It’s the Friday before Mother’s Day, and I pick up my daughter after school. She’s carrying a little brown bag brimming with colorful tissue paper and tied with matching curly ribbon. “What’s that?” I asked her. “It’s your Mother’s Day present,” she said grinning with enthusiasm.
The gift is an acrylic frame containing a beautiful photograph of Kate taken by her 5th grade teacher alongside a hand-written note that reads:
Thank you for all you’ve ever done for me. Thank you for coming home from meetings just to help me. You’ve always been there for me when I need you, and that’s one of the reasons I love you. Love, Kate
The minute I read the note, my heart fills with guilt. The fact that my daughter references my work makes me feel terrible. Why? Would I have felt better if her note had thanked me for our mother-daughter manicures, or our family vacation to Disney World? Yes, but why? It’s because I compartmentalize my roles as mother and working woman in two separate camps, and I think of Mother’s Day as a time to celebrate the mom camp.
References to family vacations, or fun mother-daughter outings would have clearly acknowledged my role as a mother – free and clear of any association with my career. For some reason those references would have made me feel better on Mother’s Day.
After more thought, I realize that my daughter sees the movement between my roles as mother and working woman much more seamlessly than I do. My reasons for trying to compartmentalize the two are lost on her.
Her message to me is one of acceptance and appreciation, not one of insufficiency or guilt. The latter emotions are self-imposed. My daughter’s note does not fault me for being a working mom, but rather acknowledges it as reality and thanks me for putting her needs as a top priority alongside the needs of my career.
Only time will tell what impact my dedication to my career will have on my children, but for this Mother’s Day, I am going to try to appreciate the spirit in which my daughter’s lovely gift was intended.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful working moms!