Outstanding in my Field.
by Elizabeth Horn
I'm outstanding. Really I am.
No, I've not had a sudden attack of narcissism, I'm the working mother among the parents at a small private school.
Most of the time, I'm incognito. I take the kids to school in the morning, and, save the occasional hair curler-do seen in line, everyone looks alike behind the wheel. No one is any the wiser that I'm suit clad instead of designer sweats-clad with a side of carefully styled pony tail attempting to look casual and sporty with the addition of a baseball cap.
But, when it comes to other school events, I take the risk of exposing myself if I'm the only mother in work clothes.
Though I've got nothing to hide, over the years I've learned that since the working mother is always spotted as the one wearing black, I need to be aware of my appearance in certain situations.
Why? The fact that I work comes up in conversation when it's actually irrelevant to the situation or topic at hand, and, sometimes, people even assume I can't do something or I don't know about something at school because I work.
I have a hard time putting the usual inflection in writing, but, it goes something like, "Oh. You worrrrk. Grreaaaat. I don't know how you do thaaaat. I could never do it." Or, "We didn't put you on the committee because, well, you worrrrk." The subtext to that is often something like, "Isn't that cute? Better you than me."
When I had young children in school, I was very sensitive to it, but, over the years, I've learned that people will just say what they're going to say, and, now it's usually no big deal to me.
Sure, there may be something I can't do at school because it's during the day, and, I may even think to myself, "That's an awful time for people who work", but, I'll be the judge of whether or not I can participate. On the flip side of that though, I take great care not to opt out of something undesirable by loudly proclaiming that, "I work!".
I've even been known to change out of my work clothes in the car if there's a meeting at school if it keeps someone from bringing it up unnecessarily. I'm proud of my job, don't get me wrong, but, there are certain time it's just simpler not to emphasize that I work when I'm around the kids' school in order for me to participate like the other parents.
But, if I don't have time to change clothes before the school event, me and the other lady who works can always go out for drinks later.