The first time I remember my mom talking about “work” was her job at a downtown (as in Youngstown, Ohio, downtown) department store. She was recounting the time when she was working on an upper floor of the store with one other woman, and she couldn’t get in touch with the other lady on the phone. My mom walked over to see what why the woman wasn’t answering, and my mom found her dead on the floor–the woman had died of a brain aneurysm.
With that work experience under her belt, it’s no wonder my mom wanted to escape from the working world. And she did. Until I was about age 9, my mom was a stay-at-home mom. My parents made the necessary sacrifices so she could stay at home with me and my two siblings, until my younger brother hit school age. “We could afford to do that back then,” she often tells me when I lament the need to work a full-time job. “I don’t think we could do it these days.”
But eventually my mom went back to work. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t even know why. Was it because we needed the money? Was it because she was bored? I’m not sure, although nowadays I think it was probably the money factor. I simply accepted the fact that my mom was going to work. Nothing was too weird about that–most of my friend’s moms worked, so it was perfectly normal if mine did, too. But that didn’t mean I didn’t put up one big of a fuss. I was a sensitive, needy child that grew up into a sensitive, somewhat-but-not-too-much-less needy adult. I wanted my mom to stay at home. I remember crying for days. I was sad she wouldn’t be around as much, and the selfish kid in me was upset that I’d have to come home and watch my brother and sister after school. It was my time to become a latchkey kid, although I never actually wore the key around my neck. I’m sure it broke my mom’s heart that I put up such a fuss about her entry back into the workforce. I know it probably wasn’t easy for her to do, and I sure as hell didn’t make it any easier.
Mom was pursing a degree in advertising when she had the aforementioned retail job, but school was put on the back burner to raise a family. So, she entered the workforce without a degree and worked a myriad of different office-type jobs until she settled on her current place of employment, where she’s been for more than 15 years. Now, she’s counting down the days until she can retire.
My mom’s jobs weren’t illustrious or contributing to the greater good (Sorry, Mom), but rather a means to an end. It was what needed to be done so she could help raise a family of five. Her jobs didn’t just let me buy cute new outfits so I could fit in with the other kids, but helped me become the first college graduate in our family and become more independent so I could grow up into the strong woman I am today. And I thank her for it. It was probably more of a sacrifice than I’ll ever know.