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“You would have been a great mother.”

Like most girls, I grew up assuming I would be a wife, mother and homemaker, believing that “the hand that rocked the cradle ruled the nation.” In high school I was President of the Future Homemakers of America, and in college I even went so far as to get a Bachelors of Science degree in Home Economics.
But babysitting in my teens brought out in me a degree of frustration and anger so extreme it shocked me— I wanted to toss those kids over the balcony. With tears streaming down my face, I called my mother just down the street. She came immediately and took over, utterly amazing me by how easy and natural supervising kids was for her.
“It’s different when they’re your own,” she said, trying to console me. As an awkward teenager with no role models other than the conventional ones, I saw no alternative but to follow in her footsteps lest, God forbid, I should grow up to be an old maid. Yet as an adult, my experiences as aunt to my brother’s three children, a junior high teacher, and a witness to the dubious behavior of most of my friends’ children, made me grateful for my freedom. I found little appealing in the prospect of making an eighteen-year commitment, as they had, to a life I regarded as tumultuous.
Though I may not have been cut out to be a mother, I think I would’ve been a good dad. My dad left the house for work each morning, made the family’s money and managed all the financial decisions. He was involved in politics and community service. He taught me how to ride my bike and how to play fair with others in games. He guided me through my fear of spiders, showed me how to safely handle fireworks and taught me my first lessons in how things worked in the universe. He was the head of the house except when it came to homemaking and parenting. In those areas, Mom was in charge.
Dad was solid and made me feel safe, but he was not the one I went to when I was upset. If I was heartbroken, crying over not getting some award at school or other perceived teenage tragedy, he would walk into the room and say, “Next week you won’t even remember this. In the whole scheme of things it won’t even register.” Then Mom would yell from the kitchen, “Paul, she doesn’t want to hear that right now!”
The truth is I was always more like my dad than my mom. But nobody ever thought to say, “You’d make a great dad.”