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Lynn Spruill: Choosing motherhood

 

Lynn Spruill

 

It is the role of a lifetime, literally. Nothing comes close to the facets of life this role touches. Why then is it unpaid, underappreciated, underestimated and generally minimized for its contribution to business, industry, education, religion and society in general.  

 

W. R. Wallace wrote that "the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world." Usually ruling the world has some monetary compensation associated with it. How and where should they go to claim it? 

 

What would it mean for there to be an hourly rate of pay attributed to this job? There is a fascinating survey done for the past 14 years by salary.com that factors all the roles mothers play and attaches a monetary value to them.  

 

According to salary.com for 2014, full-time moms went from working 94 hours per week last year to 96.5 hours on household and childcare duties in 2014. If paid for their 40 hours plus 56.5 hours of overtime, full-time moms would earn $118,905.  

 

Internet sources say Mother's Day was first held in 1908 by Anna Jarvis when she had a memorial for her mother. Her campaign to make Mother's Day a holiday was realized in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation creating the holiday. An interesting sidenote: Shortly after getting Mother's Day recognized she became disillusioned by the profiteering of such companies as Hallmark. She even got arrested for disturbing the peace protesting the sale of carnations (apparently the flower associated with Mother's Day).  

 

Mother's Day reflections visit me infrequently. In fact were I not writing this, I would consider Mother's Day just a good day to avoid the restaurant rush from those taking Mom out for "her" day. However, since I am considering the nature of the day, I have to acknowledge what an extraordinary job my mother did.  

 

I was an only child, a fact which I have relished my entire life. It wasn't particularly by design since that option was less available back then, but it was by circumstances. From that happy fact, I got all the attention of my mother. She influenced me in many ways, but the best thing she gave me was honesty about her role as mother. In a moment of extreme candor she told me that had she the opportunity to do it again, she wouldn't. It didn't mean she didn't love me, it just meant that she wanted to do things that motherhood mostly precluded.  

 

I remember thinking how sorry I was that she had not been able to do those things she was drawn to do. That moment of truth was singularly the best gift I ever received from her. It freed me from thinking that motherhood was something I should or had to do. One of the saddest things people express is the "what if" that comes from not having followed your heart's desire. Because of that single moment of honesty, I have never experienced that regret and it has proven to be a lifelong gift.  

 

That my mother didn't really want to be a mother made her efforts at being good at it even more significant. She went back to finish her college degree and from that I received the understanding of the importance of education. She read her class assignments to me and I learned to love Shakespeare and poetry. She pored over the new issues of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar and I learned to appreciate style and fashion. She dreamed of travel and I got to live it.  

 

I also learned motherhood should be a calling, not an oops occasion. It takes a nurturing spirit and an ability to subsume or meld your interests with your children. I have friends who were born knowing they wanted children.  

 

They take great delight in all the moments that incorporate parenthood. I am happy for them. I have other friends who should never have had children. I am sorry for them and that they have to make the best of it.  

 

I also have friends who, like me, understand that some people just weren't meant to be parents. We are thankful for that understanding. Fortunately for my generation and those that followed there is a choice. The trick is to know yourself well enough to make the right one.

 

 

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