The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pearls and Playdough

Most of you probably heard or read somewhere that Barbara Billingsley, who played the legendary June Cleaver in “Leave it to Beaver,” died Saturday at the age of 94. Her gentle, nurturing spirit has made her the legendary picture of the perfect stay-at-home mother and housewife.

Growing up in the 90s and 2000s, I have often heard her name used in a slightly condescending tone, referencing women who have chosen to forego careers as powerful businesswomen for the livelihood of the home. It seems that women today almost cringe if they are even put in the same category. I have even heard such remarks as, “Don’t get all June Cleaver on me.”

I do feel like times have indeed changed and the home situation is a far outcry from the “Leave it to Beaver” set. I feel the need, however, to write a tribute to the modern-day June Cleavers and assert the notion that it is not something to be ashamed of, but rather a badge of honor that should be worn proudly.
As I have gotten older, my respect for my mother has grown because I have been able to see what a talented, brilliant woman she really is. When we were little, however, she traded in her stethoscope for cloth diapers and her European college travels for nights in at home with us.

Those that oppose the June Cleaver stereotype often assert that this is the point at which women are settling; that they are not reaching their intellectual potential. Rather than an alternative path to life as she knows it, I am here to say that it is probably the greatest form of a loving sacrifice; and a humbling decision that will forever leave an imprint on her child’s heart.

My heart also goes out to mothers who work to support their family and still come home and get on all fours to play with their babies. Though you may not be wearing pearls and an apron or have a three-course meal on the table when your husband gets home, your modern-day June Cleaver feats are an impressive display of the deep love you have for your family. My mother would come home from a hard day at the hospital and instantly be responsible for getting us to soccer practice, basketball practice, piano lessons and church events. When we got home late that night, she helped us glue our science projects together.

Motherhood isn’t put together in a cardigan-wearing, pearl-decorated world. It’s messy. It’s Kraft Macaroni on the stove. It’s sacrificing your own fashion at times so your kids can look adorable. It’s consoling your kid after a big loss. It’s parent teacher conferences. It’s play dough on the carpet and watching “The Little Mermaid” a bazillion times. It’s crying when your baby leaves for college. It’s making their favorite dessert when they come home.

Writing this with such passion, you would think I was a mother myself. I am far away from that day, but it is definitely an aspiration that I can’t wait to fulfill. I have realized lately that there is no shame in having two degrees and telling people you can’t wait to be married and be a mother. For a long time, I felt like that was such a slap in the face to 6 straight years of college education. Don’t get me wrong, I want to do great things with my career; I want to accomplish my goals; but I also want to leave this world knowing that I set up another human being to do the same.

So whether you are a stay-at-home mother or a mom who dons work clothes one minute and a Gerber-splattered garment the next, know that you are truly fulfilling one of life’s great endeavors. Don’t ever let someone make you feel like you didn’t live the American dream; or didn’t use every talent God gave you in its right manner. You are the builders of dreams; the nurturers of dreams; the pillow of comfort when those dreams don’t come true.

And that trumps a casserole on the table and high heels in the kitchen any day.


Blogger Cole said...

Aww I love this post. I'm going to forward it on to my mom :) She was a stay-at-home Mom when I was little but ended up having to go to work in later years. But she always managed to go above and beyond in the motherhood department even after working all day! :)

January 26, 2011 at 1:18 PM  

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