Like most of my hometown friends and classmates, I entered “Steelworker” for Dad.
I always paused, and was often almost ashamed to enter “Housewife” for Mom.
This was the 1950’s. The family model of the baby boomer generation was for Dad to be employed in a manner that would allow Mom to be home raising her children and caring for the home. Leave It To Beaver. Ozzie and Harriet. What’s not to love about that ?
I wanted more for my mother. She had worked the first decade of their marriage, contributing to the family finances; co-purchasing their home.
She was bright, lively, vibrant, engaged in the world of work. I was young, but I remember. I have photos of her at one of her jobs, at an A & P grocery store. She looked happy. She always brought friends home on Friday night. She served homemade pizza. The conversations were so animated; she was in her comfort zone. We noticed.
A few years and 3 children in, she was forced by tragic circumstances to be that housewife for the first time. She had 3 more children. She was never the same.
We often heard her lament. “If I just hadn’t had so many children” “I had so many dreams growing up” “I wish I had gone to Nursing School” ” I could have been so much more than a housewife”. Ouch.
For all of us, particularly her 4 daughters, this was a painful message; one that had us all scrambling for some sort of self-fulfillment that was not defined by being a wife and mother.It took me so long to reconcile all these negative influences. There was emotional pain, confusion and depression.
On the last week of her life, Mom looked at me with all the sincerity she could muster and said “You children are the best thing that ever happened to me”.
I’m sorry for her, and for us, that the acknowledgement came so late. In my heart, I always wanted to believe this was her truth; it was just so nice to finally hear it.
I had my first child 3 years later.