A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
MOTHER'S DAY WITH EVERYMOM
I had just wrapped up my Mother's Day shopping last year and was stretched out on the sofa napping my way through another Saturday afternoon when she appeared.
Normally I'd be concerned if a strange woman materialized in my living room. But I wasn't sure if I was dreaming, so I decided to go with it. Besides, she seemed so . . . nice. Kindness was etched in every line on her face, and her silver hair rested on her head like a crown. She was trim and neatly dressed, with a manner that seemed dignified, yet approachable.
Still, something told me she was troubled. Maybe it was the way she was wringing that hankie, like she was choking the life out of some hideous linen monster. At last our eyes met. Her sweet, sad smile was wonderfully familiar. No wonder I wasn't afraid. She was my Mom! She was your Mom, too! She was Everymom!
And yes, she did look an awful lot like Donna Reed.
"I was just thinking," she said. "About you. And Anita. Mostly Anita."
She smiled at my stunned expression. "How do you know Anita?" I wondered.
"I just know," she said. "And I know how hard this decision was for her."
She had to be referring to Anita's decision to go back into the work place after 20 years at the only career she ever wanted: homemaking. She didn't like the idea of not being home with the kids. But the escalating cost of living had finally forced her hand.
"I've also been thinking about me," Everymom continued. "And frankly, I'm feeling guilty. Things were so much easier for me than it is for young mothers today."
"You've got to be kidding," I countered. "You made it through two world wars and the Great Depression without microwave ovens, disposable diapers or Oprah."
"Cooking and washing aren't what make life difficult," she explained patiently. "What Anita went through making her decision . . . now THAT'S tough, because it cuts right to the heart. And what she's doing now — putting in a full day at the office before returning to a full night at home . . . well, I never had to work that hard."
"I think I understand."
"No you don't," she said. "You're a man. You can't possibly understand what it feels like for a woman who wants to be home with her children to have to go out into the workplace to provide a better life for them. Neither can I. Things were different when I was raising my children. Roles were more clearly defined. It was simpler."
"Yes, I can see that," I said. "But ‘simpler' isn't always better."
"That's true," she acknowledged. "It's good that women have so many more options today. But that's also part of what makes it difficult. With all of those options, many women just don't think homemaking is enough anymore."
"Or maybe it's too much," I ventured. She looked at me suspiciously. "Maybe women have seen mothers like you and they're intimidated," I continued. "Many of them are single, or they work because they have to. They put in a long day and then they come home and feel like they have to be you: gourmet cook, spotless housekeeper, all-knowing problem-solver and spiffy dresser. I mean, you've got to admit you're a tough act to follow."
She considered the possibility. "Who could be intimidated by me?" she wondered.
"Any woman who thinks you're what motherhood is all about, for one," I offered. "Or whose husband remembers you. Or whose children watch a lot of cable TV."
"Well then, we've got to let them know that times have changed, and mothers have to adapt," she said. "The values of homemaking remain the same, but for many homemakers the way of doing things has to be different."
"You don't mean like on ‘Roseanne,' do you?" I asked, horrified.
She chuckled. "Thankfully, things haven't changed that much," she said. "But they have changed. And we need to let mothers know that as long as they're doing the best they can do, nothing else matters. That's all any of us can do — just the best we can do."
"And what about fathers?" I wanted to know. "Hasn't their role changed, too?"
"Sorry," Everymom said, smiling, "not my genre. Go ask Bill Cosby."
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--- © Joseph Walker
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