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Kathryn Finegan Clark: By the Way

By the Way: Mother's Day


Mother’s Day used to be about breakfast in bed. Today, it’s more like coffee to go. We’re constantly on the move.

The other day I watched four political candidates airing their views on television – one of them was a woman. Their names and parties don’t matter here, but what was illuminating for me was what the woman said.

The moderator mentioned that the job the woman was aiming for would require management of a large work force. Would she be up for the task, he asked the candidate.

She looked at him in amazement and said simply, “Well, I’m a mom,” and then proceeded to list her other qualifications.

Amen, I thought to myself. She’s got guts and she’s got it right. Anyone, female or male, who has reared children and managed a household and done it to any degree of success knows the task requires not only Herculean amounts of love, energy, strategy and wisdom as well as bundles of soul-searching and selflessness.

It’s also helpful to be quick enough on your feet to handle the inevitable emergencies ranging from a lost library book to a bloody nose and way beyond as child moves toward adulthood.

Many of us moms have done all that and more while holding a full-time job.

(I do not discount the males who have been forced either temporarily or permanently to take over a mother’s role. That qualification is just as important for them and in my mind puts them head and shoulders above their opponents who don’t know their way around a kitchen or a laundry basket.)

What seems wonderful to me about that televised reveal is that a woman candidate can claim the motherhood experience now and most men will not laugh at her. We’ve all seen enough women who have reared families and taken their place in the work force in what used to be considered a man’s world.

Before I was married years ago, I already had a career – something my mother, a working mom herself, and my father, had encouraged. I left it (reluctantly) because there was no adequate, affordable child care available then, at least where we lived. The flip side was that I truly wanted the time with my children. Career-wise, I lost, but I’ve not regretted that.

I was back freelancing less than a year after my daughter was born. When my son was starting kindergarten, I went back to work full-time. The mother who walked into that newsroom had so much more to offer the world than she had as a single woman.

I think of a story my daughter-in-law, Jeanna Bryner, sent to me some time ago, She, a working mom with two sons, is editor-in-chief of

The story detailed the discovery of a beetle that can walk along the underside of the water’s surface as if stuck to a pane of glass. There was a video of that little beetle hurrying along upside down and underwater and I told Jeanna, “Wow, she’s just like us. She can do it all.” We both laughed.

This made me wonder how we got to that culture that had men dismissing us as unsuited for management and executive positions, especially if we have families to care for? It does still happen in many workplaces.

Even in the ancient world women’s talents and abilities were regarded with respect, mothers or not. The Greeks valued their women. Plato believed women possessed “natural capacities” equal to men.

The Romans respected women, too, but their regard was mixed with a bit of fear. Roman consul Marcus Porcius Cato is said to have warned, “As soon as they begin to be your equals, they will have become your superiors.” Most of us just want to be equal.

For me, I don’t need to be superior. Equality, as elusive as it may be, is just fine. Coffee to go works – and so does breakfast in bed.

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