Things have been crazy busy with me. Between scoping out potential office space for my practice, keeping up with client phone calls and emails, trying to remember to bill people for my time (I have this thing about taking people’s money! It feels so weird!), and keeping house and home with two little ones, the pressure to perform has been intense. But despite the busy-ness, I took a moment to read a few articles circulating about commencement speakers, political pundits and the like making comments along these lines:
“Ladies, being a mother is the most important job you will ever do.”
That’s me paraphrasing, not a direct quote, but you get the picture. I won’t even link to the articles, because I’m tired of giving them publicity. You’ve heard this too, right? Whether from fellow mothers, or men (seriously?), nosy ninnies in the supermarket or coworkers, it seems that everyone has an opinion on mothering, with this particular opinion surfacing all too frequently. This sentimental sexism has existed since the beginning of time, and will likely persist in perpetuity.
But instead of ranting and raving about the lunacy of reducing women — all women, regardless of their unique talents, passions, needs and desires — to babymaking machines, I’m going to approach this from a slightly different angle.
You see, when it comes to me, I agree with you. Being a mother, for me, IS the most important job I will ever do. It’s more important than my legal career, or my entrepreneurial endeavors, and certainly more important than my ambitions to travel the world or even just kick back for a week on the beach with a margarita and no kids. Of course it is. BUT, that’s not the point here.
The point is this: the judgment that my most important work in life is to be a mother is for ME, and ME ALONE to determine. Not you.
And that goes for all of us, every single mother in the world. Whether you’re a diehard conservative with traditional family values, or a single mom by choice with no husband in sight, a mom who works or a mom who stays home … whoever you are … I think it is GREAT and TRUE if you declare, right now, that mothering is, for YOU, the most important job you’ll ever do. It is certainly true for me. But WE GET TO MAKE THAT CALL. It is not right, it is not fair, and it is fundamentally wrong for society at large or the man in the pulpit or the lady in line behind you at the grocery store to tell YOU what is most important for your life versus what is not.
It is also wrong for anyone, other than myself, to determine the varying degrees of importance that should be accorded to the many, many life projects I’m undertaking. My kids come first, but my spouse is right up there too, and I would say my career and business aspirations are pretty high on the list as well. So do I sacrifice some time with the kids in order make my career goals happen? I sure do — and that’s why they are in daycare four days a week. But do I make sure, more often than not, that I’m home for dinner and plenty of snuggles before bedtime? Yes, because the kids are more important — work can wait. But again, I’m not saying or doing that for your approval. My own approval is just fine.
There are other projects competing for my time that, in the eyes of some, including myself, could turn out to be pretty important, and could represent the biggest competition to that MOST IMPORTANT JOB everyone is so keen on telling me I have. I have this idea of starting a once a week legal clinic for parents who can’t afford an attorney, but don’t qualify for legal aid, but want to have a lawyer or educational advocate review their child’s IEP and evaluations for free. Those are documents generated in the course of planning and placement team meetings with the school districts that drive the services children with special educational needs will receive, in accordance with federal and state laws protecting children with disabilities. I want to start this legal clinic, versions of which already exist for income tax filing and other consumer needs, and staff it with law students who want to learn the practice area, and seasoned advocates who are willing to volunteer a few hours of their time every so often.
I’m not sure if I will pull off that kind of project, but if I do, I would like to think that it may become some of my life’s most important work. THE most important work? No, probably not — I have the feeling that my kids will still claim that spot. But does it grate on my nerves when the peanut gallery reminds me how IMPORTANT mothering is, and how, by implication, NOT IMPORTANT my professional and social contributions are? Um, yeah.
And to anyone still reading this who may be clucking about all these working moms working for their pedicure and latte money, when they should be reading to their kids or making a house a home for their husbands, let me say this: Can you feel confident in believing that mothering is THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB for YOU (or your wife, etc.) without passing judgment on those who, from time to time, may have other priorities, but still love their children a whole damn lot? In other words, can you try to validate your own need to feel secure in your parenting decisions without putting those of others down?
Because that’s really the point of this, after all. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some pretty important work to get to. On the agenda today: email a few clients, cuddle some very cute kids, and clean the kitchen up after them. I would say that only one of those things are really that important for me to accomplish today — I’ll leave you to figure out which one that is. And then I’ll decide for myself.