Anyone see Oprah today? Mo’Nique was on the show (is that how she spells her name?) At any rate, she was on the show and gave the most tear-inducing testimony of how Oprah inspired her in like 1978 on her Baltimore, Maryland talk show. Oprah gave her remarkable words of wisdom (that I dont dare try to recall properly) and it really made me think.
Honest? First reaction, I was a bit sad. Sad that I had never had such an experience. I never had anyone truly inspire me like that. Was I inspired to be a good person? Of course. Was I led well by my Mother, my #1 Female mentor and role model? Yes indeed. Was I motivated to be something amazing by way of following my true dream for myself? No. Why not you ask? Well it wasnt because my parents didn’t believe in me. It wasn’t because they didn’t think I could do it…and it wasnt becuase I didn’t express an interest in a “profession”.
I think I probably completely perplexed my parents, because what I wanted to be wasn’t profitable. It wasn’t popular or acceptable in the 80’s when I was raised. Heck, it wasn’t even a profession.
I wanted to be “A Mom”.
Each time I stated this, my Dad often responded with, “And what else?” For years, this upset me. I felt that what I wanted to be wasn’t good enough, or that I had somehow disappointed my parents. I know now that I have been put on a path that simply isn’t common, and is often misunderstood. I suppose if I was a parent of the 80’s this would be stressful for me to hear from my child as well. I know now that my Dad was probably trying to protect me.
I also know now that there’s nothing to protect me from. Frankly, I think he knows that too. I’d like to think he’s proud of me.
As I reflected on this while watching Oprah, I pondered who my role model may have been. Who was it that I wanted to be like when I “grew up”? My mother was a working mother, as were most of the mothers I knew. Despite this, all I ever wanted was to get married and have children. I didn’t have a career goal, and I failed miserably at every attempt to go to college. (and I’m not dumb!) I simply never had a serious interest outside of all things domestic. I then remembered my Great Aunt Jodie.
Aunt Jodie was a remarkable woman. I’m struggling to find a more appropriate adjective for her. She was strong, resourceful, loving, fair, and hospitable. She was an incredible cook, kept a gorgeous house, and was a loving mother of five children. She had four daughters and a son, all four of her girls bed-ridden by their teens due to a terrible disease that was expected to end their lives by their twenties. She outlived her husband and all four of her girls, who miraculously all lived into their 50’s ( I believe one lived to be in her 60’s) and also lived through the death of her only grandson. She had lived through tough financial times, illness, pain, hurt, and tragic loss, and she had done it all with amazing grace and love.
When I got married over nine years ago, she gifted me with a crock-pot. I had never used one before, and was both baffled and intrigued by it. After I opened it, she said something that stuck with me forever. She said, “You fix that man some hot meals and take care of him.” I smiled, nodded, thanked her and dismissed her old fashioned advice as outdated and unnecessary. Surely that man of mine could feed himself.
Over the years, I realized that indeed, he could feed himself. Afterall, I was working full time while our children were in daycare. I didn’t have time to wait on him. Besides, I wasnt going to be a slave to any man. I was a progressive woman of the new millenium and all. A progressive woman of the new millenium that desperately just wanted to be home with her babies.
Art and I eventually made the decision to have me stay home at all costs. We lived on less than 20,000 that first year. It was probably the toughest year of my life, but we did it. Each year got a little better, and ultimately, I realized that my lack of willingness to nuture my husband was inhibiting his progress at work. Without the strong woman behind him, he wasnt standing as tall as he could be. I began to care for him more intensely. Prepared his clothing, fixed his meals, packed his lunches, and made every attempt to make our modest, simple home a complete retreat for him. Much to my surprise, it became a retreat for me too. Slowly but surely, I began to really appreciate my role in this family, and was blessed daily by the change in the overall feel of our home.
As I brought out my crock-pot one day, Aunt Jodie’s words came flying back to me. I had since lost her, and treasured that darn crock-pot more than any woman should treasure a kitchen appliance. I thought about what she had said to me. She wasn’t simply telling me to fix him hot meals. There was so much more to what she was telling me. Nuture the man. Take care of the man. Sure, feed him good food…but feed his heart too. Tell him he’s important. Make sure he feels loved and respected. It’s not just for him, either. When he’s treated properly, he’s kinder, calmer, more content. My life is more joyful because HE is more joyful.
I ‘fix that man hot meals and take care of him”, and in return, he gets up every day and works himself to the bone to ensure that I am able to live out my dream. I have what I’ve always dreamed for. It may not involve fame, fortune, or even money for that matter…but it’s simply, exactly, without a doubt, all I have ever wanted.
Gotta run…I’ve got dinner in the crock-pot.