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Just a Mom

by Kathleen Parker

March 13, 2000

Forget the world is your oyster. For today’s girls, the world is an opera-length strand of pearls. From astronaut to athlete, there’s nothing a girl can’t do.

Well, except for that one thing. If they want any respect, girls best not grow up to be just-a-mom. So I learned recently while eating sushi with "Karen," the 20-year-old daughter of a friend.

"So, Karen," I said, "tell me what you plan to do after college. What do you want to do with the rest of your life?"

Tears. Big welling tears. What, you don’t like sushi? Are you choking on a tentacle? Did I say something wrong?

Wrestling a lump in her throat, Karen managed to speak: "I know this sounds terrible, but, I, I, I want to be a mom."

I am not kidding; this really happened. Why the tears? I asked. What about wanting to be a mother makes you so sad?

"Because," she said, chin trembling, "no one values being a mother. It’s not important enough."

Indeed. In our rush to take our daughters to work, we failed to mention that being a mother is the most important job of all. That careers, though valuable and rewarding, come second to families. That’s what we meant to say, right? Why didn’t we?

Perhaps because we don’t really mean it, that’s why. Or because we’re too guilty to acknowledge that we’re not there for our children.

Karen knows first-hand about children abandoned by their parents. A full-time college student three days a week, she works the other two taking care of other people’s children, ushering them to soccer practice and piano lessons, feeding them supper, helping them with homework.

She’s the au pair extraordinaire. She loves her charges, but hates that she’s the mother they’re missing. Because of her experience, she wants to be a hands-on mom someday.

But just-a-mom has a hollow ring for young women like Karen, who’ve been made to feel they’re less a woman for wanting motherhood over career. What an ironic twist at a time when women have more freedom than ever.

Karen isn’t alone. Perusing "Boundless Webzine," an internet publication of Focus on the Family ( recently, I ran across an article by Bethany Patchin,(cq) titled "I Want To Be A Mom." Patchin told of a day four years ago when her tenth grade English teacher asked the females in the class, "How many of you want to be at-home moms?"

When Patchin raised her hand, she says, the room got quiet and everyone stared.

Writing for "Boundless" four years later, Patchin recounted a discussion with her college advisor. When she told him she wanted to marry and have children after graduation, he said, "I wouldn’t have expected you to be that type."

That type. Is it any wonder the Karens of the world get teary-eyed when they admit they want to be mothers? And they’re right, of course. Society doesn’t much value motherhood. Future husbands who want to marry a stay-home mom, meanwhile, are as rare as pregnant men.

Somewhere along the way, we mistakenly assumed that motherhood was contradictory to feminism. That to be a stay-home mom was to surrender to patriarchal oppression. In truth, the opposite is true, as Iris Krasnow,(cq) reformed feminist/journalist, recently told "Washingtonian" magazine:

"Motherhood," she said, "is about deciding not to fight that ancient and biological yank on the womb, that natural order of the soul that says you should be there … I’m a committed feminist, and there’s nothing more powerful to me than refusing to abandon motherhood."

Sort of brings a lump to your throat.

I first found this article in the March 15, 2000 Seattle Times.  The text came from Kathleen Parker via email on April 29th.  You can click here to visit her website.

From: Sarah Sauer [mailto:xxxxx]
Sent: Tuesday, May 27, 2003 2:04 AM
Subject: Comments


I guess since it is 1:30am and I am on watch maybe I have time to reflect etc. I thought I would send my comments to you since I couldn't figure out how to send them from your site. Feel free should you so choose to use my comments for your site. 

You had a article entitled "Just a mom" and I feel the need to comment. In my opinion as nice as it would be for me to stay at home and believe me I loved my leave time with the kids even the shuffling from one practice to another etc. I just can't. I live in a world were should anything happen to you or Eric I would be left high and dry. Maybe I would get some life insurance from either of you for the kids sake, but I would have to go to school and at that point look for a job with very little to no current job experience. I saw what happened to my mother when my dad left her. She had been a "stay at home" mom and she had no marketable skills with which at that time to find a decent job to take care of what was 4 children. This put her into a position were she had to be on welfare and find another husband to support her. 

I don't believe our society and economy supports stay at home mothers. Society seems to think it is a waste of time, but check out the problems with drugs, and teenage pregnancy. Most of these teenagers are feeling ignored by their family and do these things for more attention. I believe women when they fought for the right to work forgot what they were leaving behind to do so. I am going to college so I can work a job that is ONLY 8 hours a day and any extra work can be done at home. My only regret is not having done so before the boys' so I could have more time to sleep. 

I will always make the time for them. I am active duty and work sometimes 18 hours a day, but I seem to find time for practices and cuddles and homework etc. So does Eric with a full-time job and college. I have a set of beliefs probably built from my experiences mostly, but I think they hold true. I think there are those who want to be a "mom" or a "dad" and those who become parents for show and pay others to take care of the most wonderful and important job of raising their kids for them. I believe there is a significant difference from this attitude and daycare which should just be for when the parent is at work or in our case for six hours so Eric can sleep, because our shifts don't match. I believe a good deal of individuals fail to see that "I will go with them next time" doesn't cut it. Childhood is once and then it is over. Period. 

Chad, we are divorced and yet you and I have found ways to keep communication going from a few states away and about 1,000 miles apart. I have seen parents to my disgust who spend less time overall talking with their kids than you do with the boys' from Washington. I have seen fathers who will buy themselves a new PS2 while their kids sleep on mattresses on the floor. You take the time to see what is going on with them, because time is precious. Too precious in I think your opinion and certainly in mine to waste our time on any petty differences we might have and make their feelings the most important thing. I am thinking of starting a live journal like Gwen does. I am essentially agreeing with the article. I just thought a deeper look might be refreshing.


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