My mom is my best friend in the whole world. She’s sharp, sassy and most of all, kind. I’m often told that I look just like her, now I just hope that when I’m all grown up I’m half the Lady she is. This interview allowed me to understand more about who she was before she was my mom, someone who I would definitely still want to be best friends with (but who was also a total nerd).
Who was your role model as a kid? Who is it today?
Well, since I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, I suppose my role models always naturally were my teachers. My 6th grade teacher, Ms.McGinnigy. I just liked how she pushed us; she made me feel smart and always was encouraging. I already knew I wanted to be a teacher anyway so I just wanted to be like her. I just liked school. I loved it. I would pretend I had homework, I would make up my own assignments to do. I liked learning, I loved reading and memorizing spelling words. I can’t ever remember a time in my life I didn’t want to be a teacher.
I went to college for teaching but my first husband talked me into quitting and getting a job right away so we could get married. So, I went to secretarial school and I just wanted to die. I thought, “I cannot wait on some man for the rest of my life.” That’s back in the day when we were taught how to dress, how to act, how to talk to the men appropriately. I quit after a semester and went back to university to finish my teaching degree. My dad taught me to get an education; he was a big part of me going back to school. He told me that women needed to be educated and independent so in case something happened, then you will be okay, and able to support yourself. But a lot of women don’t think that way. You know, they are taught to go where their husband goes. That’s a huge part of the unfair workforce, those expectations.
Is there anything in your childhood you wish you could have changed? Why?
My mother was one of the only moms growing up who went to work and I hated it. She had to hire someone in the neighborhood to feed us at their house. I remember going to one woman’s house who would make me eat my lunch super fast and run to the store to buy her things. I hated that. I hated it so much. Coming home to an empty house.
What do you admire most about your parents?
They both had such a strong work ethic. How much they loved each other, cared about each other. It was very genuine and honest. They did everything together. I mean really, I can’t tell you a time my mom went anywhere without my dad. They went square dancing together. They made time for themselves and they were very clear on that with us, even when we’d beg them to stay home they would say “no, this is our adult time,” I think that’s important.
What do you feel like you inherited from your mom and dad?
From my mom, my independence. I have my money and I can do what I want. My mom used to sneak money from my dad. She had her own credit card before credit cards were even a thing. She would buy new furniture herself and was just so proud to be able to do that.
What I learned from my dad was his sense of family – it was really strong. Even my mother’s family, he took them into our house and they spent two years taking care of them while they were dying. He learned how to give my mom’s mom morphine shots and he was the only one who could. He remodeled my grandma’s entire house every weekend for an entire summer. I got to go wild in the country with my cousins while my mom and her mom cooked for everyone. I loved it.
What were you like as a young adult … before you were a mom or wife?
Carefree, young, full of energy and hope like you could do anything. Independent. I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t afraid to try stuff and leave home, be on my own [….] although it never dawned on me to move away from Madison. This is where I grew up; it’s where I’m going to live.
What is one thing you wish you could have done but never did?
Travelled more, backpacked through Europe, seen the world. Why did I work so hard in college and go right into my career? I wouldn’t get married so young. But people did that. I was totally self-supporting by the time I was 19 so that just seemed natural. Why didn’t I think beyond my backyard?
In what ways do you think I’m like you? And not like you?
Well, we both have the same unfortunate pudgy parts (haha). We’re both way too sensitive. We’re both hard headed, determined. We both like to sing and neither of us can (SO true). I like that it took both of us a long time to be adventurous and love the outdoors but now we both do. But you’re more adventurous than I am, more willing to take a chance, more comfortable outside the box.
What was it like being pregnant?
Oh my god, joyous. I LOVED being pregnant. I loved eating anything I wanted and watching you grow and knowing that I was a vessel for life. There’s nothing in the world I could compare it to. Bringing a glorious creature into the world, somebody who is a mixture of the person you love most and yourself. That’s what it’s like to be pregnant. I held you in my heart for nine months before I had to give you up.
What is your proudest moment as a mother?
Taking you to college. You know? All the joys, there is not one moment that’s better than the other but it’s that moment that you realize that you did okay. You built them up and you let them go and if they made it that far and were ready to go out into the world, then you did good. So it’s probably the hardest day and the happiest all together. Every moment is joyous but that moment is proudness. Watching you grow on your own, away from us.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, what defines your feminist viewpoints?
Oh yes. It’s my belief that men and women should be treated equally in every way. That we should have equal rights… equal pay, equal say in decisions, in politics, in companies. Especially men, they should respect us more. We shouldn’t have men talk about women’s looks being something you vote on and not how smart they are. They should be judged by how smart they are, they are caring… and you know, the same breath for men, they shouldn’t be afraid show their feminine side. Feminine shouldn’t be a dirty word.
But you know, feminism challenges men in ways they aren’t ready for yet. First, they’d have to admit that we’re not equal. They’ll say you can do that… no one’s stopping you. Yet they’ll attend country clubs that women can only golf on Thursday morning.
What do you do as a feminist, what are feminist acts in your life?
Voting for other people that will push feminist agendas. Supporting women – my friends, children, to have equal rights, teaching girls that it’s okay to stand up for themselves. It’s still sad to me that we live in a country that white men still reign and I’d like to see that change in my lifetime.
I think supporting sexuality; women feeling free to explore their sexuality just like a guy, that women are allowed to sleep around. I won’t shop at certain places that I know don’t support open reproductive healthcare for women. It may not make a big dent but makes a difference to me. I mean, really, I’m still having to fight for abortion rights in this day and age?
But we have to keep in perspective that it’s hard to be a feminist sometimes. You have all those beliefs but you don’t know how to go about acting on them or you live with someone who just won’t tolerate it. I think your generation is going to make the biggest difference.
Is there anything you have always wanted to tell me but never have?
I’m not as smart as you think I am. (Yes, she is.)