A few years ago I discovered that I looked like my mother. This is always a kind of harrowing thought for any daughter, regardless of the relative attractiveness of one’s particular mom. But this was especially harrowing for me, and not just because of an uncanny physical resemblance. I realized that I looked like my mother.
When my mom stares into the mirror, her face twists into a particular contortion. Not an unattractive contortion. More like a highly critical stare at herself. Her eyes narrow and her mouth adjusts to one side, and she arches her neck to get a better view. As if she’s inspecting herself for sale. And it is this highly honed mannerism that I mimic unwittingly on a daily mannerism. Not only does my face resemble hers as it stares back from the reflective mirror glass. I actually stare at myself exactly the same way Jeanne Laribee does. Bizarro.
The celebration of our moms this Sunday will be for a lot of us a frantic attempt to get a card in the mail by tomorrow so that it reaches our mom by Saturday. It’s actually a mean thing to plan finals around a holiday as the mind can only remember so much. And at this point I have a huge paper to turn in that is not nearly close to being completed. My own mother would be unmoved my procrastination. For it is our childhoods that serve as the laboratories for the insanity of our adult lives.
And it is our mothers who oversee that amazing laboratory. This is not to downplay the roles of dads. I am a big fan of dads. I love my dad. I hope to marry someone who will someday be a dad. Big fan.
But it is our moms that we ache for when we are sick or sad or pathetic as so often we are when we are little. Which is why I thank my own mom for staying at home with my sisters and me.
The stay-at-home mom, the home-maker, the woman who answers “I’m just a mom” when queried about her profession, is an increasingly rare commodity. It is estimated that in 1998, only 35 percent of married women who had a child under the age of six were not members of the work force. And there are really good reasons that women should work. Single mothers especially have to support the family they are raising. And often, even two-income households could not survive the economic hardship that occurs when only one parent is working. I completely understand the economic of raising children.
I also know that my family made certain sacrifices for us, sacrifices that we didn’t understand, so that my mom could be at home whenever we were. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t go to every movie that I wanted to because of a tight budget. There were times I thought that maybe mom should get a job if finances were tight. What I didn’t truly understand until later was what a huge gift my mother’s constant presence was as I was growing up.
This is not a judgment against women who are working, whatever their reasons are. This is also not a singling out of women. There are an increasing number of men who are working at home, or leaving the workforce altogether to be at home with their children. And that is an incredible thing too.
This is simply a thanks to my mom for being there when I needed you. All the time. There was such a comfort knowing you were at home, even if I wasn’t. And a thanks to my dad for bearing the burden of sole economic provider.
I am in the process of launching out into my own career. And while kids seem a long way off at this point, I am anticipating that hard decision that I will have to make. I believe that no education is wasted, and am not worried about the apparent throwing away of education that occurs when working women opt for the homefront. And for all of you for whom staying home is a way of life, I thank you. And for all of you who are mothers, I thank you too. All of us looking in the mirror see your reflection staring back. Happy Mother’s Day.
Sarah Laribee is a student teacher at Rocky Mountain High School. A hello to Jeanne, Enid, Eileen, Coral and Marsha. Influential mothers all.