Ethics of the Mother

Linda Haase

Empty nester Linda Haase considers lessons learned and progress made in her lifetime, through a Jewish woman’s lens.

Ethics of the Mother

Career crisis

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I recently lost the best job I ever had.

Not the telecommunications post I held during the whirlwind divestiture of AT&T. Not the job helping to establish the State's watershed AIDS program. Not the rewarding position I held at the American Cancer Society, nor even working for this incredible organization, which has leant meaning to the last 18 years of my career.

My favorite job was being a mom.  And I miss it.

Now my daughter is an adult.  I am still her mother, but not her mommy. It's not the same.

I am not grieving her growing up--that's all good; Jenna is a fabulous woman, great company and a wicked-sharp wit. Instead, I am grieving the loss of a huge and precious part of my own personal identity.

I miss being needed in such a primal way, miss attending softball games and skating practices, miss reading to her at night and planning her birthday parties. I miss the sound of her giggle while she was hiding in the clothes hamper.  I even miss fighting with her about homework.

Are these words of betrayal from a card-carrying feminist?

When I was young, if you had told me that one day I'd attend a school open house and simply write "Jenna's Mom" on my nametag, I would have reeled in horror at the implied subjugation of my own self.

When I graduated from college, I was determined to be a self-actualized woman, to make the most of the opportunities that had been afforded me by my parents and my coming of age at that fortunate point in history. I knew I was being given choices that my parents and grandparents had not had.  I also knew that women who had come before me had struggled and suffered for equal opportunity, and I did not want to take their sacrifices for granted.

By age 28, I had earned two degrees, studied and traveled abroad, worked in three fast-paced jobs, met with governors and senators and members of Congress, chaired my condominium association and served as president of a nonprofit board. I was productive, purposeful and passionate.

If you had told me, then, that someday I would feel just as energized and self-actualized by motherhood, I would have been at best confused. I expect I would have been utterly bewildered to learn that in a few short years, I would be happier being Jenna's mommy than I had ever been in my life.

Being a mother didn't make me enjoy my professional life any less; on the contrary, it inspired me and leant new purpose to my work, gave me a tangible reason to strive for a better world. It also made me a better boss and a more patient and intuitive coach. It was the best of all possible worlds: I loved my job and coworkers, and loved my husband and daughter.  I still do.

But for me, being a working mom was kind of an all-or-nothing proposition. I was permanently set on full-throttle. You'd think I would have been tired, but I generally wasn't--or maybe I have just forgotten. I rarely felt like my responsibilities at home collided with those at work. (Insert "props to awesome husband, parents and in-laws" here!) Also, I suspect I knew that soon enough I would miss the days when Jenna burst in needing to talk when I was in the bathtub shaving my legs.

Now, as someone who is used to spending a Sunday baking while writing a fundraising script, it is strangely difficult to switch to doing one activity at a time.  It feels empty. So I write blog posts and think about starting a novel. I learn about social media and try more complicated recipes.

And I dream of having grandchildren.

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