Friday, May 6, 2016

In favor of my working mom

I listen to Dr. Laura, this on-air therapist, on my way home from work every day and I'm on board with most of her advice except one: about how "stay-at-home moms" are better for their children than working moms.

Because I had a "working mom" and I appreciated every single panty-hosed visit to our school growing up.

Peeking out from behind the thick, velvety curtain on stage at various elementary school plays, I felt it was extra important that she was able to squeeze a visit on her lunch break.

...A leather bound file folder balanced in the crook of one arm clapping as we got presidential medals, first grade graduation certificates, etc.

The other stay-at-home moms were always the ones in jeans and Keds sneakers looking way too calm in the front row, arriving early, smelling like cookies.

I remember my friends who had stay-at-home moms, which I now understand to be a job in itself, but their presence at school functions, gymnastics meets and soccer games seemed less meaningful since they weren't doing anything else.



I admired having such a hard-working mom. 

Someone who was so important she got work calls at 8 o'clock at night after dinner, or after a particularly seething ten o'clock news segment about the New Orleans Public School system, where she worked.

I also remember how important we found it that our mom took two weeks off for vacation every summer to be with us, no leather folder to be seen.

"What about your meetings?"

"This is more important."

We beamed.

That role model hard-working attitude has been duplicated in the 12 or so years us children have worked full-time.

My twin sister Joy once flew back to Charleston, where we live, ON MARDI GRAS day to finish a project that suddenly had a last-minute deadline.

I had five jobs simultaneously in the three years I lived in New Orleans. 

I don't think we even saw our brother Franklin from 2007-2010 due to his workload. 

Last year at Jazz Fest, I had to leave the set of my favorite band, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, because I had a work emergency that I needed to solve.

I sat in the back row of the children's tent, by myself, furiously checking my work email.

"One year I had a work emergency, when your grandfather was in town visiting for Jazz Fest," my mom said to me. 

"But back then, we didn't have smartphones and I had to leave and go home to get on the computer. And you have to buy a whole new ticket to re-enter."

Other people might have ignored it, feigned bad reception at Jazz Fest. But there I was, typing away. 

Mamma raised me right.

Of all the great qualities I've inherited from my mom—brains, compassion, a really cute nose—one of the least acknowledged is how us children inherited her desire to work hard for your passion. 

Such as...cold-call walk into the office of a community weekly newspaper fresh off of college graduation and pitch being a freelancer and do so well that they hire you full-time three months later.

In New Orleans, it was learning how to create my own job. I had just gotten laid off and thanks to my mom's connection at an arts nonprofit, I was hired as a lowly receptionist.

Spoiler alert: I'm a terrible receptionist.

That's when my mom told me to "grow where you're planted," which is code for make the job you want, not the job you have.

(Kind of like "dress for the job you want, not the one you have," only less sexist.)

During my stint as a "receptionist" I forced my way into being the organization's email blaster, grant writer and, at my mom's recommendation, I started teaching newspaper to kids after school, which still today, was the most rewarding job I've ever had.

Thanks mom.

When I decided to move back to Charleston and miraculously got a job interview for a business magazine, my mom drove 12 hours with me to take the interview. 

Taking time off of her own job to do it.

Now that I understand how hard it is to juggle a full-time job with a needy DOG, I am even more impressed that mom was able to juggle so much, so successfully, with three needy kids. (Well, two needy kids and Franklin.)

And I'm that much more appreciative of the time she made for us. 

She still continues to be a role model.

My new life goal is to be immortalized with a surprise half-hour long tribute when I retire. 

Yes, in the middle of a work luncheon for something unrelated, my mom was surprise honored by an entire room of people for all her years of hard work and all the lives she changed.

New life goal: To have co-workers BEG me not to leave when I stop working.

Oh and have a dedication in a book:

Certainly, that beats staying home in Keds, baking cookies.


Today it's fitting that I’m exhausted because I stayed up until after midnight several nights this week to write a complicated article for the business magazine where I still work. 

But I don’t mind one bit.

Because I was taught to work hard for my passion.

Besides...that’s what my mom would have done.



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