My mind works in a funny way. If I don’t quite know what to make of something someone said, it gets quietly packed away. And then surprise! the acorn pops out of the stuffed suitcase of my mind to be cracked open and understood.
And so it was with a friend’s recent comment about motherhood being so important to me – the tone of her comment carrying a hue of ‘over the limit’.
That got me wondering - is she right?
Do I care too much? Do I overthink it? Or do I just see things differently because it was years of infertility and a week of NICU before I brought him home?
Being honest with myself, I can tend to mentally overwork things. Wonder..connect…try another angle..look at each piece…put it back together…and then look at it from a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. (Good engineer or neurotic mother? Only history can tell.)
The B-2 is the shining star of my career, a beautiful integration of design and state of the art technology. Working on a secret project chartered to protect our country with the hottest engineering concepts conceivable was exhilarating.
Occasionally, the long work hours would be broken up by spontaneous conversations – politics, family, vacations and so on. On a couple of occasions the chatting led to childhood experiences and, naturally, moms.
Somehow, as if we were in a time warp in the latest Sci Fi hit, a person’s childhood and adulthood appeared side by side and were strikingly similar. The ripple effect of mothering became curiously crystal clear.
Nurturing memories of mom? Calm adult most of the time. Mothering characterized by turbulence? Typically a challenging team member. Mixed experience? Somewhere in between.
As the few women engineers started their families, a hidden prejudice appeared in one of those conversations, ringing through the walls of cubicle city, changing every woman unlucky enough to hear it.
“If you don’t stay home with your kids, you’re a bad mother. If you do, then why’d we waste the education on you?”
That telling comment stripped us of the objective success we had obtained through college degrees and contributions to our nation’s security, closing us into a “glass box” more confining than the proverbial glass ceiling.
Years of reliving the injustice of this comment combined with the brainless just-met-you question of, “So what do you do all day?” turned me in the direction of being an advocate for motherhood.
Being a mom in other situations over the years (auntie, neighborhood kids, volunteering) strengthened my focus but becoming a mom to my own child was what really ignited my thoughts about it. Long nights compassionately rocking a colicky baby provided ample opportunity to look from cruising altitude.
Holding this tiny person, my mind recalled that time warp of my former colleagues side by side with the childhood memories of their moms. Now, though, I was seeing the picture from the opposite angle, I was holding a baby that would carry forward his memories of my mothering with him.
And it appeared that he would do so for a very long time.
I saw myself as a bridge between this little person and the adult person he would be. And while I didn’t know the what, where or who of his adulthood, I grasped the depth and breadth of the influence my job of mothering held over him.
This was the tipping point.
Coming through doorways of education and corporate achievement to cross the threshold into motherhood only to find myself faced with the lose-lose bind of this hidden prejudice had pushed me too far.
These experiences served to shape the conviction of my beliefs, giving me clarity and perspective.
While mothering builds the bridge children must cross over to reach their adulthood, society questions what we “do all day” and overshadows our job with the need for an outside job title as well, complicating it all by holding us responsibile for their adult decisions.
Just how can motherhood be so insignificant that it’s not complete without an additional job and, at the same time, be so vital to a human being’s development that society looks to the mother when something goes awry with the adult?
I don’t believe the job of motherhood has been pulled by opposing views and the women in it affected to the extent as is currently the experience. No matter what they choose, mothers face a combination of guilt and judgment by outsiders.
My friend was right about motherhood being so important to me. Looking from 30,000 feet, though, I don’t think it’s over the limit.