t you dare, America. Don’t you dare tell me that I have no ambition because I have never wanted to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a lawyer. Don’t you dare tell me that my plans are better put on hold. That I should wait and not rush towards the greatest dream I have had in my life since I was 14 years old. You can keep your backwards thinking and your hypocritical ambitions. I will fly my flag of motherhood proudly on my mast and when I am holding my children in my arms, I will look at my God and I will thank Him for allowing me to help Him create life. Life.
***** After some reader input, I think maybe I should clarify and say that I don’t have an issue with mothers who work. There’s nothing wrong with having to work a job AND be a mother. Nothing AT ALL. All I am trying to do is achieve equality in the perception of ‘careers’. No one would say to me “Oh there’s no rush to do that!” if I told them that curing cancer as a doctor was my life’s goal. Can you imagine? My life’s goal is to be a mother. Respect that.
That’s all. 🙂