Just Like Donna Reed


June 11, 2009 by Marj Hatzell

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was in high school.  I’ll never forget it one particular day.   Picture this scene:  Twenty innocent little Catlick girls (insert hearty guffaw here), Career counselor woman, talking about colleges and careers and stuff.  We were sixteen?  Maybe?  It was my junior year. All I remember is that were trying to impress on us that we had the potential to become anything and everything.  This was the nineties after all!  We could do whatever we wanted!  Doctor!  Lawyer!  Indian Chief (ok, perhaps not, I’m Irish and German)!  And then the discussion went around the room.  She actually made each of us stand up and tell the class what our future aspirations were.  Doctors,  Lawyers, teachers, the list went on.  She applauded each of them for their ideas.  She mentioned colleges and universities to accomplish it.  She talked about SATs and visits and applications.  Then she got to the last row.  Since my last name began with a “P” I was the fourth-to-last girl to go. The words still sting to this day:

Crazy-arse nun: Well?  P?

Me: reluctantly rising and mumbling

Crazy-arse nun:  What was that?  No one could hear you, for a change.

Me: I said I’d like to get married and have kids some day.

Crazy-arse nun: WHAT?  DIDN’T YOU HEAR WHAT WE WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT?  You can become ANYTHING YOU WANT!  Why in the world would you want to limit yourself to that?  You have potential!  You are intelligent!  You are a gifted student!  A mother?  Think of careers!

Me:  Well, I was thinking of maybe getting a teaching degree.  Maybe special ed.  Then I want to get married and have kids.

Crazy-arse nun: CAREER!  We’re talking about Careers!

Me: Ok.  Ummm…I’m going to clown college.

Let’s just say that last part went over about as well as the first part.  What gives?  I told the truth. I liked school.  In fact, I loved school.  But I honestly did not care what it was that I pursued. I knew I’d be a good college student, I knew I’d get a degree in something.  But I also knew that I wanted to meet someone that I could spend the rest of my life with and have children.  That was not acceptable at my high school. Girls were raised to believe they could go get fifteen thousand degrees if they were academically gifted.  The lower track girls were the ones who got the marriage, family and s.e.x. talk when we got the career talks.  I was viewed as a “waste of time.”  I was sent to the counselor’s office repeatedly over the next eighteen months, until graduation.  And my ideas never wavered.

Until I got to college.

Let’s just say I let loose a tad.  I didn’t care if I woke up in the morning. I worked a stream of dead-end jobs.  I changed my major four times in two years.  Then I dropped out.  See?  No direction. The pressure to get a career, any career, sent me over the edge. I was a mess.

Then I met my husband.  He straightened my arse out.  I got married. I went back to college, this time majoring in Special Ed (see,told you!).  I graduated.  With honors.  With a teaching degree.

And then I was preggers.

Except this time?  I was pissed.  By that time all I could think of was “CAREER!  CAREER!  GRADUATE SCHOOL!”  And not, “Husband, family!”  I was a bit of a liberal feminist at the time (still somewhat there).  I only thought about me.

Then Bug Boy was born.  Except then we called him Baby Bug. ‘Cause he was a baby. Get it?

Here we are eight years later. I still kinda wish I went to graduate school.  But the other day it hit me.  I’m a mom.  I’m a wife.  I stay home.  I take care of our home. I take care of our children.  I take care of my husband. I take care of the dog. Sometimes, I even take care of me.  But for eight years I felt like I copped out. Like I let the crazy-arse nuns down. Like I was supposed to be independent and intelligent and well-educated and successful. I felt like I didn’t become successful.

And that’s when I realized that DESPITE PRESSURE FROM SOCIETY, I am doing exactly what I want to do. I’m a stay-at-home-mom with the potential to make money watching other folk’s kids. I’m rare.  I ain’t some lazy Oprah-watching, phone-chatting, bon-bon-eating, uneducated fool.  We chose this because it was right for our family.  We chose this because we view motherhood as the most important job in the world, and we have the means for me to stay home. We sacrifice fancy vacations, expensive items and DECKS (dirt pit! ) so that I can be available for our family twenty-four hours a day.  Sure, I could go back to work. Sure, I could go back to college.  Maybe someday soon I will.  But right now, I am enjoying being there for my kids. I ENJOY looking forward to when my husband walks in the door, his comments about how awesome dinner smells and his supportive words when he tells me the house looks great, despite the fact that it is pouring rain outside.

In other words, I became exactly what I used to joke about.  A Domestic Goddess.

Sometimes I guess we become the very thing that we were supposed to become.  All those naive years ago, I thought I wanted to be married and have children, but I had no clue.  Then I thought I wanted to go to college forever (nine years seemed like forever).  Then I had kids and thought I wanted to stay home forever.

I still have no clue what I want to be when I grow up.

But one thing’s for sure.  I am exactly where I am supposed to be.   And I’m content.  And happy.  And successful.  And HAPPY.  And I love my job.  It’s the best one in the world (just remind me of that next time I wake up at 3am, k?  Oh wait, I JUST DID.).

5 thoughts on “Just Like Donna Reed

  1. Jacki says:

    This is funny…I just posted about being frustrated at not being able to find work. I have been a SAHM for almost 5 years, and I am ready to go back to work. Emma is ready for kindergarten.

    But I really did enjoy being home. It was the right thing for our family.

  2. I am going to sound unpopular here: but I like the way the nun treated you. It’s the fact that you were encouraged to go to college and given that right, that I respect.

    I say this because I am totally down with you staying home because I know you have something to fall back upon in the event that you were to lose your husband, home, life, etc. tomorrow. (Not that I would ever want that to hapen.) Too many women have no back-up plan for the future in the event it all goes to crap one day.

    As for staying-at-home, I do not judge you for it. I could suggest that I get the opposite. My first day on the job here in the Mid-Atlantic a director of another department asked me when I was going to marry my PhD-then-BF and get married so I’d never have to work again. She wasn’t making a joke. She was outraged when I replied that I was not planning on ever having children and would probably pursue another graduate degree in the near future.

    It really is about you having the choice. I know it may be hard to believe, but you had a choice. That is what matters. What you do with your choice is not for me, or others, or even your husband to say. It’s yours to own and as long as you are happy with it, I am happy. If you are not happy, I will support you in any way possible to pursue what your choice is.

    P.S. I support women who watch Oprah and eat bon bons too. So long as they have something to fall back upon and are doing what they want to do. If for one second they are doing it because of pressure from society to be a stereotypical woman, then I am having a coming to AG’s Jesus with her! If we stand divided, we fail. If we support each other’s right to make her own choice freely and without influence, we succeed.

  3. RuthWells says:

    I’ve said it before and will say it again — our generation of women was not done any favors by being told that we can have it all. We can’t. No one can. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Good for you for prioritizing what’s important to YOU!

  4. You got that right, Ruth!

  5. Heather says:

    I think it’s great that you are doing exactly what you always wanted to do. There’s plenty of time later to pursue something else. And I have a career and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I love thinking of the endless possibilities, like chucking the corporate world and becoming a yoga teacher or a high school math teacher.

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