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From the Publisher's Desk: Survival of the fittest

From reunions to rodeos, it's been life in the fast lane the last few weeks. So, I took Monday off to relax at home alone while Rick was in Portland. I've got to tell you, a day at home goes by a lot faster than a day at work. I jumped from the Internet to the kitchen, went to the post office, then did some laundry and before I knew it, the day was over.

Staying home and relaxing are not things I do very well. I take after my mother who never seemed to stop working, even at night. She would sew or pay bills or balance the books for the family business until it was time to go to bed.

What's best about this country, and this newspaper, is that they both encourage freedom of speech and open discourse of ideas and opinions. In the 18th century, a fellow named Lichtenberg said, "Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all." And so I think that my challenge, and perhaps it was my mother's as well, is that I have lots of opinions about lots of things which makes it difficult to just kick back and watch the world go by without saying something.

Recently in letters to the editor—the place where everyone gets a say—there has been some discourse about whether it's better to be a stay-at-home mom than a working parent. I, of course, have an opinion.

My mother was a widow at 31. Five years later she married my father and a year after that I was born. From the time I can remember, my mother told me about how hard it was to survive during the Great Depression as a widow with an 11th grade education. She worked at a fish cannery and later at Newberry's 5 and Dime Store for 25 cents an hour. She walked to work rather than ride the bus to save the fare.

I can't begin to tell you how many times Mom told me to get an education and a career. Not just a job, but something I could sink my teeth into and depend on to make a living. Because, she said, you don't know what hand life might deal you.

I was 24 when I began my career in the newspaper business, and 26 when I started my family. I have taken about 2 years off in the last 34, not counting the annual 2-4 week vacation. I raised three sons on my own since 1990.

It occurred to me to call my boys and ask them their opinion. "Would you have liked it better, would it have benefited you more, if I had been a stay-at-home mom?" But I'm not calling because I know how my sons would respond. First they would say, "Geez, Mom, would you please stop writing about me in your column. It's embarrassing."

I've been fortunate to always have a job with some flexibility. If I came in early, I could leave early to catch Matt's soccer games or Dana's track meets. In the summer, if I took an early lunch, I could drive the boys to tennis or swimming lessons. For years, I drove them to school every morning. In the afternoons, I picked them up from soccer, football, track, basketball, tennis or band. Weekends were more of the same.

If I called and asked them right now, my sons would say that I've always been there for them when it mattered: at the middle school assembly to applaud Dana being named Citizen of the Year; at the Soccer Awards Banquet to proudly watch Matt, as a freshman, accept his MVP plaque, or just last fall, at Illinois Valley High School to watch Collin coach other mothers' sons on the football field in Cave Junction.

I don't know what I would have done without my career or my children. Obviously if I had to choose, I would choose my boys. But that's never been an issue. My sons grew up respecting my work, never competing with it. They each had summer jobs at the newspaper and my youngest has chosen to make newspapers his career.

"Opinion is ultimately determined by the feelings, not by the intellect, " said philosopher Herbert Spencer. My personal experience and my emotions support the opinion that women can have both healthy families and successful careers. Ironically, Spencer also coined the phrase "survival of the fittest." I believe working mothers are here to stay and our accomplishments—both at home and at the office—will stand the test of time.

 


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