Jewish World Review May 9, 2002/ 27 Iyar, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports


A mother who cares enough


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | When my 100% cotton pillowcases emerged from the dryer, they were gnarled. You pay for 220-thread count and one laundering nets deformed clumps of cotton. After folding them into rippling bundles, I hurled them into the linen closet anyway. My mother would cringe. She is dedicated to the smooth pillowcase.

My mother starched pillowcases, took a former RC cola pop bottle, now stuffed with a sprinkler cork top, dampened the pillow cases, rolled them into knapsack bundles and placed them into a plastic bag where they waited, sometimes to the mildew stage, for me to iron them. One of my teen years' chores was ironing pillowcases.

I never saw the point of ironing what you would immediately rumple. The grief I handed my mother over ironing pillowcases violated the Geneva Convention. My only positive memory of pillowcase servitude was hearing the Beatles' Hey, Jude the first time it played in the United States. My brush with music history via transistor radio was captured amidst the smell of a black and silver iron pressing damp white cotton.

Now the wrinkled masses in my linen closet trouble me. Crisp pillowcases are symbolic of the effort my mother put into her job. When your head hit that pillow, it was a slice of heaven. Wrinkled pillowcases worry me because I am not sure there is something I do that tells my children that I care. A mother who cares enough to have ironed pillowcases really cares.

I have been a combination mother, one foot at work and another foot at home. I do the homework, the sports, the lessons, after-school supervision, and even summers, but everything from the rushed breakfasts in the morning to the errand-filled weekends signal that I have better things to do.

The folly of the "having it all" life hit when Karen Hughes, President Bush's most trusted advisor, packed up her fax machine and left power central for her teen son. Ms. Hughes said she that when got a 5:15 AM from Condoleezza Rice informing her that the China spy-plane crisis was over, her son yelled in the background, "I hate working for the Federal Government." Ms. Hughes chucked it all because she says you have a teen son only once. Her son has a legacy - his mother gave it all up for him. And the media wonders why Bush trusts her so.

Several weeks ago the cover story from People featured photos of Geena Davis, Madonna, and other stars who are post-40 mothers. The story recounts the high risk of motherhood at such an age, but assures that women face the risks because they must achieve as the biological clock ticks. Oh, these career demands!

Fools. Have the children first and foremost. Being a post-40 mother myself, courtesy of surprise child #4, I can assure that while I wouldn't trade him for anything, having a baby post-40 is like driving a car with a tiny radiator up a steep incline with the air conditioner running. You might make it, but, oh, the strain on the vehicle.

When the post-40 baby arrives, there are other glitches. For one thing, you have to put your reading glasses on to study the child's face. And you are a middle age broad matching physical speeds with beings that move as quickly and ubiquitously as syrup over pancakes. They are equally as sticky.

Time magazine had a similar story the same week on the biological clock. A reader wrote in the following week, "Why is it that men can do whatever they want in their lives, but women have to second-guess every decision they make concerning their future?" These gender constructs!

Pregnancy post-40 is a societal phenomenon because women hit age 40 and wonder, despite career achievements, "Is this all there is?" They realize the emptiness of career and the void in their lives.

Julia Roberts once said that she was not ready to have a child because she liked her flat, little tummy. Planet Julia, around whom the entire world spins, is the modern female psyche. The modern woman is "not ready to have a baby." Or she feels it is "not a good time to have a baby." Idiots. They know neither the skills they would develop nor the legacy they could leave. There is no better builder of management skills than motherhood. If you think you have difficult people at the office, spend some time around a 28-month-old. If you think you work well under pressure, try cooking with a four year old clinging to your right leg like a sloth on a Eucalyptus tree. If you think you can motivate people, try getting parents to show up for their shift at the refreshment stand at the basketball games.

And if you think that you know quality accommodations and world-class hotels, try resting your head on a pillowcase that has been sprinkled and ironed. It is neither the crispness nor the fresh scent that delivers tranquility. The pillowcase whispers comfort from a mother who cares enough to manage every detail of her job to perfection. I have a mother who ironed pillowcases. How lucky I am.


JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.

Up

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02/25/02: Don't take the gold
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03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
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04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
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09/09/99: Selective censorship
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08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
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07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
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06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings