My mother grew up an entitled, only-child Manhattanite who went to Syracuse University and Hunter College to get a journalism degree. She was on the forefront of the women's movement, guest wrote for MS magazine, burned her bra, and got her master's and doctorate in adult education, which gave her the credentials to write books and teach English to the Vietnamese refugees who arrived in Pennsylvania after the war.
She never hesitated to tell my father what she thought about his job or hers. He was utterly outnumbered in a house of five women (I'm the oldest of four girls). My mother still prides herself on having raised four strong, independent women through what she likes to call "beneficent neglect."
What she didn't raise, in my case at least, was a carbon copy of herself.
On the one hand, I followed in her footsteps far enough that I earned my bachelor's, with a double major in communications and psychology. I've worked since I was 14 in one or the other of those fields, because I could never decide which I liked better. And I always feel extremely successful in any position I've held, rising to the top, and reinventing myself every 10 years or so (although I've been settled in my current job for 18 years).
On the other hand, all I really wanted to be was Betty Draper, a stay-at-home mom.
I'm a hard worker and don't mind working. I am passionate about whatever I do. But I hate working for a living. I wish I could have spent years and years being 100 percent attentive to my kids!
All in all, I grew up to understand the value of knowledge, and of being a strong and independent woman. I wouldn't trade the lessons my mother taught me for anything, because I do believe they made me the best mother I could be to my children, even if I wish I'd had more time to bake cookies.
I'm also sure she'd be proud to think of me as a published author. So this little look back makes a great Mother's Day gift for her, too -- since I can never find an appropriate card or gift for the sort of mother who didn't like to cook, clean up after her kids, or cheer them on at sports!
Happy Mother's Day, Mom -- you taught me everything, even if I ended up wishing I could have chosen a road less like yours.
But for now -- I will just dream of winning the lottery so I can be a stay-at-home Nana someday!
> More celebration of the moms who influenced us