Mom has been teasing me lately that my blog is called This Mom Loves, and there has been little mention of her yet – therefore I must not love her very much! How far from the truth. As my mother prepares to retire from a career in teaching, I’ve been reflecting on what she has taught me about work, parenting and doing both at the same time.
When I was two months old, Mom returned to the classroom. That was a normal length of mat leave back then (can you believe that? I cannot imagine leaving my child at that age…for her sake or mine…thank God I live in a country that now values parental leave), and I’m sure money was a factor. I also know that my mom loved her job. Not so much that she would just leave me with anyone, though – I was looked after by her Aunt Diann, and although I have no memories of my first daycare days, I still think very fondly of Aunt Dee-Dee.
When my brother was born twenty months after me, Mom again took a short mat leave, and returned to work, this time bringing a terrific babysitter in to our home. Mrs. Clysdale even snuck us Honeycomb cereal…much tastier than our usual Cheerios! Although I was young, I do remember a few things from these years (like the time she brought me a new bubblegum pink plastic hairband, and I promptly sat on it and broke it, or the times she used to bathe Ed in the bathroom sink) and I still make sure to update Mrs. Clysdale on milestones in my life.
When we were four and two, Mom decided to stay at home for good. She quit her job and cashed out her pension, ready for a permanent at-home lifestyle. I have many memories of these days: the homemade cinammon pinwheels, riding to the corner in the wagon to catch the kindergarten bus. The funny thing is, I have never really asked her what made her decide to stay at home: whether it was pressure, (because I know my Grandma’s a big stay-home-with-your-kids proponent), or if it was truly her heart’s desire. I was reading a post the other day where a writer wondered what it would be like to have a first date with your mother, in order to really get to know her. Although I’m sure it would be very eye-opening, I’m quite comfortable with our friendly mother-daughter relationship. I think would be very bizarre and disconcerting to get to know her as an actual woman!
I do know that once Ed and I were both in school full time, she started to go nuts being at home all day. Although she’s an avid reader, she has a hard time staying in one spot for very long. Plus, let’s be honest, one income only provides you with a certain lifestyle. Many of you can relate to being home all day making no money, and therefore not being able to go out at night or on the weekends because there’s no money to spend. She decided to reapply to the school board, and one fateful August day, got the call that there was a full-time position waiting for her. It’s funny that the way she remembers the story, my seven year old brother cried and asked who would be waiting with cookies after school. In reality, the tears and question actually came from nine year old me, sitting at the dining room table believing that my world was falling apart.
In retrospect, I am unable to name any negative consequences of her decision to return to work. We only needed before and after care, which was provided by a neighbour who popped over to get us on and off the bus. Other than that, what difference did it make once we were at school? It was certainly fun to push her guilt button at times (hey, I learned the guilt-trick from her!), but we had grandparents to pick us up when we were sick, and we really didn’t feel like they missed any of our events. Most of our classmates had parents who worked outside the home, so we certainly weren’t the only ones. And Mom took personal leave days for important occasions, such as the day I made my confirmation stole.
I have learned so much about teaching from my parents, (the “Leahy look” has quieted many a student), although ironically they discouraged us from following in their footsteps, as we graduated during a time of labour unrest and low public opinion of teachers. Of course we didn’t listen. My mother has also taught me, through example, about how to be a (good) teacher and a (good) mom at the same time. She often had marking or planning to do at night, and required us to pitch in on household tasks, but that taught me the effort necessary to make a family run (and perhaps contributed to a little bit to my neatfreakishness). She was always there when we needed her, but didn’t suffocate or smother us in the meantime. (Honestly, had she not returned to work, I think the potential for smothering would have been way higher.)
Mom taught me that it’s okay to want a family, and a career, and that it’s possible to do both well. My job means so much to me, and I have never felt any guilt from my parents whatsoever about leaving my children at daycare in order to return to work. I mean, my brother and I turned out just fine. At least I did anyway. (Just kidding, Ed. You know, ’cause I’m sure you read this blog all the time; don’t want you to be offended.)
So, thank you, mom, for inspiring me to ‘have it all’…which I always have, thanks to you. See…I do love you!
How about my readers? Do you think your mother’s work history has impacted on any choices you have made as a parent? Does she voice her opinions about your work situation, or stay out of your way? Do you try to follow her lead, or avoid her path? Does your mother-in-law play any role? (Mine was a farmer’s wife who stayed home to raise NINE kids. I can learn a lot from her example as well, though I have no desire to keep up to her!) I’d love to hear what the rest of you have to say.