My very fabulous father in law sent this little anecdote to me tonight as he thought The Mum Network readers would relate – it’s oh so true!
A few months ago, I was picking up the children at school, another mother I knew well rushed up to me, fuming with indignation. “Do you know what you and I are?” she demanded. Before I could answer, and I didn’t really have one handy, she blurted out the reason for her question. It seems she had just returned from renewing her driver’s license at the county clerk’s office. Asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation, the lady hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself. “What I mean is,” explained the recorder, do you have a job, or are you just a …?” “Of course I have a job,” she snapped. “I’m a mother.” “We don’t list ‘mother’ as an occupation; ‘housewife’ covers it,” said the recorder.
I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our town hall. The clerk was obviously a career woman – poised, efficient and possessed of a high-sounding title like “official interrogator” or “town registrar.” “What is your occupation?” she probed. What made me say it, I do not know. The words simply popped out.
“I’m a research associate in the field of child development and human relations.”
The clerk paused, ball-pen frozen in midair, and looked up as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasising the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the questionnaire. “Might I ask,” said the clerk, with new interest, “just what you do in your field?”
Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, “I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn’t) in the laboratory and in the field (normally I would have said indoors and out) and already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day (24 is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more satisfactory than money.”
There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s demeanour as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.
As I pulled into our driveway, buoyed by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants – ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our experimental model (6 months) in the child-development programme testing a new vocal pattern. I felt triumphant. I had scored a best on bureaucracy. And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than just another mother.
Motherhood – what a glorious career, especially with a title on the door.