From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

A Privilege

I was a working mother, and now I am a working grandmother. As a writer, I work at home. I make my own hours, do not have to worry about wardrobe or transportation, and often look as if I am not working at all. Other working mothers and grandmothers who leave each morning for their jobs often look my way and say, “You’re so lucky, not having to work.”

Of course I am working. Because I can withstand anything, cope with anything, I can deal with the surprises and catastrophes of life as long as I have my work. My spot. My moment of expression. I felt that I would be a better mother then, and I feel I’m a better grandmother today if I have something that is just mine. All mine. Whether it be for fame or for fortune. Or just for the love of it. Work.

My children grew up eating their lunches on my manuscripts, sitting on my desk to talk with me, and thinking that all mothers slept with a notebook and pen beside their beds. My husband knew the greatest gift he could give me was a typewriter and time staring out a window where an idea might be lurking. I was not the kind of mother who attended all the school events, or who cooked memorable meals. I did not sew, bake, or clean house to anyone’s delight—and still do not. But I can write. That is my work, where I feel special. Where my identity has a voice.

It has always been this way. I need to get housework done so that I can work. I need to get that meal on the table so that I can work. Work became the bonus. The prize. The gift I received so that I might give more back to others. More of my satisfied self. More of the self still in the works.

There were sacrifices. I was not “super mom.” Sometimes I was too tired to enjoy special moments. Sometimes I was frustrated and angry with myself and could not offer my children all they might have wanted. Sometimes, I guess, I did not measure up, or possibly I let them down. But there were precious moments that survived the years. The peanut butter and jelly crackers in stacks waiting for them at the end of the school day. The bedtime stories when I jumped into bed with them. The intimate conversations that would survive a lifetime. No work could steal those times from me. My job did not leave me because it was the end of a day or arrive because it was the beginning. It remained, day and night, as my comfort, as my inspiration, and sometimes as my tormentor. When my husband watched me trying to cope after my cancer operation, he said, “Go work. You’ll feel better.” And I did.

My children watched me work in my underwear, in my bed, in sickness, and in despair. “What are you doing?” they asked in the middle of the night when they found me sitting at my desk.

“Working,” was my reply. For I feel work is a privilege. Sometimes it expects everything. And sometimes it gives everything.

I never made a living as a freelance writer. Writers seldom do. It wasn’t my income that kept me working. And it wasn’t the people I worked with, for there were none. And it wasn’t the praise that I received, because there was more rejection than praise. I kept working because work broadened my world and my perception of it.

Now in my seventies, I have more time than I did when the children were young. More hours in the day that are free. I could relax. Retire. Take it easy. Or learn how to cook a memorable meal. I could, but I won’t. For those who might think me old or finished, I answer, “Not yet. I am still working.”

Harriet May Savitz

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