Senior year of high school all the students in my class took a “Career Aptitude Test”. It’s goal was to provide you with ideas for careers that you would be well suited for. I don’t remember the particulars, but there was a long list of personality questions, and I definitely remember cringing when I saw that I needed to include my GPA. I went from being excited about the process, to feeling less than hopeful about the results.
A few weeks after completing the test, we were handed large manila envelopes in homeroom. Although we were encouraged to wait until we got home, without hesitation everyone ripped open their envelopes; eager to discover their futures. I was an outgoing girl as a teenager, but in school I did my best to get lost in the clutter of high school. There was no need to draw attention to my less-than-stellar academic achievements. This was definitely one of those moments.
People started popping out of their seats as they read their results. I sat quietly for as long as I could, but finally opened the envelope to reveal what the random algorithm had chosen for me. I held my breath as I pulled out the white sheet of paper. There was a list of several suitable options, but the one that seemed to leap off the page was “Cake Decorator”.
Today this quirky career would have been thrilling, but 1987 was a time before reality television highlighted obscure careers. There was no Cake Boss or Top Chef. I had never known a single person in the food industry, let alone someone who decorated cakes for a living. I sat frozen as I pictured myself alone in a back room of a bakery icing cakes.
Instead of sharing that result with my peers, I focused on something else on the list. Something that didn’t include icing. Then, I went home wondering what on earth my life was going to look like. Until that moment, I hadn’t focused too much on what I wanted to be. The only thing that seemed certain was that I wanted to be a mother.
I’d always known I wanted to be a mother. Not just having a few kids within my otherwise filled life, but being the kind of mother who stays at home, making PB & Js and helping the PTA. An old fashioned dream for modern times, but for me it was my greatest ambition. I’ve never judged women with big careers and busy lives (my own mother raised my brother’s and me while juggling jobs, being a corporate wife, getting her PHD and baking her own bread), I just didn’t really want all that for myself.
But 1987 was a time when girls where encouraged to “dream big” and the glass ceiling were getting higher. It would have been as hard to share this 1950s dream, as it would have been to share the idea of being a Cake Decorator. So for years, I sat silent when the the “What do you want to do when you grow up?” question was asked.
Of course life winds around, and I’ve had a long list of jobs. I’ve been a wife (not that it’s really a job Dan), a teacher, a photographer, a writer (you don’t need to be paid right?). I’ve had my share of successes away from home, but when I look at my life, my proudest achievements have been as a mom. I’m grateful that Dan and I set up our family so that I could focus on my 1950s dream. It’s allowed me to devote all of my attention on my family when it’s been required — and it has been required a great deal.
Now, when people ask me what I do, I always start with, “I’m a mom.” I say it proudly.
Although I haven’t always been the perfect mother, I think that my successes safely outweigh my failures. If I can take even a tiny part of the responsibility for who my children are, I know that I’ve done a good job. Two kids with entirely different lives, and both are happy and succeeding (in their own way) as young humans. People that I don’t just love, but who I enjoy being around – most of the time. I’m still not quite sure what I want to be when I grow up, but so far MOM has been my favorite title.
Love, Jack and Anna’s mom
I never did find a job in a bakery, but I have decorated a lot of cakes in my time – just most have been of the “birthday” variety. And, I have come to know a few VERY talented cake decorators and often regret not taking that path. After all, I could have been a cake decorator AND a mom.