Monday, May 13, 2013

When I grow up, I want to be a mom.


In a child's eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.
N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

For Christmas, we bought our 4-year old a presidential Barbie. In fact, she got two. Her grandfather bought her one too. Probably once a week, my husband says something about how she can be anything she wants when she grows up, even president. And every time, Hadley responds the same way. I don’t want to be president, I want to be a kid. But lately, her response has changed. Now, she says I don’t want to be president, I want to be a wife and mommy. She has put a lot of thought into her future, right down to the tiny details.

She told me when I was tucking her in that she and her husband will live in our house and I can move across the street with Daddy, so we can help babysit. When we drive past the park, she tells me she is going to get married there, under the bougainvilla covered pergola across from the marina. There is a bride there almost every weekend getting her picture taken. So I get that. But she went on to tell me that she wants to get married at night, surrounded by candles and it will be my job to blow the candles out after she kisses her husband. Kisses her husband? She’s four! I think to myself. Yesterday, she added that this wedding will be on Christmas because it is her favorite time of year and it will make God happy. She says she is going to have two kids, or maybe three- twins. I didn’t even try explaining that would be impossible.

I don’t know where she comes up with half of these ideas. But shouldn’t I be encouraging her to be an engineer? Maybe aiming for the presidency is too much, but should we not at least shoot for med school? When I was growing up, there was a lot of talk about breaking the glass ceiling. If we no longer worry about invisible barriers, will our daughters make choices with a quiet confidence or will there be no push strive to ahead?

According to the census bureau, when I was born in 1969, 44% of women were married stay-at- home moms. By the time I gave up my career in 2008 and opted to “work inside the home” as my politically correct husband calls it, the percentage of full time moms dropped to 25 percent. Actually, it dropped to 22 percent in 1999 and has slowly picked up numbers ever since. The term “opt out revolution” was coined by Lisa Belkin in a 2003 New Yorker magazine to describe this cultural return to tradition.. The article talked about revolutionaries who gave up lucrative careers to stay home and simply be around to watch their children grow. It refers to the top of her class architect turned girl scout troop leader and volunteer track coach in my son’s middle school. It refers to the child psychologist who only has time to practice on her own four children, one of whom is in my daughter’s preschool class. It refers to my neighbor, a Parsons Design School graduate who worked as a fashion designer in New York City. Now she makes costumes for school plays. The article refers to me too, a former television journalist turned home-made organic jam maker.

My daughter doesn’t see my husband in the morning. He is already long gone for work. On many nights, his travel schedule requires him to tuck her in over the phone or send cute little texts to let her know he is thinking about her. The trade off for allowing me to always be there. I pack the lunches and walk her to school. I am the one who plans play dates. I am chief chauffeur to swimming, gymnastics, baseball, football, school plays, field trips, doctors appointments, birthday parties, hair cuts and shopping. It is, for lack of a better word, a simple life.

I love my simple life. Don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be with my children especially after missing so much with my son when he was little.  I recognize most people don’t have a choice. I didn’t always. But is what I am doing good enough for my daughter? Is it important enough?  My four-year old thinks so. She thinks it is so spectacular she dreams about it as her "happily ever after".

How would you want your daughter to finish the sentence? When I grow up, I want to be a  ____________________. For me, it is: whatever she wants. I want her to have choices.

For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn: Someone left two relevant books in our Little Free Library just in time for Mother's Day. In fact, I found them both on Mother's Day. The first one is a fictional story about ambivilent motherhood, called Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Piccoult. The second is called Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Understanding the crucial Link Between Mothers, Daughters and Health by Christine Northrop, M.D.  In Northrup's book , she says " our bodies and those of our daughters were created by a seamless web of nature and nurture, of biilogy infomred consciousness. Every daughter contains her mother and all the women who came before her. The unrealized dreams of her maternal ancestors." 

The doctor goes on to use an example of when she almost went blind in her left eye, forcing her to "see" her role as a mother and a daughter differently. She says in traditional Chinese medicine, the left side of our body represents the "mother" and the left eye, in particular, represents the right side of our brain, where emotions form.

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