I'm a third generation working mother. Yes, the exception to the rule. I have not been irreparably scarred by the fact that my mom, Lenore Stoller, chose to return to the workforce when I was five years old. Nor is my mom forever damaged by the memories of her mother, Dora Goldman, who worked a full day as a bookkeeper and then came home at night to whip up a five-course meal for her family.
Personally, I think the reason I've decided to stay the course and pursue a career while raising children is because I've only had women in my life who have encouraged me to become anything I want to be.
I have to admit though, that growing up as the daughter of one of the few working moms in my neighborhood did have its ups and downs.
One vivid memory that I'll never forget (much to the dismay of my parents) is the time when I was five years old and my mom went back to work as a teacher. On that fateful day, my after-school kindergarten teacher mistakenly forgot to bring me to my bus and I was left in the classroom without any other kids - the teachers were still there but the children had all been dismissed. When my bus arrived at the location where my dad was supposed to pick me up and I was nowhere to be found, he freaked out and rushed over to find me sobbing uncontrollably because I thought I had been abandoned by my parents. After that horrific experience, my mom purposely left early from work to pick me up from my after-school class. No other mom came to get their child, but Lenore Stoller did. Why? Because my mom didn't ever want me to feel that just because she was working, she didn't love me any less or didn't have time for me.
I also remember my mom's role mommy...my Grandma Dora. During my preschool years before Grandma headed south to Florida, she filled in for mom when she was at work. Grandma Dora was simply the best. She taught me how to make matzoh balls, blow bubbles even though she had dentures and had a sense of humor that could get convicts chuckling - seriously - one time she even chased a burglar down the street when he tried to steal her purse! During the summers, Grandma would stay at our house in the Poconos where she was on hand to help clobber the first fish I ever caught, chase mice from the house, and teach me how to master a butterfly hook rug. Grandma also was a great knitter and to this day, eight years after she's passed away, I still have the multi-colored blanket she crocheted for my family back in the 1970's...picture the colors - bright yellow, orange, red, pink, black...it's soft, it's psychedelic, it's cozy and every night I use it, I think of my Grandma Dora.
As for my role mommy, I feel lucky to have been raised by someone who truly is a role model at home and on the job. My mom has always been my best friend and I think over the course of the last 35+ years, we've only had one fight...the time when I had just graduated college and wanted to move to Manhattan and she wanted me to stay home with her and my dad until I could truly afford living in the Big Apple. Incidentally, I didn't take her advice - sprung for the apartment on Central Park West and survived on spaghetti and frozen dinners for the next three years.
Throughout my life, my mom has always been there for me. From singing and dance lessons to recitals and school performances, my mom figured out ways to fit my extracurricular activities into her incredibly busy day and never missed a beat. When it came to sports, she deferred to my dad who stepped in for tennis, soccer and baseball. While both our parents worked, my brother and I were never deprived of their attention.
On the work front, my mom climbed the ladder of success moving from teacher, to Special Education Supervisor to District Administrator to Deputy Superintendent. My mom was an inspiration to her colleagues and when she finally decided to leave her post, her adoring co-workers and friends came out in droves for her retirement party.
Throughout my childhood and adolescence, my mom and I spent our weekends together shopping, running errands, frequenting our favorite hairdresser and sharing long heart to heart talks. That bond has continued to thrive through adulthood, marriage and mommy-hood. My mom has always been there for me and when she walked me down the aisle on my wedding day and whispered in my ear "I love you" and choking back tears, I mouthed "I love you too," I knew that no matter where my life would lead, she would always be there to support me with her kindness, gentle nature and with constant encouragement that I could truly accomplish anything I set my heart out to achieve.
Today my mom pitches in just like Grandma Dora did when I was a child, building lasting memories for my kids while I'm away at the office or on a business trip. Rebecca and Dylan look forward to seeing their Grandma 'Nor and their Grandma Sally - my husband's mom who also is a role mommy in her own right, who as a single mom, managed to raise a thoughtful, intelligent and wonderful son while she worked hard to support the two of them. In fact, I learned that she took my husband to many beauty parlor visits during his childhood too...thankfully, he wasn't scarred by the experience!
Even though my kids ask me every morning if I'm going into the office that day (secretly hoping I won't), I know deep in my heart that one day, Rebecca and Dylan will know why their mom pursued a career. My daughter is well on her way to becoming a wonderful, independent and outspoken young woman. She's a smart-as-a-whip second grader who is poised to become anything she wants to be and I'm confident Dylan - who starts kindergarten this fall, will do the same. And just like my mom, I'll be right there, front and center, cheering them on every step of the way. That's what being a mother is all about - helping our children realize their hopes and dreams without ever giving up on our own.
Co-Founder Role Mommy and co-author of the new book, Peeing in Peace: Tales & Tips for Type A Moms (NK Publications)