Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be English majors; Don’t let them argue whether Shakespeare really wrote all his stuff; Make them be doctors and lawyers and such…
“Why can’t you get a job?” Child#3 (then six-years-old) asked me.
After a day where I’d logged 147 carpool miles without ever getting more than five miles from home, shopped, cooked, and led an assault against the pile of laundry which roamed our basement in gross violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, I wondered the same thing. But I said, “I have a job. I take care of you and I write a column for the newspaper.”
“But why can’t you get a REAL job so I’d get to go to daycare too?” he wanted to know. Seems his sisters told him about the good old days when Mommy worked in an actual office. Of course, I was happy to know that while I was worrying they would end up as ax-murderers because their mother abandoned them every day, their memories were of how much fun they had with the nanny.
While I was worried they’d grow up thinking all dinner china was beige plastic that said “Budget Gourmet” on the bottom and “Pierce the film” on the top, they remember the thrill of going out to lunch at my office vending machines. And while I was worried about not baking cookies with them, they still talked about the Greatest Birthday Cake Ever—the frozen layer cake they got to decorate themselves with a giant bag of M&Ms.
So I decided to tell him the truth. “It’s because Mommy was an English major,” I confessed.
When I got to college, studying English literature seemed like a great idea. Of course, I could have studied science. But while I was willing to take scientists’ word for many things, I was secretly convinced they got most of the physics and a few of the chemistry experiments to work with magic.
I also could have studied math. But I’m still convinced the best place for calculus in my life is punishment. (As in “Barb, the court finds you guilty of the crimes of baby murder and playing the accordion in public, and sentences you to twenty years of hard calculus.”)
Or I could sit around all day reading the greatest literature of the English language. Although my Indian roommate wanted to know why I was studying English when I could already speak it almost as well as she did, becoming an English major worked well for several years.
But one day I got a letter informing me that somehow I’d miscalculated and accidentally accumulated enough credits to graduate. The letter suggested I see my guidance counselor about my future plans. So I made an appointment and went in to find out which career options had been opened through my four years of studying English literature.
“You have choices,” he told me. “You can be a paralegal or an airline hostess.” Then he looked me over and said, “I recommend a paralegal career.”
Sure, a few of my fellow English majors landed night jobs waiting tables at restaurants where the tips were big enough to allow them to keep up with their graduate studies in deconstructionist critique of neoclassical limericks. But others weren’t so lucky. Some of us ended up writing for newspapers, or in a few desperate cases, became novelists, or even attorneys.
Still, I don’t agree that being on the Mommy Track needed to be the end of one’s career. Although I was currently starting from scratch with Child #4 at the time, I knew my kids would eventually all be in school and I could return fulltime to the workforce. And when I did, I would be bringing some important job skills with me:
- Committee Meetings: I didn’t even go to the bathroom without clearing it in committee. In fact, the committee would usually hang around outside the door demanding progress reports.
- Time management and multi-tasking: As a fully accredited Mom, I could change a dirty diaper with one hand and eat a sandwich with the other, all while I was on hold with the pediatricians’ office.
OrdersLeadership: In the old days, I used to ask subordinates if they would mind doing something for me. But there’s nothing like motherhood to prepare you for giving orders, and the only reason you need offer is, “Because I’m the Mother and I say so.”
- Job title: When I got to the part on the job application which asked for my former job title, I would just have to put down the truth. “Dictator for Life.”