Monday, May 11, 2009

One of These Books Makes Me Feel Kinda Yucky



Friday evening after dinner, I played wiffle ball in the front yard with my three children. It was a warm night with lots of laughter and we had about an hour of fun until the mosquitoes really got busy and drove us inside. I was the pitcher the entire time. My sons noticed that my cheering gets louder and more enthusiastic when my daughter is at bat than when they are. They weren't complaining, just observing, and sweetly followed my lead of "atta girl" and exhorting her to "show 'em where you live," "show that ball who's boss," and from my six year old "whack the dingleberries out of it!" God forgive me, but dingleberry is his new favorite word. When my boys are at the plate, I tend only to comment on their extraordinary hits. Why the discrepancy, I've wondered all weekend long. Perhaps because my sons don't need my encouragement to swing like there's no tomorrow. They do everything like there's no tomorrow. They'd rather swing hard and miss than just stand there. My daughter waits for the perfect pitch and even then is nice to the ball. She doesn't really whack it. She's a girl who always lets others go first and when she's interrupted says "never mind" or "it's not important" about her ideas. I don't want that for her. I want her to fight for what she wants, to attack life, to never back down or bow out. I'm filled with guilt that I may have taught her to discount herself by the fact of my stay-at-home momhood. I've been at home full time for her entire life and I worry about it. I worry that she hasn't heard me tell tales of daily struggles and triumphs in the workplace. I worry that the only financial contribution she sees me make to the family is writing out the checks to pay our bills and clipping coupons. Even when I remind myself that staying at home allowed me to take her to years of speech therapy and her baby brother to physical therapy for the first eighteen months of his life, to volunteer scores of hours in her class, to chaperone dozens of field trips, to be the one who cared for her when she was sick, clapped for her during school performances, and help with homework, still I worry. So you would think that Dr. Laura Sclessinger's latest book, In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms would make me feel better, but it doesn't. Probably because I'm inclined to dislike Dr. Laura. She insists that mothers should stay at home full time for the sake of their children and that in the first three years of life the best caretaker of a baby is the body it came out of and the breast it sucked at. That is a not too loose paraphrase. When asked in a recent Wall Street Journal interview at what point she advises mothers to go back to work, Dr. Laura said, "The answer is never." Yikes! She feels mothers should be home whenever their kids are. I don't buy that. In fact, I think the experience I had of babysitting my younger sister on afternoons when my own mom was at work helped make me a good parent. Not a good stay-at-home parent, just a good parent. There's so much to be gained from the example of a working mom as well. I feel much better about having recently read Emma Gilbey Keller's The Comeback. In it she presents seven stories of women who went from career to stay at home parenting and back to their careers. This book was encouraging because I also worry that nobody will want to hire me after all these years home. ( Clearly, I'm a worrier. Don't get me started on children choking, driving on icy roads, thin ice, insufficient sunscreen application, and head injuries!) The Comeback is interesting in that these seven women, and actually the author herself, had very different situations, and all were able to go back to satisfying careers after years at home with the kids. It eases fears about on ramps and off ramps and becoming obsolete. I had quite a bit to obsess over this Mother's Day weekend, but I'm glad it ended on a high note with The Comeback.

7 comments:

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

If you'd picked the other book, I would have unsubscribed. But I knew you wouldn't. That sanctimonious Dr. Laura leaves me speechless. Golly, if moms are the only ones qualified for the "job," what must she think of men?

I hope you'll stop worrying that your daughter won't value your sacrifices and your million in-house jobs. Because in all of that, you demonstrate her value.

Emma Gilbey Keller said...

Thank you for your kind remarks about The Comeback. I am glad it made you feel more optimistic. That was my intention, back in the days when I was in your shoes (although I have always been more of a ballet than a baseball mom!)
Enjoy the time at home, because it is finite. Even if you don't go back to work in the near future, one day your kids will grow up and leave you!
Emma Gilbey Keller

Christine said...

Emma and Lawyer Mom:Thank you both! Your comments are thoughtful and much appreciated!

Corinne said...

Well you've always been one of my top examples of smart, independent, capable women with the power to shape their own lives. I have no doubt you've been the same for Hayden. The fact that you've embraced so fully your role in the direction you've chosen couldn't diminish that. This life is long and I know you'll continue to inspire us both by being yourself wherever your path takes you. :)

Ginny Marie said...

I had to wonder; does Dr. Laura have kids? Hmm.

I would like to go back to work eventually, and I wonder if I'll be able to find a job, too. I really shouldn't at this point, but I just can't help myself!

Elizabeth said...

I think most mothers wrestle with this. By the way, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is THE BEST BOOK - snatch it back from your MIL posthaste!!!

Carol said...

Christine, You might want to check out Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work (Hachette Business Plus) for strategies and advice on returning to work after a career break. It includes stories of more than 100 moms who made the transition from home to work in all different fields and work configurations.