Last year, I had the opportunity to ask 450 elementary school children what they wanted to be when they grew up. Each child had his or her future job printed largely on a white piece of paper, and I took their pictures in front of a cute backdrop. These pictures (adorably) appeared in their yearbook, a beacon for years to come of what they wanted to become at that age.
The answers ran the gamut. Many of the kindergarteners wanted to be superheroes, one little guy wanted to be a spider, and another girl wanted to be a doughnut-maker for Dunkin Donuts. The 4th graders were a little more realistic as their choices ranged from teachers to video game programmers, to policemen, doctors, nurses, and firefighters.
A few little girls proudly stepped up and stood holding their pieces of white paper in front of their smiling faces. Mommy. Mama. Mom. Mother.
I’m ashamed to admit that my first instinct was feminist self-righteousness. These young girls can be anything they want to be! Why would they want to just be a mom? What about their education? Their careers? Being self-sufficient?
As the parade of children continued, I snapped pictures and thought more about those little girls wanting only to become mothers someday. I wondered if their mothers stayed at home with them or worked long hours. Right now…on paper…I’m “just a mom.”
If you had asked me in kindergarten what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would’ve said “veterinarian.” If you had asked in middle school, I’d have said “journalist.” In high school, it was “English teacher,” a profession I eventually adopted for eleven years.
And now…I’m just a mom. I don’t have an official job title. I don’t think “stay-at-home mom” makes me sound any more official than “writing instructor who took early retirement to change diapers and heat chicken nuggets.” I could be my home’s Laundry Liaison…maybe I’ll have business cards made.
However, just as I indignantly felt those little girls at my daughter’s school should aim higher, I should look at myself exactly the same way.
I’m not just a mom. In any given day, I wear a hundred different hats, make a thousand decisions, run my household smoothly, and…most importantly…love and strengthen my children and husband. Just this morning, I’ve been a conflict resolution negotiator, math instructor, chef (okay…short order cook), judge, custodian, writer, laundry liaison, chauffeur, dog walker, and early childhood specialist. And it isn’t even lunchtime.
For now, I enjoy being just a mom. I refuse to be too hard on myself when I consider what I’m not doing. Instead, I’ll embrace the many ways I contribute to making the world a better place, to making my home and community better places.
Though I have many commitments outside our home, my most important contribution is the three little people I tuck into bed each night. To them, I’m not just a mom. I’m a superhero, nurse, policeman, firefighter, teacher…whatever they need me to be. I’m proud of that.