My Working Mother Model.
I grew up with a working mother. When I was really little – before I can remember, even – she took some time off from being a English teacher to stay home with me, and then my brother. But somewhere in there she got bored, or needed the money, or both, and she took a part-time job for a while as a proofreader, and then as a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company. Eventually, though, and while I was still in grade school, she went back to teaching, full time.
I don’t know when, exactly, I realized that my mom worked and a lot of other moms didn’t, but I do remember feeling proud of her from a very early age. When we would run into her teenaged students at the mall, or at a restaurant, they would always tell me how great she was, and how much they liked her class. And when I got to be in middle school, and she had moved on to become a reading specialist for remedial students, I used to help her grade papers, which made me feel grown up, and important, and which I used to brag about to all of my friends.
But of course, having a working mom also had its drawbacks. I was a latchkey kid, and for much of my childhood, my brother and I came home to an empty house after school. We’d watch tv and eat chocolate covered donuts, and on the many days that I forgot the key, we’d sit outside on the porch for a few hours, waiting for one of my parents to come home and finally let us in. (By the way, could you even imagine this scenario now????) And because my mom didn’t get home most nights until close to five, dinnertime in our house meant that we either threw a Hungryman or a can of Spaghetti-Os into the microwave, or we went out to Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, or the local Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood. I remember a friend telling me a few years ago that her mom used to have homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk waiting for them every single day after school, and I remember being shocked – shocked – by this. I didn’t know people really did that, I told her. I thought it was just something made up. Something that the writers for Leave It to Beaver had conjured from their imaginations.
In terms of juggling, my parents, I think, were way ahead of their time. My father was an accountant at a small, three person firm, and he more or less set his own schedule, which made it really easy for my mom to go to work every day. She had to be at school by 7 am, so my father drove morning carpool, and our neighbors brought us home in the afternoons. When there were school field trips that required a chaperone, my dad usually went, and instead of participating in Girl Scouts, I was part of a father/daughter group called Indian Princesses. And when it wasn’t tax season, a lot of nights, my dad would come home early and actually cook dinner for all of us.