My mom used to get so infuriated with my “playing house” (as she used to call it). I remember on one of her visits to Jacksonville after we’d bought our house there she said to me, “This shit has got to stop. You’ve got to get your ass back to work.”
I don’t remember what my exact response was. I’m sure it was pretty hot, as my mom had a way of sparking my temper like no one else ever has. Especially back in the day when she was in her prime, before the cancer and dementia stole her fire.
My mom had been a feminist before I think there was even a word for it. Okay, so probably the word was around, but the movement hadn’t begun in earnest until she was in her late 30s.
But let me tell you, she was not going to settle for being any man’s wife. Even if my dad had ended up earning more than her (which he didn’t; once she outpaced him on income it was all over for their marriage), she wouldn’t have been comfortable as a kept woman. I think she thought she wanted a life of leisure sometimes. But mostly she wanted to play with the boys. She had an interest in business and truly enjoyed working.
When I worked outside of the home I had jobs I enjoyed. I really liked when my high school internship led to a summer job at the U.S. Courthouse my junior year. I also enjoyed the summer freshman year of college when I worked in a dry cleaners. And I did enjoy my three years at Snell & Wilmer as both a document clerk and later when I got promoted to a paralegal.
But there are times I’ve felt I was born out of my time. My mom wanted me to become a businesswoman. I always thought it’d be nice to live in the old days when my grandma was a young woman and there was no expectations about working outside of the home and being somebody.
I remember saying that to my mom once when she was preaching about how I was going to go to college, get a degree, get a good job, and be a productive woman. Oh man, did she come unglued. There was no fate she could imagine worse than either of her daughter’s ending up like her mother, nothing but a housewife.
And pursuing my writing? That’s the kicker. She never supported that.
She expected me to go to college and get a degree, but not in creative writing or journalism. Even though I’d been writing stories from the time I could write words. Not even when it became clear I’d never get into U of A’s business program because I couldn’t pass Accounting 101 (I kept dropping it because I couldn’t keep my focus on it) and I flat out failed Economics 101. (I needed both courses to get into the business school.)
So I became a Communications major. At least I got to write a bunch of papers. (Which I happened to love.) And my mom felt I’d be able to use that somewhere in the real world.
What a disappointment I was when Wayne gave me the chance to stay home and I took it. I wish I could apologize for it, but it was never my dream to be anything except comfortable in my own skin. I never aspired to be a great business leader.
Sorry, Mom, and all you other feminists who feel I’ve let womankind down with my choice.