“My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be... As she guided me through these incredible eighteen years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her.” -Rory Gilmore, The Gilmore Girls
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Ask this question to a group of young children and answers will probably vary, with some of the most common responses including doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, astronaut, or teacher. All of our lives we are conditioned to think of our “perfect” career path. We seem to think the correct model follows moving from school to college to university, but this is not the case for everyone. It’s time we start showing the reality: not everyone’s path is linear.
Guided by these ideals of perfect careers, Career Day in school was always the day for kids to show off their “perfect” parents. I remember bankers, lawyers, doctors, policemen, and of course firefighters coming to speak to my class. Whenever the slip came home for parents to sign up, mine would get looked at and tossed away by my mom. My dad was a handyman, and my mom worked from home or with my dad. These didn’t exactly make for the greatest career examples in society’s eyes. However, my mom had one of society’s most important jobs– motherhood.
My mom did not have a traditional day-job, but she is one of the hardest working people I know. She left her job working for the public school system when my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor at one year of age. In order to give him the care he needed, she became a stay-at-home mom. She would take him to his therapy sessions and appointments. Once he was of school age, she began taking beginning English courses at the local community college in order to learn to speak English. She also began working construction with my father to help support us. She managed to do all of this while being present for every dismissal, every awards assembly, every school activity. Yet, there isn’t a spectacular name for that. We always look at mothers like mine and say “she’s JUST a stay-at-home mom.” They are so much more than that. What’s the title we fill out on the Career Day slip for mothers like that?
It’s important for us to realize that just because something is not typical doesn’t diminish its importance. Each person’s story is crafted differently and contains different challenges. Each career and profession is valid in its own unique way, and that is something we should all be celebrating. I wish my mother had been able to present at Career Day. She posses the greatest collection of abilities I have ever witnessed. Her time management skill rivals that of a Fortune 500 company CEO. Her ability to resolve conflict parallels that of a Supreme Court Judge. And let’s not even begin to mention her ability to work under pressure. Stay-at-home moms have some of the greatest determination capable of a human being. We just have to look close enough to recognize it.
Both of my parents had studied wonderful careers in their youth and were very successful in them. However, the sacrifices they had to make as political refugees shaped their path a different way. As I said in my college admissions essay, I am the daughter of two esteemed accountants, yet I am also the daughter of a housekeeper and a handyman. And I could not be prouder of that. It is time we show kids that just because they are different, they are not less.
It’s time we start realizing the importance of stay-at-home moms and the value of the work they do. Call a family member or friend who is or has been a stay-at-home mom. Ask them about their experiences throughout this time and what tasks they’ve had to complete. You have no idea what you might learn from them.