My childhood was filled with some very interesting women. As a young girl, I know I took these women to heart. My mom was a stay at home mother. As my parents explain, “that was our arrangement.” My father left our house every morning and worked a job. He was an engineer. My mom, raised 3 girls. It was a pretty : different jobs and different levels of education. Their marriages, too. There was also Barbara Penrod, who was the park manager, across the street. “Penrod”, which is what we all called her….even the other adults…..was a tough lady. Masculine and lacking any feminine softness that I could see. She wore the same shorts my dad did and men’s shoes. And we (boys and girls alike)Â all thought she was tops. As a young girl in the early 1970’s, Penrod was tough, independent and decisive.
In high school, I started meeting other people’s moms and I also had part-time jobs. I met and watched other women. I watched them with their sons or their husbands. I watched them in the mall alone, spending money and shopping for themselves. I had a few teachers, Judy Willig in 9th grade honors English and Jane Estever for AP English my senior year, that were unique and provocative. They challenged me as a student. They challenged my mind. They especially challenged me as a girl. On the cusp of womanhood, Ms. Estever, widened my view of the world. She made me think!
I went off to college with a fire in my belly. I had something to prove. I must also admit……I was running. Running away from my life. I wanted to make myself anew. I wanted to believe I could be something I only dreamed of in the solitary place in my heart. I was not sure I could be HER….I doubted myself. College changed that. A single women, far away from home, I was set upon the world. I explored. I had adventures. I tested myself and my environement. I made friends. I fell in love (aÂ few times :).
When I started medical school, a whole new realm opened up. While there were about 30 women in my med school class, there were VERYÂ few women professors and even fewer female physicians. There were no female surgeons. It was a male world. A masculine world.
The 1970’s was a great time to raise a girl that was headed for a male-dominated job. The incubator of the suburban-feminist mentality, raised a generation of girls that never saw the “glass ceiling”. It was not in the lexicon of my world. My gender mattered little….it was my mind and my effort that mattered. My gender never felt a handicap. But then again, I was not trying to be a woman in my profession, I was trying to be a doctor.
Only later, in my marriage and in motherhood, did I consider myself as a woman. I realized I had very little preparation in this facet of my life. How to feel womanly? How to feel feminine? How do you transition from doctor by day to woman by night? And don’t be mistaken…..there MUSt be a transition. I was part of a team, a partnership. It required both Paul and I to participate. I remembered some of those “sexy” mom’s from S.W. 200th street…..I wanted to be them. I remember the firm and consistent hand of Arlene Nelson. Her kids were always so assured of their family. I wanted to be all these women. I wanted to be all these moms. I rolled it all up into me.
I made a lovely home. I sewed and decorated. I bought art and hung pictures. I learn to cook….really cook. I learned to entertain. I encourgaed Paul, as he had been very consistent in his support of my education. He never questioned or slighted my desire to be a doctor. I was not the most confident about being a mother. It was a mystery to me. I feared failing in this area. And failure would not just be mine, but would potentially harm my child. What if I was a harsh mother. A mean mother. A whimpy mother. An absent, working mother. What if I really sucked in this one area? And of all I have done…..and will ever do…..motherhood defines my life.
I think I am a pretty good mom. My boys are thriving. They are smart and seem quite content. But they are still boys. What kind of woman will they see when they are adults? Will I be a good example of a mother. Am I a good example of a woman?
God makes my heart beautiful. God keeps my heart safe. God is the love that spills forth from me to my family. If I keep God in my heart, cultivate His gifts in me, then I will succeed in this world. I must protect my heart.
Being with my sister and her family has assured me of my path. I love her heart. I can feel the love she has for her family and her children. She has a beautiful heart. After so many years of estrangement(which is putting it MILDLY), Debbie and I have tilled into the rich loam of our lives the past. The hurts will finally all compost and bring forth the lovliness she and I really seek as sisters.
I know God has a path for me. I know I have a clear view of that path.