I loved my second grade teacher. She had long, (bottle) blonde hair, and a sweet smile. Not only was she beautiful to me, but she had a clothesline strung across the classroom with stuffed animals and Hot Wheels clipped to it for bribing her students to work. A certain number of books read equaled a beautiful stuffed animal or doll in my pudgy little hands. Come to think of it, I loved my 5th grade teacher from the bottom of my heart, too, and she was also pretty handy with the prizes. We may be onto something here..
Anyway, I digress. Where were we? Oh, yeah. My teacher broke my heart.
She didn’t do anything mean, really. She just asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. She had us write about it, actually. My paper went something like this:
When I grow up, I want to be a mommy. I think I’d be good at it. I’d like lots of children.
Maybe there was more to it than that. I don’t remember. I turned in my paper, with the requisite poorly-drawn picture to illustrate. Instead of marking it with the usual red check-mark and smiley face, Miss Dixon called me to her desk.
I didn’t know what she meant, so I just looked at her with that slack-jawed, confused look that I still get when I’m dumbfounded. (That’s about twice a day, if you wondered.) She tried again. “What else do you want to be when you grow up? Mommy isn’t enough.”
I took my paper back to my seat and pondered for a moment. I was a sensitive child, and my feelings were more than a little hurt. What did she mean, what else? Mommy is BIG. Mommy is the whole world! It really was all I cared to be.
Being a second-grader, and not at all indoctrinated in philosophies of homemaking and childrearing, I didn’t argue. I struggled to come up with something else to write. Tears in my eyes (yeah, I was a wuss), I finally settled on saying I’d like to become a nurse. Nurses are like mommies, but with thermometers, right?
I never really wanted to be a nurse, of course, but it was the answer I gave when asked this all-important question for the rest of my school years. Sometimes, just to shake things up, I said I’d like to be a doctor. I really did have an interest in medicine, and a good head for science, so it could have happened if I’d had any encouragement at all. I used to be a little bit bitter about the fact that no one cared what I did with my life or tried to encourage me in my studies. Now I wonder if God didn’t put blinders on the people around me to keep them from seeing my potential to do “more”.
My teacher thought she was doing the right thing in encouraging me to think outside the stuffy old traditional box, I’m sure. For all I know, she may have thought I needed her to help me shake off the tyranny of the patriarchy. But I didn’t appreciate being told I should do more than be wife and mother. What I felt, in that wordless way kids have of understanding things, was that there was something unjust about a world that didn’t think “mommy” was enough.
I grew, but that ambition my teacher was trying to instill in me didn’t. Thanks to her “guidance”, I grew up knowing I had to do something else with my life. Like everyone else, I learned to think of “mother” as something you become after you’ve proven that you can do grown-up stuff.
After high school I got a job. Then another. Then another. All my jobs involved changing adult diapers and administering meds in rest homes and group homes. I even started nursing school, but quit in despair. I hated it. Nursing is a calling, and I was decidedly not called. The book-work was easy enough, but the job itself made me want to scream. The one thing I knew for certain was that you should never, ever scream at sick people, so I packed it up and went home.
They say God draws straight with crooked lines. Through a series of bad choices I ended up jobless and without any desire to find a new job, or even to live at all. If it hadn’t been for all the dumb mistakes I made in high school and beyond, I’d probably have a “fulfilling” career by now. Instead, thanks to His mercy, I’m rejoicing in my growing family, filling the role of help-meet to a faithful and hard-working man, and looking forward to a life of (cover your eyes, feminists) submission to God’s will–and my husband’s.
The only problem is, I wasn’t trained to this! I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to roll up my sleeves and get down to the business of homemaking. No one told me there was this much work to do, or how many different plates I was going to have to spin at one time. There wasn’t anyone to tell me all this, because I didn’t actually know any homemakers. This is the job that I was told wasn’t enough to keep a woman’s mind active and her spirit content? Seriously?
I’ve learned the hard way how to run my household and raise my children, and I’m going to pass along to my own daughter what I’ve learned, whether she has other ambitions or not. When she feels home and marriage pulling her from the working world (should she ever enter it), I’m going to make sure she doesn’t spend the first two years of it twiddling her thumbs and wondering exactly what she’s supposed to be doing with all this “free” time. Or worse, ignoring the most beautiful vocation on Earth because someone told her “Mommy’s not enough.”