August 6, 2008

Not Just a Mother

I didn't set out to be the mother of four. With five younger brothers, I had no romantic illusions about motherhood. I felt my mother and my aunts had sacrified their spotential to mother large families. From age 13 to 26, I questioned whether I wanted to be a mother at all. Instead, I was determined to have the challeging, intellectually demanding career that I felt to be incompatible with motherhood.

When I was a child, most of the older working women I knew were Roman Catholic nuns. My mother, my friends' mothers, and my aunts stayed home and raised their children. Although I knew I wanted a career, I never could decide what career. I invariably said "I don't know" when people asked me what I wanted to do. But I always added, "I don't want to be just a mother." I valued intellectual acheivement at the expense of the maternal, emotional, intuitive side of my nature. I was sure I didn't want to be just a teacher, a nurse, or a social worker either; the traditionally feminine fields were not for me. I would aim higher.

I was a shy girl who refused to wear the glasses I desperately needed outside the classroom. If any boy noticed me, I must have come across as a dreadful snob since I couldn't see him. I fervently believed that a girl could be smart or she could date. I was as confident in my intellectual abilities as I was dreadfully insecure about my popularity and attractiveness. One of my uncles kept the letters I wrote him when I was in graduate school. They are so embarrassing. Basically I listed the books I had read and the marks I had gotten, comparing them to the marks of my brothers and my friends.

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