Commentary: Motherlove Has Very Cold Hands

By Ellen Foley Special To Channel 3000

The season?s first blasts of cold weather freeze my hands first. It?s these weeks before we break out the mittens and wool caps that make me shiver about a time in my life when the cold penetrated every body part, every day from November to April.

I?m talking about day care duties here, friends. In the old days of the 1980s, no matter how many pairs of gloves and mittens that you and your children had, there was always a reason not wear them. Down snowsuits had to be zipped and rezipped after snow angels interfered. Headgear unfurled in gale-force winds and only mom?s ungloved fingers could stop the head freeze for a toddler. We used bare hands to snap our darlings into plastic-covered car seats that would crack when the thermometer went below -10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most of these duties had to be done with one glove in your mouth and the other hand turning red and cold in the line of duty. This is why now my hands feel the cold first and the memories shush into my mind?s eye on my drive to work grasping the ice-cold steering wheel.

Kait — our eldest daughter who is now 25 — and I had a dinner date Sunday that included the charming if silly ?Morning Glory? movie. We came out of the theater with what looked like rain-turning-to-snow falling as we hustled to the car.

The engine was cold and it took a while to warm up as we headed into the dark evening at 5 p.m. How well I remember leaving our St. Paul, Minn., home at dark about 6:30 a.m. to get the two daughters to day care and then rushing back to day care again in the dark at the relatively early 5:30 p.m.

I worked at a newspaper then and I remember how dunning the bosses were if I was even five minutes late. For me, it was a minor miracle every day to get the two spirited children into their movement-restricting snow garb and into their frozen car seats.

I even remember warming the car up instead of feeding them breakfast. I?d stop at the local SuperAmerica, a convenience store, where they had warm donuts that I would fling from the driver?s seat back to the toddlers secured in their astronaut-like seats in the back. They chowed on the 25-minute ride to our day care home and the wonderful Nita who raised our daughters with us.

I told my daughter how bitter I was now at the hard time the editors gave me when I was a few minutes late and how they questioned my commitment and suggested I might not have it in me to continue working because of the occasional tardiness. I was one of the first reporters to coordinate work and motherhood. My editors were men with wives at home or single woman who had no idea what the first hours of my day were like.

?These are the people for whom you will work long hours to pay for their Social Security,? I said somewhat dryly on our way to a restaurant for pre-dinner libations.

Kait shared memories of those hectic and bone-chilling dark mornings as we drove to Nita?s in a car whose wheels would sometimes freeze into squares overnight and bump along until our doughnut stop. Her little sister would often cry until the food arrived.

“Maybe we should withhold the Social Security payments for those people who gave you a hard time, Mom?” Kait suggested.

I suppose it would help the national deficit. But those bosses, now mostly retired, probably never knew that my red, frost-bitten hands had been working for three hours with baby coats, buttonholes, mittens, doughnut tossing and frozen steering wheels before I appeared at my desk.

I?m sure they are telling their comrades on the piers of retirement communities in the southern United States about how they ushered in this new energetic generation of women workers. I owe some of them a great deal. I was one of them who made it to the top before family reasons prompted my retirement from full-time journalism two years ago.

Yet, I remember some of their righteous complaints about my minutes of tardiness every year on blustery days at the beginning of the winter season. I think Kait has it right. They should be given only a prorated share of their Social Security payments because their selfish actions impacted her young life and she?s the one who?s going to have to pay for those jokers.

I also believe that the working mothers of the ?70s, ?80s and ?90s deserve extra Social Security payments in reparation for what was obvious mistreatment of the very people who were guaranteeing through procreation a generous retirement cushion for Boomer Bosses courtesy of the national government. I?m ready to join the Tea Party on this one although I doubt they have a Peeved Boomer Working Mother?s Division.

I am pretty sure reparations are not going to happen. And I can see the day when my daughter will be wrestling with a car seat as precious minutes tick until the work day is to begin, with one glove in her mouth and the other tussling with some toddler gizmo or another.

I have only one consolation for Kait?s generation of progenitors of future workers everywhere: We didn?t give birth to you for selfish reasons so we need to keep in mind the adage: Cold hands, warm heart.

It?s not going to get you a condo in Fort Lauderdale but at some point, your grown child will know your warm heart got them through childhood and beats in sync with yours wherever their jobs take them.