A few months ago, when I was picking up the
children at school, another mother I knew well rushed
up to me. Emily was fuming with indignation.
"Do you know what you and I are?" she
Before I could answer, and I didn't really have one
handy, she blurted out the reason for her question.
It seemed she had just returned from renewing her
driver's license at the County Clerk's office. Asked by
the woman recorder to state her occupation, Emily had
hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.
"What I mean is," explained the clerk, "Do
you have a job, or are you just a ...?"
"Of course I have a job," snapped Emily. "I'm
"We don't list 'mother' as an occupation...'housewife'
covers it," said the clerk emphatically.
I forgot all about her story until one day I found
myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town
Hall. The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised,
efficient, and possessed of a high-sounding title like
Official Interrogator or Town Registrar.
"And what is your occupation?" she probed.
What made me say it, I do not know. The words
simply popped out. "I'm a Research Associate in the
field of Child Development and Human Relations."
The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair, and
looked up as though she had not heard right. I
repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most
significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my
pompous pronouncement was written in bold, black ink
on the official questionnaire.
"Might I ask," said the clerk with new
interest, "just what you do in your field?" Coolly,
without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself
reply, "I have a continuing program of research
(what mother doesn't) in the laboratory and in the field
(normally I would have said indoors and out). I'm
working for my Masters (the whole darned family) and
already have four credits (all daughters)."
"Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in
the humanities (any mother care to disagree?) and I
often work 14 hours a day (24 is more like it). But the
job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill
careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than
There was an increasing note of respect in the
clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up, and
personally ushered me to the door.
As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my
glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab
assistants - ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear
our new experimental model (6 months) in the child-
development program, testing out a new vocal pattern.
I felt triumphant! I had scored a beat on bureaucracy!
And I had gone on the official records as someone more
distinguished and indispensable to mankind than
"just another mother."
Motherhood...now there's a real career. Give
yourself the title you deserve.