“You look tired.”
Before I can respond, he continues. “How’s your week going? Do you want chicken or beef?” The quesadilla crafter’s questions shell-shock me into confused silence.
How can I look tired when I’ve got on roughly triple my normal amount of concealer? My week … uh, what day is it? It must be Wednesday because the kids are finally back in school for a full day and the first two days of the week they had delays because of the polar vortex. So technically it’s The Day After Tomorrow.
“Ma’am? Chicken or beef?”
“Oh! Neither. Just cheese. Sorry, I’m kind of out of it.”
“I can tell. You look so tired.”
Please stop saying that. I look tired on the days when there is no effort. Today, I’ve got on mascara, dude. This. is. my. effort.
“Oh, well, you know, it’s been a long week already, what with school starting late the last couple of days. The kids have been crazy. They need to get back into a routine.”
“Yeah, they didn’t do this stuff about letting kids out of school just because it was cold back in the day. My mama put coats on us and we went.”
“I think there’s a concern about kids waiting at the bus stops in below freezing temperatures,” I said, pointing to cilantro and black olives.
“Well, at least there’s people like you trying to educate them,” he said, sliding my quesadilla onto the grill.
“I try, but I’ve only got two,” I said.
“Wait, I thought you were a teacher.”
“No,” I answered, looking down as he cut the quesadilla into neat sections. “No, I’m just a mom.”
Whoa. Where did that bit of self-belittlement come from? Just a mom. Is that really how you’re going to self-identify now? What will that teach the kids about women? Will they respect you and your role if you can’t even tell the guy making your lunch what you do without sounding ashamed?
I’m a mom.
Why do I want to qualify that with “just”? Perhaps because when I fill out insurance forms and list “occupation” as “stay-at-home-mom,” they come back to me reading “unemployed.”
No, the mothering gig doesn’t bring in millions, but what is more important than the work of a mother? Perhaps the most valuable commodity in our society is not oil or natural gas, but rather well-adjusted, educated, polite, kind, and generally good people.
You know, the kind that mothers toil to produce.
So many of us lose our identities to “mom,” and it’s easy to see how it happens. The minute you move from Labor and Delivery to the postpartum ward, all the nurses who walk in your room greet you with smile and a cheery, “Hi, Mom!”
Your de-personalization has begun.
Because who you are isn’t important anymore. It’s only about who you are in relation to someone else. Even now, nurses and assistants at my kids’ doctor’s offices call me “Mom.” How much trouble would it be to look down and see our children’s names and add a Ms. to the front?
There are as many different “mom” stereotypes as there are “woman” stereotypes, and perhaps some of us want to qualify our job descriptions rather than risk being lumped into one group or another. Of course, the idea that anyone could ever capture the essence of a woman, any woman, in a job description, in a box, is ludicrous. We’re multi-faceted, no matter what we choose to do.
So I’m a mom. On any given day I might be functioning as a teacher, cook, driver, medic, comforter, disciplinarian, advocate, mediator, hostage negotiator, storyteller, swim instructor, drill sergeant, or child psychologist. That kind of job needs no qualification.