or How to Encourage Independence
Confessions of a (Still) Working Mom
Toby Klein Greenwald
You know how there are some stories in the history of families that become legends? We laughed over one of those legends at the time that our almost 21-year-old son brought home the young lady (same age) soon to be his bride. By the time you’re reading this, they’re married. Actually, just updated, by the time you’re reading this it’s more than three years later and they have an adorable baby boy, but I digress.
His story bumps up the Kool-Aid stand on the corner a whole new notch.
I always change my children’s names in articles and blogs to preserve the little bit of privacy left to the sons and daughters of a writer who consistently finds them her greatest source of material and inspiration. So, “Mitch” was seven years old when Dr. Tobin and I began this adventure we call WholeFamily.com. “David,” the next oldest child, was 11 and finished school in the late afternoon, but Mitch finished at 3PM.
Every day, around the time that Mitch came home, I’d call him to be sure that he had found the lunch I had left for him. Fortunately we live in a protected neighborhood and our little corner of the street had enough stay-at-home moms who remembered how I looked in on their children, when I was the one home.
When Mitch was about 14 he revealed to me that he and a few friends (also children of working moms) decided to not settle for warmed-up vegetarian hamburger. They had approached the local pizza parlor and asked the proprietor if they could wipe down tables in return for a slice of pizza and a coke.
This went on for about a year, until they started getting hot school lunches. The owner, who we saw occasionally in passing, never let on that he knew where our boys were after school even if we didn’t.
As time went on, Mitch sold flowers door to door, then collected bottles and traded them in for petty cash. I put my foot down when, at 13, he asked to work in a small local flour mill, whose owners should have been reported to the child protection agencies. It took a while to explain to a boy who had been earning his own ice cream money from the age of seven that no, he could not work in a flour mill.
Other jobs included washing cars, collecting trash at the zoo, tutoring small children, waitering and anything and everything else that would result in him having ready cash and not dependent on us.
I tried to get into the guilty mom head – really I did. But I failed. And as time went on and I saw other kids selling flowers and washing cars, I knew I was not alone.
At the age of 18 Mitch became the maitre d’ for the catering service he used to work for as a young teen. At the age of 19 Mitch was given the incredibly responsible job of being the head of personnel for a municipal discount card service of a town serving more than half a million people.
At the age of 21, in addition to being a husband (His new bride and he managed most of the organization of the wedding on their own), he was in an officer’s training course. Today, at 24 (in 2014), he has hundreds of 18-19 year olds under his command, ready to go out and get the bad guys.
I don’t feel guilty for not feeling guilty anymore.