Today was my mother’s retirement party at work. She has spent 25 years in a professional role and given it her all. She was undeniably emotional about this phase of life ending and is curious what life will be like on the other side of retirement. It is the redefining of her role in life that perplexes her the most.
She came into her professional career late in life. I remember watching her move from being a stay-at-home mom, to college student, graduate student and into education. She quickly went from teacher to administrator and in her last years before retirement she decided to go back into the classroom.
Mother has always worked incredibly hard, and she plays even harder. She is always trying new things and takes my daughter along for the ride. Once I came by to pick up my daughter after spending the weekend with Mother to find them welding pieces of junk metal together in the shape of a chicken….. to go with the metal person they had already made. Another time I came by to get my daughter only to discover that they had decided to build an outdoor shower in the backyard. Daughter doesn’t understand why I don’t weld…or take showers outside.
My point is, Mother has always defined herself as an “all in person.” Now that she is “all out” of education she is contemplating redefining her role in her life, and I can’t help but think how blessed we, as females, are to live in a time and country where we have that freedom. The freedom to decide what — and who — we want to be.
Once again, I think about the women who inspired the Grace & Grit boxes. This month I am learning about Harriet Tubman. Slavery was not going to be the only defining role in her life. Freedom of choice was worth risking her life over. Not only that, but she also decided to become a spy during the Civil War and an advocate for the female vote. Harriet defined herself in a time when African American women were considered property instead of people. She defined herself as a person worthy of making her own life choices.
I do feel we, as females, have more work to do in overcoming stereotypes and prejudices. However, we are on the right path. Especially when I look at the choices my daughter is making for her life. She wants to be a basketball player and eventually a coach. She also wants to live on a ranch with horses, and she has promised to hire Mother as a ranch hand. Mother will probably weld the fences — I am not even kidding people! The welding force is strong in this one.
Does your girl realize the vast opportunities before her? Does she feel empowered enough to live big, does she realize she can have as many different professional careers as she wants, does she feel confident enough to weld chickens for her grandmother? I hope so.
I talk to Daughter about how women in underdeveloped countries do not have the freedom of choice like we do. I encourage her to dream big and fight hard to make her career choices happen. “This is your right,” I tell her, “your prerogative, your life.” We get to define and redefine ourselves as many times as we want to. And if Daughter wants to eventually go into business welding outdoor showers well, then, so be it. It would make her grandmother so very proud.