Ladies of the Round Table

March 14, 2008

How I Came To Be Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — goodhappenings @ 6:39 pm

This is Laurie from Pho for Four (soon to be Five).  I recognize our roles as women began at birth, and each of us entered this world as someone’s daughter.  My parents were in their early 20’s when I was born.  My dad was a law student, my mom hadn’t finished college when they got married.  They started having kids almost right away and she decided to be a SAHM instead of finishing her education.  I was their 2nd child, and their 2nd daughter (eventually 1 of 4 bio kids and MUCH later 1 of 9 kids total).  Their first daughter, my sister Christy, pretty much fulfilled all their dreams with regards to having a kid that excelled verbally and cognitively for her age, so all pressure was off of me to be brilliant or any of that.  I must’ve sensed this early on, because my role as family “meathead” started when I began crawling early and then walking by 9 months.  My dad even called me “meathead” as a childhood nickname, and having no idea what it meant, I took it as an endearing diminutive all the way up to high school, when I realized its true connotation.  I still think he called me that adoringly, but you get the point. 

Anyway, I have no idea if my dad was hoping for a boy or what, but I think I gave my him everything he’d hoped for in terms of sports and a kid who loved boy stuff growing up!  I spent my childhood barefoot in a tree, riding my skateboard, fishing, playing soccer on boys’ teams, making him proud as a soccer and softball coach, and reminding him so much of himself in my temperament.  I was passionate, fiercely competitive, and very driven.  My parents did encourage me academically as well, and for the most part, I did well in school.  But I was never the bookworm my sister was, and I could never hold my own in a debate with my dad like she could from a young age.  So our roles were defined pretty early on – she was the smart one, I was the athletic one.  In truth, I wasn’t unintelligent, and she wasn’t unathletic.  But we all know how hard it can be to break free from an identity your family has used to define you for your childhood.  So I embraced it and never tried to compete for a spot at the intellectuals’ table until much later in life.  I made light of the fact that I never knew what my sister was talking about because I would’ve needed to sit with a dictionary just to follow her conversations.  For the record, it was my dad who suggested I go into medicine after college, and he, who therefore gave me the burst of confidence I needed to go for it.

But my 2 bio brothers were born not too terribly far behind me.  [As a side not for those of you who know my family story – my parents didn’t adopt my 5 youngest siblings until I was in college and beyond].  Not that I was replaced because they were actually boys or anything; they’re both athletic guys, but neither has the personality or motivation to have really been a dominant force in competitive sports.  Actually, all my siblings complained that all of our family’s time revolved around supporting my soccer schedule.  Siblings are funny like that – no matter who you are in a big family, you always think it’s you who’s getting the shaft and someone else is the favorite!  But what did happen as a result of my family becoming equal in gender was the ability to do things like “boys’ weekends” and “girls’ only excursions.”  This was something I picked up on VERY early.  And I hated it. 

I guess part of the reason was because I totally admired my dad, constantly sought his approval, and felt unparalleled pride in myself when I’d done something to make him proud of me.  I don’t know why the dynamic was that way, but I always felt gypped when the boys got dad and my sister and I were “stuck” with mom.  I have an incredible mom who deserved to be looked up to – she gave up everything to stay at home with us, is extremely nurturing and maternal by nature, has incomparable emotional intelligence, and always made us each feel like we were the most special little people in the world.  And it’s not like I had a dad who didn’t appreciate the contributions of his SAH wife.  He always stressed to us that he believed her job was harder than his, that hers was the most important job, and that my mom is an incredibly intelligent woman, smarter than him in many ways.  But on some level, I must not have bought it.  I didn’t believe there was true equality, or that her job as a mom was valued more highly.  I don’t know why, but I just didn’t have the same degree of respect for her as I did for my dad growing up.  Maybe some of it was the emphasis my family put on education and sports.  My dad is a Harvard educated attorney, and my mom never finished her college education.  Her “type” of intelligence is difficult to measure, whereas it is very clear to people when they meet my dad that he is extremely intelligent.  He speaks articulately with flawless grammar, his logic is impossible to argue with, he exudes confidence (not arrogance, just a level of self-assuredness that is hard to mistake), and he has all the degrees that follow his name to back it all up.  My dad is very athletic person with an athlete’s build, and my mom is pretty uncoordinated.  I remember going on family picnics and playing various pick-up sports against other family friends- I always got a chuckle out of watching my mom try and throw a football or kick a kickball.  Of course there were other things and attributes my family valued, like service work and social conscientiousness, but none that I recognized as being as highly rewarded as education and sports.  In essence, it was abundantly obvious that my dad has those attributes, while my mom’s strengths are harder to quantify, and as a kid, I guess I didn’t try to. 

Back to the boys’ versus girls’ distinction…so, I recognized things like my brothers getting to go on fishing or diving trips with our dad, while my mom, sister, and I stayed home.  Or the boys going out to a baseball game while my mom, sister, and I rented a movie.  Or the boys going out golfing when I’d never been golfing.  For the record, I HATE golf – the only thing I hate more than golf is baseball.  But since both of my brothers both owned the box set of baseball cards from their birth years (I think my dad bought those sets for them when my brothers were born), that’s all I wanted for my 12 birthday.  It was the principal of the matter!  I saw it as an inequality based on gender, and I was really sensitive to that even as a little kid.  But Travis recognized it too when we were in high school.  We HATED being separated from each other at that point in our lives (ok, we are still not a very independent couple and hate being apart).  But every now and then, it would happen along the gender lines.  For example, at Thanksgiving one year, I remember the boys going off to play golf while the girls stayed back to prepare the meal!!  AAAAAHHHHH!!!!

I always swore that when I grew up, in MY family, there’d be no “boys versus girls,” or exclusive trips that divided one gender from the other.  The irony of that, of course, is that it looks like I might be the only non-boy in my own damn family!!  Hahaha, very funny God! 

I grew up in a pretty tight-knit family and we have only grown closer as we’ve gotten older.  I understand both of my parents better now than I ever did, and I think I can now appreciate my mom much more than I ever could growing up.  Much of that is due to my own role as a current SAHM.  I realize how hard her job was, raising us to be well-rounded people that shared her intangible attributes, while also providing us with opportunities to excel in our studies and athletic pursuits.  She was never threatened by the fact that we’d come home with a school assignment and never ask for her help; we’d go straight to my dad.  She’d slave over a hot stove day after day to make sure we always ate healthy, home-cooked meals, and I don’t remember ever complimenting the delicious dishes she’d make or even saying “thanks mom.”  She was selfless and totally unglorified for her role as the constant giver.  She never got recognition for it, never expected to.  I love her so much for that.  And now that I am struggling to be half the mom to my kids that she has been to me, I realize just how incredible she has always been.  

I’m grateful that my dad always encouraged me to be a strong person and pursue certain things, despite them being less common pursuits for women – like using athletics to open the door to a top-notch education, majoring in the male-dominated field of neuroscience, and then following my dream to a medical education.  And I am grateful that my mom worked so hard to show me the value of raising children, and what an important and equal job that truly is.  She has provided guidance and support in my newfound role as SAHM, a role I never thought I would have.  Now it’s up to me to find the balance between being a strong woman, confident enough to pursue her dreams, while also finding a way to keep my kids the main priority and focus of my life.  Perhaps the part of my upbringing for which I am most grateful involves my parents’ marriage, and the model that has given me and Travis.  I know my life partner will always see me as his equal, and our responsibilities for our kids equal as well. 

Were there flaws in my upbringing?  Of course.  Did my parents do things Travis and I hope to do differently in our own family?  Of course.  But did my role as Dave and Natalie’s daughter shape the woman I am and the mother I hope to be?  Of course it did.  And I am very very grateful for that. 



  1. What an amazing way to grow up to just be you! I know many children who once they are in the roles of wife/husband and parent see their childhood in a completely different much better light and then go back and thank their parents for being who they were, not that you see your parents ina better light now than you did then but you sure do appreciate their positions more, that shows in this post. From reading your usual blog as well as this post I see where you find the strength and support to be the absolutely amazing mother that you are today!

    Comment by carissah — March 14, 2008 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  2. I have looked at my mom in such a different light since becoming a mom. I always knew she was amazing and special, but I didn’t really realize just how amazing she was until I tried being a SAHM myself. I tell her all of the time how thankful I am that I have such a great mom. I feel like I can’t thank her enough. Like your mom, she cooked every single night. I know we never thanked her. And like your mom, she didn’t even expect it despite how much she deserved our constant thanks. We are truly blessed to have such amazing role models and mothers in our lives. I would be so lost without my mom.

    Comment by Kelly — March 14, 2008 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

  3. I love how close you were to your dad and how much that shaped who you are. I was much closer to my dad than my mom before I had my own family. Things like clothes shopping with my mom was torturous for both of us because I hated it so much. I wasn’t athletic like you, I just didn’t think that I was interested in anything my mom liked to do. It wasn’t until after my own daughter that I began to appreciate my mom in a very different way for all that she did.

    Comment by craftymommy — March 15, 2008 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

  4. “Now it’s up to me to find the balance between being a strong woman, confident enough to pursue her dreams, while also finding a way to keep my kids the main priority and focus of my life.”

    This really gets to the heart of the matter doesn’t it?

    I have to say that in many ways, it is very difficult to read both this post and Kelly’s. I know that for my own children, it will be different, but there is such STRENGTH in being able to look back and have a good idea of how it can be done.

    When I read this post, one of the things that really struck me is how aware you are of your mom’s sacrifice, BUT NOT BECAUSE SHE MADE YOU FEEL GUILTY.
    I really think that is awesome.

    Thank you for sharing this from such a place of health and reality.

    Comment by sheljena — March 16, 2008 @ 12:35 am | Reply

  5. I love how you mentioned your mother’s intangible attributes. Oh how I long to develop some of mine! From the little that I know of you from Bloggerville, I’d say you are well on your way to becoming the woman and mother you strive to be!

    Comment by Jen — March 16, 2008 @ 1:00 am | Reply

  6. Laurie- Women like your mom who seem naturally to know how to be great mothers amaze me. How blessed you are to be able to claim her!

    I am anxious to know more about how you and Christy feel about your identity labels, especially whether or not you think they may have affected your relationship with each other. Did either of you feel competitive, jealous, or resentful? Are there issues you have to work through even now? I know these are very personal questions, so feel free to ‘pass.’ I only ask because my daughters also carry some heavy-duty labels. As parents, my husband and I encourage each of our three daughters’ unique gifts, talents, and interests, but along the way each has gotten tagged.

    I wonder if it’s even possible to emerge from childhood with a set of labels? Hmmmm…there may be a whole other topic in here. Do identity labels reflect talents and interests, or do they drive talents and interests? Or is it a birthorder thing? On many levels, your post has me thinking! -Gina

    Comment by thebeequeen — March 17, 2008 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  7. I can sooo relate to this. I had all those same gender inequality issues growing up and also felt so close to my Dad. Reading this really clarified a lot of that for me! Isn’t it amazing just how much these early roles mold us in one way or another and affect us forever?

    Comment by Nicki — March 19, 2008 @ 12:49 am | Reply

  8. I always had the feeling from following your blog that you must have a pretty amazing family and I love getting a chance to read a bit about them. I love that you have developed such insight and understanding about your mom. It sounds like you’ve really been able to take the greatest lessons they’ve both had to offer to develop your own approach to being a great mom, wife, doctor, athlete, and everything else you amaze me by keeping up with.

    Ok, just gotta say – any chance you haven’t posted on your blog today because you’re in the midst of having your baby girl within the next hour so I win the pool? 🙂

    Comment by Stacy — March 19, 2008 @ 4:54 am | Reply

  9. I love reading what you have to say, Laurie, because you write so eloquently. Thank you for addressing roles and their impact on our children.

    Comment by All That We Let In — March 21, 2008 @ 3:41 am | Reply

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