Thursday, August 11, 2011
Help Wanted--The Ideal Mother
The transition into motherhood can be tough on anyone.
"I just wasn't cut out to be a good mother," says the weary voice of my friend on the telephone. "I can't get the baby to sleep through the night. I scream too much at my toddler when he gets into things. And my six-year-old is always whining that she doesn't have enough to do. At least in the office I have someone to teach me the job and my evening and weekends off."
I understand her completely because I am also a mother. The difficulty isn't just that first transition, either. It's the ongoing reshaping of pieces of a personality and a way of living to become the kind of mother a child needs at each stage of his or her life.
For example, a job description for the kind of person who would be an ideal mother for a baby might read like this:
Wanted--Easygoing, relaxed, loving type to care for infant. Should enjoy rocking, cuddling, be able to hold baby patiently for 20- minute feedings every three or four hours without fidgeting. Light sleeper, early riser. No degree necessary. Must take all shifts, seven-day week. No vacation unless can arrange to have own mother as temporary substitute. No opportunity to advance.
A year and a half later, the ideal candidate for the job of mothering the same child would match this description:
Wanted--Athlete in top condition to safeguard tireless toddler. Needs quick reflexes, boundless energy, infinite patience. ESP helpful. Knowledge of first aid essential. Must be able to drive, cook. phone, work despite constant distractions. Workday, 15 hours. No coffee or lunch breaks unless child naps. Would consider pediatric nurse with Olympic background.
In another 18 months, the same mother should be able to meet these qualifications:
Position Open--Expert in early childhood education to provide stimulating. loving, creative, individualized learning environment for pre-schooler. Should have experience in art, music, recreation, be able to speak one foreign language. Training in linguistics, psychology and Montessori desirable. Two hours off five days a week when nursery school is in session and child is well.
Job stability improves somewhat when a child is between 6 and 12, and the mothers who cope most easily meet these qualifications:
Good Opportunity-- For expert in recreation, camping, Indian arts, all sports. Should be able to referree. Must be willing to be den mother, room mother, block mother. Public relations skills essential. Should be able to deal effectively with teachers, PTA officers, other parents. Knowledge of sex education, new math required. Must have no objections to mud, insect collections, pets, neighbor's kids.
A mother changes occupations again when her child reaches 13 or 14 and must face up to new requirements:
Job Available--For specialist in adolescent psychology, with experience in large-quantity cooking. Tolerance is chief requirement. Slight hearing-loss helpful or must provide own ear plugs. Must be unflappable. Should be able to sense when presense is embarrassing to child and disappear.
After 18 years as a working mother, a woman is qualified for only one more job:
Urgently Needed-- Financier to provide money, clothes, music, wheels to collegian. No advice necessary. Position may last indefinately. Ample time left to take income-producing work.
Like most want ads, there are some things these work descriptions leave out: (1) A mother who has more than one child must usually hold down two or more of these posts simultaneously; (2) those who handle the jobs best work themselves permanently out of a job, and (3) there are greater rewards than anyone could ever imagine.
By Joan Beck from "Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirits of Women" by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne and Marci Shimoff Copyright 1996