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Motherhood – or, Research Associate in the field of Child Development

Motherhood – or, Research Associate in the field of Child Development – It’s amazing how some small-minded people are impressed by job titles – and how funny it can be!

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.

‘€œDo you know what you and I are?’€ she demanded. 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. ‘€œWhat I mean is,’€ explained the recorder, ‘€œdo you have a job, or are you just a …..?’€ ‘€œOf course I have a job,’€ snapped Emily. ‘€œI’€™m a mother.’€ ‘€œWe don’€™t list ‘€˜mother’€™ as an occupation … ‘€˜housewife’€™ covers it,’€ said the recorder loudly.

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 ‘€œOfficial Interrogator’€ or ‘€œTown Registrar.’€

‘€œAnd what is your occupation?’€ she asked. What made me say it, I do not know. The words simply popped out. ‘€œI’€™m a Research Associate in the field of Child Development.’€ 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 important words.

Then I stared with wonder as my pompous pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire. ‘€œMight I ask,’€ said the clerk with new interest, ‘€œjust what you do in your field?’€ Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, ‘€œI 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), and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.’€ 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 ‘€œjust another mother.’€

Motherhood … what a glorious career. Especially when there’€™s a title on the door.


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