About a million years ago, I had a career. I had a briefcase, an office, a secretary, and a view from the 24th floor. I did research, argued motions, interviewed clients and attended the firm holiday party. My name was on the wall in the lobby.
But then, when I least expected it, something happened.
That something was an incessant, unrelenting thing called life.
Two years after being unexpectedly blindsided by love, I found myself sitting on my Navy husband’s bachelor couch in our dumpy base house, in a state that did not recognize my law license, nursing our new baby while watching Maury Povich interview people who’d been abducted by aliens.
At first it was kind of fun, getting to relive all the times I played house as a kid, except that the babies really filled their diapers and I also had to do the boring stuff like making sandwiches and cleaning toilets. I never really thought it all through, and truly believed that I’d get back to my career at some point.
Fifteen years, seven moves, and two more babies later, I’m still making sandwiches and cleaning toilets, and the opportunity to get my career back simply never came.
In the meantime, I’ve discovered that long term housewifery does not always provide one with the obvious sense of achievement that a career offers. In fact, the daily drudgery of housework and mothering is highly susceptible to being completely taken for granted. We do not get bonuses for sparkling floors, pay raises for fresh laundry, or promotions for perfectly steamed green beans.
So, we veteran housewives must seize our ego boosts where we can get them.
Recently, my son, Hayden, started his sophomore year at his new high school, and I pack his lunch every day as usual. But this time, I decided to bump it up a notch.
My usual routine was to roll up three slices of deli chicken breast and place them onto two slices of whole wheat with a leaf of lettuce and a slice of Swiss cheese. To reward my son for working hard at football practice, I decided to double the meat, adding tender slices of ham and roast beef to the chicken. Two slices of pepper jack and extra lettuce made the sandwich so thick that I had to put it into a quart-sized storage bag.
On our way home from football practice that evening, Hayden, who is firmly entrenched in that infuriating stage of teenagedom characterized by an almost complete lack of normal conversation, said, “Hey Mom, I really liked that sandwich.”
My heart nearly skipped a beat.
Over the next couple weeks, I continued crafting thick, meaty sandwiches, sometimes substituting cheeses, adding spicy slices of pepperoni, or a fresh sub roll. Instead of waiting for accolades, I had taken to eagerly asking him how he liked the sandwich on our ride home from football practice. He would answer in typical teenage brevity, but always communicated his appreciation.
Then one day, Hayden told me that his football buddy commented on how meaty his sandwich was, and that he wished his mom made sandwiches like that. I couldn’t believe my ears and was exhilarated by my new sense of culinary superiority.
Call me pathetic, but the seemingly insignificant compliments gave me a renewed sense of purpose, and a slight spring in my middle-aged step as I packed the lunches each morning.
Sometimes, I’d receive a bonus with my son’s usual mumbled words of praise. Like the day he told me that the school security guard noticed how thick his sandwich was, and ordered Hayden to bring in an extra one for him sometime. And the time his JV football coach called him over during practice and said, “Hey, I heard your mother makes you a big deli sandwich every day for lunch; so when are you going to bring one in for me?”
Sure, it’s true that the closest thing I have to an office has a washer and dryer in it. And yes, it is rather ironic that I used to have a secretary but am now Secretary of the Football Boosters Club. And even though my name is no longer posted in an office lobby, my name is the one my kids utter when they want a tissue, help with their homework, a snack, someone to hear about their day at school, or a hug.
While I may never make Senior Partner of a Law firm as I had planned over 20 years ago, I’ve attained a status I never expected. I’m Head Nurse, Accountant, General Manager, Commander in Chief of the House, and thanks to recent events, The Sandwich Queen. Sure, my scepter may be a toilet bowl brush and my carriage a mini-van, but I don’t mind, because I know I am loved by my people.