What do you want to be when you grow up Shannon? It differed from day to day. A hairdresser some days, because one of my parent’s friends was a hairdresser and she was really cool. A dancing teacher on other days, because I loved my dancing teacher so much and she got to dance all day long. Sometimes a fashion designer, because I knew my Mom used to be a fashion designer before she had me, I would page through her sketch books and see the beautiful dresses she’d designed. But then after she had me she became… A housewife. Like, who wants to grow up to be that?
It just sounded so… unglamorous. Visions of scrubbing toilets, vacuuming, ironing and making beds all day came to mind. Not because that what my Mom did, but because that’s what society made Motherhood out to be at that time, through imagery in magazines and in many other ways too, so that was my perception.
When I think back now, what my Mother actually did, was cook wholesome delicious dinners, every single night of the week. She made sure all 3 of us girls were cared for meticulously, she read us stories, helped us with school projects, took us on outings, she made us the most beautiful packed lunches for school everyday. She would wrap our sandwiches like a little present and draw a heart on the wrapping, every single day. I always remember lunch time at school, the other kids were like “What the actual? I wish my Mom would go to such effort, she just gives me R5 for tuck! Can I have a sandwich?”. It was as if my sandwiches were more tasty than theirs, because of the love that went into making them.
Yes she also did the housework, but that was a small part of her ‘job’. The biggest part of any Mother’s ‘job’, actually… let’s call it purpose… the biggest part of any Mother’s purpose, is to make her children feel safe and loved. And she did a brilliant job of doing just that. She did it so well, that she even made friends of mine feel like that, when their Moms didn’t.
Despite all of this, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I assumed it had to be ‘a real job’. I couldn’t say that I wanted to grow up to be ‘a Mother’, even though I did. Because just ‘a Mother’ isn’t a real job. A Mother doesn’t get paid to do all the things she does, so it doesn’t count as a job.
Wow. Isn’t that sad? That the world that most of us grew up in didn’t value the role of the Mother. That little girls weren’t encouraged to grow up to be Moms. That we weren’t taught how much of an important role Mothers play in the world. That we weren’t taught how hard it really is, that we weren’t taught what a ‘let down’ is in biology, or how to prepare for birth and motherhood, (but in sex education we were taught how to put condoms on cucumbers?) and that actually, it’s the toughest, and most important job in the world. Isn’t it sad that the boys weren’t taught this either?
That is what I’ll teach my son. I’ll be proud of the role I play as his Mother. I will value myself, even when it feels so incredibly hard to do that, so that he learns to value the role of the Mother too. And hopefully, this small action I take in my day to day life, with him watching my every move, is what will make a difference in the way he perceives ‘the Mother’ in his world.
“Your greatest contribution to the universe may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”~ Unknown