It wasn’t pretty either. No party heralding my achievements, which by the way were many. Accolades? Forget it. A farewell gift was totally out of the question. I was lucky if someone came up and patted me on the back.
I am not alone mind you. Women across the country are finding themselves in similar situations. Suddenly, we are told it’s not necessary to report to work; our services, our talents, are no longer needed. Lately I’ve even been receiving patronizing advice from the I’m-still-working crowd to “Sleep in late. Travel! Do something for yourself”. Hello! Would I have invested 26 years into this job if I didn’t love it?
Don’t get me wrong. There were many days I didn’t want to report to work and times I just wanted to shout, “Okay, that’s it. I’m out of here.” In fact, I probably did say those exact same words at least once a month over the years, but no one took me seriously. “She’s just tired,” they’d say. Or they would whisper, “It must be that time again. Stay away from her”. My all time favorite though was the “Hey, what did I do?” emoting from an innocent face. But no matter what happened the day before, the following morning I’d be reporting for duty.
I had no snow days. Sick days? Get real. Sabbaticals? Only in my dreams. No one ever wrote me up, I was never knowingly negligent, and I did my job in and day out.. The pay was lousy, but the fringe benefits were great. I could pretty much set my own schedule without anyone complaining. I did have vacation time, but preparing for them always involved more work.
In hindsight, I should have listened to my mother. She had warned me this day would come my first day on the job. In my youthful fog of naivety I scoffed at her. But like every other mother out there, I learned the cruel but true aspect of our job description. If done correctly, we all work ourselves toward that dreaded pink slip. It may look like a diploma, but do not be fooled. When your last son or daughter is handed that well-earned piece of paper, we are fazed out of a job.
And that is a good thing. We want to raise independent thinkers. We celebrate their successes and are proud of their achievements. Raising children to become responsible young adults was part of our job description. Success for them means we did okay. I can live with that.
But, getting that pink slip does hurt. I will feel it most acutely when the yellow school bus comes rambling past this fall. For the first time in 22 years I will not be receiving a bus list. I will not be buying back to school clothes, new book bags, and supplies. I will not be asked to be a room mother, a chaperone, or the book fair volunteer. To be fair, there are some perks. I also don’t have to worry about day care, scheduling conflicts, and missing deadlines for soccer, football, or baseball signups.
I know my four children will come home to visit; some will even live at home periodically. When this happens, my refrigerator will cool the room, as someone shouting, “What’s good to eat” holds the door wide open. Laundry will be heaped on the dryer during vacations and strewn on the floor during summer breaks. Dirty dishes will pile up next to an empty dishwasher while glasses multiply under beds. Cupboard doors will be left open and shoes will be dropped off in front of, but never in, the hall closet. At times my children will even look at me and whisper to each other “Don’t go in there. She must be going through menopause”.
Yes, my days of mothering have been pink slipped; being Mom, on the other hand, is a lifetime vocation.
Copyright 2009 Carol S. Bannon