When my mother was growing up, there weren’t many options for women in the professional world. Sure, some women bucked the trend and were pioneers in their field. But the majority of women stayed in their lane, opting either to work in female-dominated fields (education, health care, secretarial, etc.) or stay out of the workforce altogether.
My mother opted for the latter, devoting herself to raising my sister, brother and me. I don’t think she ever considered it a sacrifice, but I’m still grateful for the home she and my father gave me when they adopted me as a young girl. She made a very intentional choice to become a mother, and it profoundly changed the trajectory of my life for the better.
I also made a deliberate choice to have a child, and he has been, without question, the best decision I’ve ever made. I won’t encroach on his privacy by going into detail, but suffice to say he has been a joyful presence in my life since the day I met him.
With the death of my mother a little more than a year ago, my Mother’s Day is now a one-sided affair – being feted as a mom, rather than celebrating with my mom. I loved both roles – daughter to my mom, mother to my son – but it’s a little disconcerting to just have one role now. As any mom knows, though, this is an amazing journey, with every year offering new discoveries about the person we’ve raised and helped guide on his or her own path. So I’ll relish this one role I have on Mother’s Day for as long as I can.
My mother’s path was quite different from my own. Whereas she devoted her life to raising her children, I have had a long career in a demanding profession (the law) – something that was routinely denied to women of her era.
Still, my path wasn’t without its bumps. When I started practicing law, I wasn’t allowed to wear pants to the office. Less than 20 years ago, a local judge made news by formally changing the rule that required women to wear a dress in his court. Over the years, I have encountered a smattering of both racism and sexism, but nothing that rose to the level of overt discrimination on either front. Was the subtle discrimination acceptable? No. Did it impede my career? I don’t think so.
But now I’m looking forward and I’m pondering the world my son will soon enter as a working professional.
As a half Asian male, I know he won’t be immune to bias. My hope, though, is that we’ve raised him with the resilience, confidence and life skills to take whatever challenges he’s confronted with, whether that’s the subtle kind of bias almost all of us have faced or it’s the more overt “Go back to China” kind that is, shockingly, still heard in 2017. (If anything, those sentiments seem to be resurgent in the last year or so, which is a different topic altogether.)
I also hope that, both as a product of his generation and the home he grew up in, he’ll bring assumptions to the workplace that men of previous generations didn’t. He will assume that women are every bit as capable as their male colleagues, that childbirth isn’t necessarily a precursor to leaving the workforce, and that dads are every bit the parent, meal-maker and errand-runner as moms are.
I have immense hope for the future, and men like my son (and the women of his generation) are the reason.
So, to all the sons and daughters out there who are dedicated to honoring their moms’ work and making the future even better than today, I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day.