Just a Mother?
A Story

I remember a few years ago,
when I was picking up the children at school,
another mother I knew well,
rushed up to me.
She was fuming with indignation.
"Do 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 behind the counter
to state her "occupation," she had hesitated,
uncertain how to classify herself.
"What I mean is," explained the clerk,
"Do you have a job, or are you just a ......?"
"Of course I have a job,"
snapped my friend.
"I'm a mother."
"We don't list "mother" as an occupation...
"housewife" covers it,"
said the clerk emphatically.

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 "Official Interrogator" or "Town Registrar."
"And what is your occupation?"
she probed.

What made me say it,
I do not know.
The words simply popped out.
"I'm....a Research Associate
in the field of Child Development
and Human Relations."
The clerk paused,
ball-point pen frozen in mid-air,
and looked up
as though she had not heard right.
I repeated the title slowly,
emphasizing the most significant words.
Then I stared with wonder
as my pompous pronouncement
was written in bold, black ink on
the official questionnaire.

"Might I ask,"
said the clerk with new interest,
"just what you do in your field?"
Cooly, without any trace of fluster
in my voice, I heard myself reply,
"I 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 three credits
(all healthy).
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).
But the job is more challenging
than most run-of-the-mill careers
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
---age 7 and 5.
And upstairs, I could hear
our new experimental model
(six 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 down
on the official records
as someone more distinguished
and indispensable to mankind than
"just another......"

what a glorious career.
when there's a title on the door.