Where oh’ where does the time go? The words, “I just want you to be a Mom!” were spoken by Mary Grace a few years ago as her mom, our daughter Tara, was being sworn in as a Magistrate Judge. Mary Grace said, “I don’t want you to be a Judge; I just want you to be a Mom!” Her mom became a Judge anyway, and has continued to be a wonderful mom. I was reminded about this today when talking to Tara. 11- year old Mary Grace had major dental surgery, so Tara was home with her and the other two children, 9-year-old Elsie and 4-year-old Virginia. I called Tara to check in on Mary Grace, and Tara was talking about how wonderful are these three children, how much she enjoyed them, and she said, “Being a Mom is the best job of all!” My heart was so touched by her words. They took me back to other words she had said through the years.
Tara grew up with me as a working mother, at a time when working mothers were not common in our social class. I always liked to work, so I was not troubled by the decision to work outside of the home, as are many women. I thought that I balanced my family work with my work outside of the home, not really ever conflicted by the choices I was making. The fact that my husband and I raised two wonderful girls, Tara and Chatham, who both graduated from college with advanced degrees, both whom now have wonderful jobs that pay them well, is a testament to the fact that “it takes a village.” We did not raise these girls by ourselves. Shirshee played a major role in Tara’s life, taking care of her from the time she was 6 weeks old when I returned to work teaching nursing school, until I took her away to North Carolina when Tara was 5 years old. And there was always Lolly, my young cousin, who lived with us and cared for Tara and Chatham as I worked more than “normal” hours. But the fact that our girls have graduated from college and are gainfully employed is not the total story. Who they are separate from their “paying” jobs tell more about their character.
I have always had a passion for women’s work, and the value of women in society. Perhaps that comes form being in the first class of women admitted to undergraduate programs at the University of Virginia. Perhaps it comes from the fact that I was usually in jobs with mainly men, navigating the role of women in traditional bureaucratic organizations. I never had to choose between having a job outside of the home and raising children; I always felt that I could do both.
I will always remember 16 year old Tara’s hands on her hips, announcing,“ I know this is going to disappoint you greatly, Mom, but I have no plans to change the world!”
Sorry, Tara; you are changing the world. You are a wonderful mother, raising children who know they are loved, who know that they are really your first priority. Yes, you are a great lawyer and a great magistrate judge, but more important than those roles, you are a wonderful mother. And Aunt Chatham, you have chosen to not have children of your own, but you are a wonderful aunt. You wore me out last weekend playing with Virginia all afternoon!
Women still have to choose. Many women have to choose family or work, or family and work. Some women can’t choose; their circumstances direct their choices. And this is not whining. Many men would love to have the choice to make, yet society expectations direct their choices.
For Mary Grace, Elsie, and Virginia, I thank your parents, Stephen and Tara. For it isn’t just Tara who makes the children a priority; it is also Stephen. Stephen works unimaginable hours to provide for the family while Tara juggles both work and family.
“Changing the World” happens in various ways.