January 19, 2009 by Marj Hatzell
I’ll never forget that day in high school. There we are, in Sister Jean’s World Cultures Class. It was junior year and (per usual) we were off topic and discussing current events. I know it started on topic, something about women’s values in other cultures, and then it spiraled into this lenghthy discussion about women in our modern society. Women in the States. Feminism, Equal Rights, The Glass Ceiling. What our future plans were.
It wasn’t that I didn’t aspire to be anything. I guess you could say that even then I was humble (shut up, those that know me). I wanted to go to college, I wanted to learn. I loved school. I just didn’t think I was the type to go to school for ten years to get a bunch of letters after my name. I knew that someday I’d meet the right guy, we’d create a home together and then we’d start a family. And then I’d be committed to my children, choosing to stay home and be the one to see every little milestone my children achieve.
As we went around the room and asked each person what their aspirations were, I felt like sinking down in my chair. I was embarassed to give my answer. There were girls who were determined to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, college professors, biologists, mathematicians and musicians. The truth is, while I wanted to go to college, I still hadn’t applied anywhere. I still hadn’t taken the SATs and it was the END of junior year. Most of the girls in my class knew exactly where they were going. Some at least admitted that they’d be liberal arts majors but concentrate somewhere until they figured it out. Me? Ummmm…
Then it was my turn. I was in the spotlight. I kinda sat there until Sister Jean (a real spit-fire, semi-feminist, grew up an orphan in the very school I attended when it was an orphanage) said, “Well? You can be ANYTHING you want to be. This is the eighties! Women achieve great things these days! What are you going to be?”
“I’d like to get married someday and have kids. I want to be a mom.”
Gasps. jaws dropping. Stares with the hairy eyeball. Eyerolls. Whispers. Snide remarks.
“Miss Thing. You can be ANYTHING you want to be. Anything. Make something up at least. The world is your oyster. You can go anywhere. You can travel. You can go to any college, you can major in anything. You are an intelligent girl! Think of where you can go!”
And I sat. And I repeated.
“I want to be a mother. I want to be a homemaker. I want to settle down in my mid-twenties and get married and enjoy being a parent.”
Now. You have to understand the climate. An all-girls’ school. A Catholic school. You know, eight fingers seperating you from your dance partner? Sheltered life? (ha!) Girls dropping like flies from our graduating class because they became teen parents and either weren’t allowed to continue or had to slip away unnoticed and eventually return, no questions asked, the following year? My answer was NOT the stock answer. This was NOT what we were educated to believe. Even though they wanted us to eventually become loving, Catholic parents, producing a plethora of Catholic offspring, who in turn would attend the plethora of parochial schools in our area, the “real” answer was this:
“I’m gonna go to college, get a few degrees, meet the nice, Catholic Boy (frat drunk) who wants to treat me like a queen and then settle down, after our dreamy Cinderella wedding, into a brick cape or stone tudor in suburbia and birth babies with these child-bearing hips!”
After I repeated my answer, the questions flew.
“What do you MEAN you want to be a parent! You can be ANYTHING THESE DAYS!”
“You can do whatever you want! Isn’t there anything you want to do? ANYTHING?”
“But don’t you want to go to college? Don’t you want to be smart?”
“You’re kidding, right? This is a joke?”
I only wish it were. The truth is, growing up in a large(ish) family meant that I learned to be domestic at an early age. I knew how to cook dinner for nine people. I knew how to write a shopping list, organize coupons and tally the amount as I shopped (in my head). I knew how to change diapers at the age of nine. I knew how to feed the foster babies their bottles. I knew how to rock my brother to sleep when he had an owie. I knew to serve my dad dinner first and myself last. I knew how to drive the kids to their soccer games and to help them with their homework. And I knew it was what I wanted to do. I wasn’t playing house. I was aspiring to be something great. A mother. A role that is not highly regarded these days. If I can be ANYTHING I want to be, and I can choose ANYTHING in the world, what is wrong with being a mother? What better job could a person ask to do?
I’m a cook. A housekeeper. A first-aid provider.
I’m a teacher. A reader of books. A disciplinarian and behavior specialist.
I’m a therapist. I’m a driver. I’m a personal shopper. I’m a gardener. I’m the laundermat.
I’m a secretary. I’m a book-keeper. I’m a scheduler. I’m a personal assistant.
But best of all? I’m a mom. I get to cuddle them and love them and kiss their sweaty foreheads at night. I get to pick their dirty clothes up off the floor (because, like their dad, they all have bad aim when it comes to the hamper). I have the privelege of packing their lunches and giving them nutritious meals. I am honored to be able to tuck them into bed each night, reading them stories. I am the luckiest person in the world because I get to see them rub their sleepy eyes and smile at me when I wake them up in the morning.
I went to college. I got a degree (s). I have enough credits to get my graduate degree (I’m not FLIGHTY! I’m WELL-ROUNDED!). So what if it took me nine years! I eventually got what I wanted. An education. A loving, intelligent husband who loves us and takes care of us. Children I adore. A home I am cozy in. Friends and family who help me when I needed. A family. And the best education in the world is being a parent. You learn to be selfless. You learn to love unconditionally. You learn to deal with disappointments. You learn to live with stress and to press through it. You learn to be utterly devestated and then become content with your life. You learn to love people who tell you that you are the MEANEST AND WORSE MOMMY EVER because they already used up their twenty minutes of video game time and they think you are going to give them more at nine o’clock at night.
But back to high school. When I adamantly refused to change my answer, and the spunky nun pressed me for an answer, I finally gave her one she could live with.
“Please, DG, tell us one thing. Anything.”
Ok, fine then.
“I’ll go to clown college.”
More jaws dropped. More gasps. More eyerolls because they knew I was weird.
That’ll learn them. I am momma, hear me roar.