J When I was 15, just starting high school and in the throes of my first serious relationship, my mother decided – to my horror – that she wanted to go to medical school. She had always had a brilliant mind, but she was not using it to its fullest potential while raising her children. She was restless and needed stimulation (something that I can now relate to after having three children of my own. There just isn’t a whole lot of think-tanking going on at those Gymboree classes). To make a long story short, she got accepted, and moved the whole family from Southern California (where I would cut class to go surfing) to Augusta, Ga. (where there were now cows grazing across from my house). Needless to say, I was less than thrilled. I considered it to be a whim of hers and was unyielding in my anger toward her for yanking me away from everything that I loved. How dare she? At that period in my life, I was only concerned with my own selfish wants. I didn’t appreciate at all that at 37 years old, and with three young children, she had chosen to dedicate herself to making a difference in people’s lives. And make a difference she did. After eight long years of study, one where she received the honor of being chosen from a pool of 50,000 applicants to do a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, she has helped to save the eyes and the lives of countless children. Hats off to my amazing mom – and to all of you out there who take the road less traveled.
M Although my mother wasn’t a doctor, she no doubt saved many lives (and marriages) during her lifetime. On the outside, she looked like your typical ’50s housewife. But under that veneer was a force to be reckoned with. In our kitchen hung a print of ducks gliding around on a pond and the caption read, “A good hostess is like a duck, floating serenely on the surface while underneath she’s paddling like hell,” which described her perfectly. If Facebook existed back then, she would’ve had a billion “friends.” She knew everyone in town’s birthday and anniversary, but more important, she knew and took care of every neighbor who was ill or infirm. Her Monday and Thursday bridge groups weren’t frivolous ladies’ card-playing sessions. They were reconnaissance missions from which she returned laden with information. Post-bridge, she knew if you’d skipped a class, smoked a cigarette or driven the car without permission. When confronted with our misdeeds, we had to look her in the eye and explain why we’d transgressed. Her look of disappointment was the worse punishment imaginable. She could have written the book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus,” as she was forever advising her friends to tell their husbands exactly what they wanted or needed, explaining that while men were good at certain things, reading body language and picking up on subtle clues were not their strong suits. So here’s to powerful women who change the world from both in and outside the home.
J These are just two examples of very different women, with one thing in common – being a mother. The path to and through motherhood has been well-trodden by hordes of women, but to each and every one of them, the experience is a truly unique one. Raising a child is not to be taken lightly. It is 80 percent hard work and 20 percent “Kodak moments” (requiring you, like that duck, to paddle like hell to stay afloat at times). Yet, it is one of the most rewarding things that a woman will ever do.
M If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that we all have to be way less judgmental and much more supportive of one another. I hate reading about the so-called “Mommy Wars.” Like everything in life, there is not one size that fits all or even most (despite what some clothing companies would like us to believe). Some women plan to be at-home mothers, but in the end it just doesn’t work for them, while others plan to keep working and then come to regret the decision. I think the important thing is that we learn to be honest with ourselves about what we want and to keep growing in whatever role we choose for ourselves. Because in the end, no one is happy if mama isn’t happy!
• Michelle Obama – No matter what you may feel about our president, I don’t think anyone can deny that our first lady has done a bang-up job. (M)
• Taking the “road less traveled” – It’s always scary to be the first one in, but those brave souls make true change happen. (J )
• Parents who don’t parent – Whether or not you’re a stay-at-home parent, your kids need hard-and-fast rules to function in society. (M)
• The fact that there aren’t more full-service gas stations. I’m as much for women’s equal rights as anyone, trust me, but I still like someone else to pump my gas when it’s 10 degrees below outside. It doesn’t mean I’m weak, just freezing. (J)
EMAIL CLASS&SASS AT MARTHAANDJEN@WAGMAG.COM. YOU MAY ALSO FOLLOW MARTHA AND JEN ON FACEBOOK AT WAG CLASSANDSASS