People tell me how great kids turn out when they’ve had their moms at home with them before they start Grade 1. People also tell me how they want their kids to see them working as mothers so they can be female role models for their daughters. I don’t disagree with either points of view.
When I studied part-time last year, my three year old daughter, Chiara, didn’t like it. Obviously. I hadn’t done it the year before or the year before and now suddenly I was dashing off to lectures and leaving her at home with her nanny. I only went to lectures three times a week, but still, she was not impressed.
Without making a big deal of it, I try to make her aware of the fact that stay-at-home moms are not the norm. I also suggest that although I may not currently be working, I may wish to do so in the future. I say this not only because I do miss working and would like to be part of the workforce again. I say it also because I want her to aspire to great things as girl and I want her to feel and believe that little girls can become anything they want to.
Chiara just turned four and a few weeks ago, she and her three year old cousin decided to play “Mommy Baby”. While preparing for the game, she turned to her cousin and announced:
“I’ll be the mommy because mommies get to go to work.”
No sooner had these words come out of her mouth when she moderated them:
“No,” she declared, “I’ll be the mommy because mommies get to stay up late!”
Then, a couple of days ago, she and her classmate were discussing which mommies were going to be at a playdate that afternoon. I pointed out that one of the moms they were discussing wouldn’t be able to be there as she would be at work. At this, Chiara turned to her friend and said:
“But my mom doesn’t work.”
I cautiously suggested that this may not always be the case, to which she replied emphatically:
“Yes, because if you don’t work then you won’t learn!”
It seems as though, at the tender age of four, she somehow has a fairly positive view of women and work – even if staying up late at night is a more attractive prospect than a rocking career, at this stage! Of course, it is easy for her to be positive when her mom is always around and not actually, “getting to” go to work or “learning” at work… But I am nonetheless glad that she is aware that work can be enjoyable and rewarding for women and mothers.
Although I have been concerned about creating this awareness in my daughter, when I really think about the kind of role model I would like to be, I come to the following conclusion: I believe that the best mother in the world is the mom who is the most comfortable in her own skin – whether she’s a CEO or a full time mom. If she does whatever she does with conviction and zest, then she is a good role model for her children. And I guess that is actually the ultimate challenge for all us mothers.