As I'm reading the New York Times, I come across an article, an obituary actually, that
makes my blood boil. At the age of 88, famed rocket scientist Yvonne Brill passed away.
She was a leader in her field, even honored by President Barack Obama with the Medal of
But her obituary in the New York Times begins like this: "She made a mean beef
stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, took 8 years off from work to raise
three children, 'The world's best mom,' her son Matthew said."
A woman who received the Medal of Technology from President Obama is still
relegated, by her obituary, to the quality of her beef stroganoff. Are you kidding me?
Would this ever happen to a man?
The stroganoff stays in my head. As a working mom, I'm sensitive to the discrepancy
between how fathers and mothers are viewed in relation to their work. A dad is never
referred to as a "working dad," yet a woman is always a "working mom." Men don't get
asked if they work outside the home, while a woman always does. As a person who is a mom and who works, I sometimes want to walk around with my own paycheck stubs just
to prove myself.
And then I wonder why.
I'm not just a mother, and I'm not just a writer, nor am I just someone's wife.
I can't think of a job I'm doing more important than raising my two kids, but it's not all
I'm doing and it's not who I am. I hate being defined by motherhood and my kids. I
cringe when I ask a friend, "How are you?" and she answers, "We're fine," before
delivering a four-minute monologue on what her kids are doing. Internally, I'm thinking, "Yes, but how are you?"
When I got married, I grappled with being thought of as Mrs. Somebody. In fact, I didn't
change my name. After all, I got married. I didn't join witness protection. I wasn't
suddenly somebody else and didn't want a new identity. Likewise, when I became a mom, I winced every time somebody referred to me as, "So-and-So's Mommy." I'm still
Meredith, and I'm a mom.
It may be taboo to say, but my career is as important to me as my kids. When I die
(hopefully in like 400 years), I don't want my obituary to short-change what I've done in
any area of my life. I'm not just a mother, and I'm not just a writer, nor am I just
someone's wife. Long before any of that, I was a person. I'd like my obituary to reflect
that person. Not just that mom.
Thankfully, I make a terrible beef stroganoff, so I won't have to worry about the Times
leading with that. I hope I'm remembered for what I did and who I was, not just who I
raised and how I fed them.