My bio…. (a stay-at-home mom’s response to a request for her bio)

Trying to write a short bio on myself for a committee I wanted to be on opened up a Pandora’s box of issues for me.  It got me to wondering how to define what I’ve done with the last twenty years of my life.  I was born in the early 60s and was blessed to grow up in a home where education was stressed. I went to a fine University and then followed that up with three years of law school.  At that time, the wisdom of the crowd was that a woman could have it all.  I balked at all the traditional women’s career choices such as teaching because “I was better than that.”  Yet, inside I had no doubt that someday I wanted to be a mom.  In fact, from the time I was very little playing dolls with my friends the one thing I was certain of was that I wanted to be a mom.  I guess you could say that being a mom was my passion.

I was blessed to marry young and luckily my husband was on board with the whole children concept.  I had my first son four years after starting work as a lawyer. I soon found that I could not have it all.  Others found a way but I could not and as my father said, “The law will have many masters, your children will have only one mother.” My husband, also a lawyer, worked crazy hours and was earning enough for me to stop working.  It would be a falsehood to say that I was devastated to leave work, but staying home was also an adjustment and never easy.  For a thinking person to watch an infant drool or to keep a toddler from drinking lye eighteen hours a day is probably just a hair worse than waterboarding. I do not look back on those early days with great joy.  Two more sons followed and the insanity of three children left little time to think about personal sacrifice or fulfillment.  I did a lot of volunteer work at the kids’ school, made fantastic friends, built community and made our house a home.  Along the way, I have become a decent cook, a passable hostess, an outstanding chauffeur and an unlicensed pediatrician who rarely needs a tongue depressor to know if a child has strep. In twenty years I have never been bored. Now, with the kids older and more independent I stare at a blank page and think they want to know what I’ve done for the last twenty years. What do I write?

Well, how’s this? For twenty years I’ve “been there.”  I have been there for my husband, my sons, my friends, my parents, my in-laws and my extended family, some more than others. I am not perfect and sometimes I’m not even good but I have tried really hard. Sometimes “being there” is easy.  Sometimes it’s just about spending fun time with people, but sometimes it’s really hard.  I’ve been there to rub my friend’s back at her brother’s burial and just maybe that meant more to her and to me than any brief I would have written or any deal I might have closed as a lawyer.  And, sometimes  “being there” is just what it sounds like, the day in/day out drudgery of “being there.”  I am here every afternoon at 4PM when my slightly anxious sixteen year old calls and asks who’s picking him up? After all these years of hearing the same answer you might think he would be a little less concerned.  I am here every night even though I can barely stand the sound of my own voice when I hear myself saying “please take out your homework” for the hundredth time to my twelve year old. In the end, most of it is about those three boys of mine. Even though I know life is a crapshoot, I am here every day loving them, shaping them, praying that if I stay here they will grow up strong and healthy, loving and capable.  And, I am here because I want to be here.  This is really what I always wanted to do and I don’t have a single regret.

So put that in your bio and smoke it.

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19 thoughts on “My bio…. (a stay-at-home mom’s response to a request for her bio)

  1. Helene–these are beautiful thoughts…and i venture to say you were years ahead of what women would come to think. it seems like you words could have been written by every friend of my 30 year old daughter! what does that say about the other choices we made?

    • That’s Motherhood. . . being there. . . until our children have their own children. . . the unchartered waters of motherhood will elude them. . . thanks for the post . . . . It takes a Mum to Know One XO

  2. I can certainly identify. My thirty plus year old daughter told me that she was so glad I could pick her up from school, and was home for her afterschool. I was the therapist of choice, or the only one available to listen to her guess what happened at school today updates. My CV certainly suffered from those years. I have since re-entered the higher education world, but I am underemployed. Bummer.

  3. Helene, there’s so much to react to here, particularly as a mom of daughters, who was home full time for 6 years, until 15 years ago, and is 10 days away from becoming an empty-nester. Before I go any further let me say what I believe now as I did 21 years ago: Although not every mother is paid for the work, every mother is a working mother.

    From the time I was 12, until the age of 26, I lived in all-female households. The loss of our sole breadwinner when I was in 7th grade (read: my father died suddenly one sunny April Sunday) made a strong impression on each of us to figure out how best to support ourselves, and one another. That impression carried me through my years of education – middle school, high school, college, grad school and law school. In other words, guessing that I would not have a choice about whether or not I needed to earn enough to support myself, I sought to assure that I could do so. And, I loaded up on education so my toolbox would be properly stocked.

    I was blessed, ultimately, with not having to be the primary earner for myself and my family. But the need to do so – and to re-enforce for my daughters that they need to be able to do so – has never been far from my thoughts. The blessing that I encountered was to have the choice. I loved (then) being there for my family. It really suited me and met my needs. And, I love NOW that I was there THEN for my family. It enriched all of us.

    Transitioning back to the paid work force gave me the opportunity to model for my daughters just how to do that, and to share with them skills and tools used in today’s current workplace, particularly as they launched their academic pursuits and their careers.

    Not everyone has the luxury of choice, and not everyone is suited to be home with their own children full time. That’s not a judgment, just a description. We all have different strengths and abilities and interests, and that’s what makes the world go around. I want my daughters to feel empowered, and I want them to be free to situate themselves to make the choices that are best for them.

    • Lori,

      I agree totally. Note the use of the word “blessed” and “lucky” multiple times in my post. I’m glad you are giving me the opportunity to say that I was not throwing down the gauntlet to mothers who work outside the home. I have immense respect for those who can juggle it all. This was just about me and my choices and I truly know fortunate I am to have been afforded those choices. I quote my father but I also know that if I had decided to return to work he would have said something equally supportive about that decision. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Wow! I don’t know Helene, but she wrote my bio, too. The details are not exact, but the feelings are shared. Especially in the ways that I recognized, at some point (mid-career, after 3rd child was born), that I couldn’t have it all, at least not all at once. I also consider myself particularly blessed to have a supportive spouse, who is able to provide health care coverage for our entire family. Thank you for articulating so this so beautifully.

  5. The only piece of this thread of comments with which I disagree is the part where we say that by opting to be at-home moms, we are somehow not “having it all.” For me, that WAS all! It was all I ever wanted, despite my success in several professional careers prior to achieving motherhood. While I recognize that not everyone feels the same way I do, I still contend that for some of us, “being there” is truly “having it all.”

    I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with parents bemoaning the fact that they “gave in” and bought the minivan. I always feel a little alienated by those conversations because for me, buying the minivan was the greatest achievement I had ever experienced – greater than any advanced degree or job promotion – I had finally arrived at my destiny.

    I don’t fool myself that this life will sustain me beyond my empty nest. I look forward to my next chapter, although still unsure just what that will be. But being the kind of mom I needed to be was the only goal that ever mattered to me.

    • I feel like you’re really brave to say that. And, maybe that’s what I was trying to say. Is it ok in 2013 for a woman to say that raising her kids was really the highest and best use of her time even with all of those fancy, advanced degrees. And, further is it ok not to have had any higher ambitions?? Finally, what is the next chapter?? I’ve got more questions than answers. If anyone has the answers I’d sure love to hear them.

      • In my mind, that was the whole point of the women’s movement – not to tell women we had to compete, but to give us the option to compete – or not to. It doesn’t feel brave to me to say what I said because it is merely the result of knowing who I am and what is right for me – not for anyone else.

        And as far as “is it ok” not to have greater ambitions – my feeling is that using whatever extraordinary gifts we may have been given to live “ordinary” lives does not reduce our “extraordinariness” – more likely it serves to elevate the level of our “ordinary” lives to something greater. Does that make any sense?

  6. Beautiful words Helene. May you continue to give strength and support to those whom you work with, those who benefit from your hard work and those who read your beautiful words.

  7. Helene, in terms of answers: I had a beloved law school professor, Thomas Campbell of blessed memory, who used to say that there is only one answer to every legal question. I’ll expand that to say that there’s only one answer to every question. The answer is: It depends. (smile)

  8. My decision to be a stay at home mom was made for me, as I was let go from my job as an advertising account executive when I was 5 months pregnant with my first. I didn’t fight for that job because I really did want to be a stay at home mom. I felt that I only had enough “bandwidth” for one job at a time. I loved being at home with my babies and “being there”. I didn’t think of it as a job that didn’t require thinking. It is a job that requires being present and aware, sensitive to the needs of others while not losing yourself. You are the model. It was an a education in itself! As Helen said, “Along the way, I have become a decent cook, a passable hostess, an outstanding chauffeur and an unlicensed pediatrician who rarely needs a tongue depressor to know if a child has strep.” I learned how to be a lactation consultant, elementary school teacher/tutor, craft project supervisor, etc. while keeping my sanity by being involved in community.

    I have two daughters in college now and started working outside the home part time when they were in middle school. My salary is not one that I could we could live on and there are those that would say I am “underemployed”. I don’t think of it that way. I have work that allows me the flexibility to still “be there” for my family and friends. Somebody has to do it….

    If life had thrown me onto a different path, I might be saying something different, but I love Lori’s perspective that our education is there so that, as mothers, if we had to do a second job, one outside the home, to support our families, we could. I do feel blessed to have been able to stay at home with my children – it’s not easy for everyone and not a choice everyone can make. I wish for my daughters that, when the time comes, they will be able to make choices in this area that are good for them.

  9. My earlier comment never made it on. I wanted to say that while I chose to continue to work throughout motherhood (my boys are now 17 and 19) I so completely resonate with the critical value of “being there”. I have evolved through multiple working modes and in every case– the successful ones were the ones that enabled me to be there for the important people in my life. And of course I missed opportunities and moments. And it has helped me to be even more present when I can be.
    The choice to work — for me– was, from the start- even before children and husband- a way to push at the edges of who I could become as a human being. And after marriage and children, while stretched in wholly new and unimaginable ways, I nevertheless found that the boundaries kept expanding and I needed to keep pushing at them. There is no question that I had the luxury to explore my professional path because I was not the primary wage earner for much of our lives. And at the same time, my aspirations for my children to become independent, fulfilled and contributing members of or world prompted me to do no less for myself.
    This has not all been easy and smooth and every stage of life has opened up new vistas and paths to consider. As I too head into empty-nest mode– I found myself making new choices yet again.

  10. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It will always be helpful to read through articles from
    other authors and use a little something from their websites.

  11. Thank you for writing this, it seems that you’ve also written my bio as well. It’s so important for me “to be there, in the present, and fully available” to my kids as they were growing up. I believe that not only did it make a difference to them but life was more fulfilling for me and my husband. I got off the “crazy train” of what my life had become while I had worked., and I’m so glad I had the choice. Now that my children are older ( 15, 14, 14). They need me in a different way and now I’m contemplating a second career choice, which is difficult as I approach 50.

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