Jewish World Review March 17, 2000/ 10 Adar II, 5760
Well, except for that one thing. If they want any respect, girls best not grow up to be just a mom. So I learned recently while eating sushi with "Karen," the 20-year-old daughter of a friend.
"So, Karen," I said, "tell me what you plan to do after college. What do you want to do with the rest of your life?"
Tears. Big welling tears. What, you don't like sushi? Are you choking on a tentacle? Did I say something wrong?
Wrestling a lump in her throat, Karen managed to speak: "I know this sounds terrible, but, I, I, I want to be a mom."
I am not kidding, this really happened. Why the tears? I asked. What is it about wanting to be a mother that makes you so sad?
"Because," she said, chin trembling, "no one values being a mother. It's not important enough."
Indeed. In our rush to take our daughters to work, we failed to mention that being a mother is the most important job of all. We failed to communicate that careers, though valuable and rewarding, come second to families. That's what we meant to say, right?
So why didn't we?
Perhaps because we don't really mean it, that's why. Or because we're too guilty to acknowledge that we're not there for our own children.
Karen knows firsthand about children abandoned by their parents. A full-time college student three days a week, she works the other two taking care of other people's children, ushering them to soccer practice and piano lessons, feeding them supper, helping them with homework.
She's the au pair extraordinaire. She loves her charges but hates that she's filling in for the mother they're missing. Because of her experience, she wants to be a hands-on mom.
But just-a-mom has a hollow ring for women like Karen, who have been made to feel they're less a woman for wanting motherhood over career. What an ironic twist at a time when women have more freedom than ever.
Karen isn't alone. Perusing Boundless Webzine, an Internet publication of Focus on the Family (www.boundless .org) recently, I ran across an article by Bethany Patchin, titled "I Want To Be A Mom." Patchin told of a day four years ago when her 10th-grade English teacher asked the females in the class, "How many of you want to be at-home moms?"
When Patchin raised her hand, she says, the room got quiet and everyone stared.
Writing for Boundless four years later, Patchin recounted a discussion with her college adviser. When she told him she wanted to marry and have children after graduation, he said, "I wouldn't have expected you to be that type."
That type. Is it any wonder the Karens of the world get teary-eyed when they admit they want to be mothers? And they're right, of course. Society doesn't much value motherhood. Men who want to marry a stay-home mom are as rare as husbands who can get pregnant.
Somewhere along the way, we mistakenly assumed that motherhood was contradictory to feminism, that to be a stay-home mom was to surrender to patriarchal oppression.
In truth, the opposite is true, as Iris Krasnow, reformed feminist/journalist, told Washingtonian magazine:
"Motherhood," she said, "is about deciding not to fight
that ancient and biological yank on the womb, that
natural order of the soul that says you should be there.
I'm a committed feminist, and there's nothing more
powerful to me than refusing to abandon
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV