Mom, Mom, Mom #20

This will run in the September 27 issue of the Alameda Sun.

The Big Questions in Life

“Mom, can I google you?” asked my ten-year-old daughter.

Sure! I say, thinking, how cool is it that my kid is interested in me and how impressed she will be when she sees the results for her Mom on the search page. As these thoughts float through my inflated head, I hear:

“Oh, wait, I want to google why there aren’t cheerleaders at a baseball game instead.”

So much for the almost-moment of mini-celebrity in my house. When she couldn’t find out the answer to the cheerleader question right away, she quickly jumped to the Disney Channel site to spend time with Hannah Montana.

Deflated for a moment, I began to wonder: Why is it important to me for my kids to be interested in or impressed by my (small though they may be) accomplishments at work?

It seems I am not alone. In his Wall Street Journal column “Cubicle Culture,” Jared Sandberg recently recounted several hilarious stories surrounding the confusion of kids on just what their parents did for a living and the effect it has on the parents’ psyche.

[NOTE: Not sure if you can/want to print the URL:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118461099278667838.html?mod=djemPJ) ]

Internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s son thought his father worked at the airport because he was always trying to get to one. It seems that for many of the rest of us, all we do is talk on the phone and play on the computer from 9 to 5. From the look of it, that might be true, but how do we explain what we really do to our children and, ultimately, to ourselves?

My parents’ roles in life were very clear. My Mom was a Mom. She stayed home and cleaned and cooked. I certainly knew I did not want to do that. My Dad was an auto mechanic who owned an automobile service and gas station. I didn’t want that, either, although I tried for a while. My father didn’t think it was a profession fit for a girl. I could work in his office doing light bookkeeping, but he wouldn’t let me near a car or even pump gas. My brothers pumped gas and got tips. I wanted the tips.

The guys who worked for my Dad one day told me go pump some gas. So, without any instruction, I picked up the hose and flipped the switch and with a certain fury, the smelly fluid unleashed from the pump all over the street. “See?” they said, laughing, taking the hose away from me. “Girls can’t pump gas.” It was a humiliating and defining moment I have not forgotten. It helped me dig my heels in to find a profession of my own that was not clearly delineated as a “job for a girl.” (After all these years, it seems somewhat ironic to me that New Jersey is one of only two states where it is illegal to pump your own gas.) I grew up and away, going off to college and entering into a profession completely separate and different from my parents.

I want my girls to find their own way, too, not in defiance to me, but in an effort to find what they are called to do. I don’t think the world still thinks about jobs in terms of what’s good for “boys” or “girls”—that attitude continues to change and evolve on a daily basis.

As for my kids and their interpretation of my professional life, I suppose I am luckier than most. At least after enduring their Mom on those grumpy deadline days and staying quiet in the background while Mom talks on the phone for hours, they can see some of my work resulting in a byline in a newspaper or magazine. They see Mom dressing up for meetings and practicing for presentations when it comes to consulting work.

One thing we all are clear on, however, is that Mom doesn’t always have the answer to everything. Why aren’t there cheerleaders at baseball games? I have absolutely no idea.

Send your answers to marylee@alamedanet.net.

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