Singing the praises of the 'other women' in a woman's life

SUSAN REIMER

August 10, 1993|By SUSAN REIMER

Self-esteem is a little tough to come by these days, unless of course you are a child and your parents have heard how important it is to your success in life and you get praised for everything from straight A's to not tripping over cracks in the sidewalk.

If you are a mom, you don't have much self-esteem. I don't know exactly when it happens, but at some point you lose the expectation that really special things will happen for you -- and you focus on making them happen for your children. Their little successes thrill you like your successes never did.

But then, after 20 years in this business, I got my picture in the paper for something other than an untimely death. I became a columnist, and I turned to the bosom of my family for praise and reinforcement. Wrong.

What I got was painful honesty. They were honest and it was painful for me.

To begin, my mother did not respond as I might have wished. Nothing new there. When has your mother ever given you the credit you deserve?

"Mom, great news," I began, and explained how I had resurrected my career.

"Oh, my. I thought you were going to tell me something about Danny's new baby," she said, sounding disappointed that this wasn't news about my new niece.

When I explained that I thought getting a column was a pretty big deal, she said: "Well, dear. You know I always like hearing about your little job."

All four of Jean Reimer's daughters have little jobs. Cynthia is a little market researcher, Ellen is a little office manager, Elizabeth is a little nurse. We all feel like we work in Munchkinland.

OK. Next stop, my husband.

"That's great, honey, but here's some advice," he said, and he is in this business, so I listened.

"Pick a picture and stick with it. Don't change it every three months or they will think you're unstable."

My daughter had trouble with the picture thing, too. But she was kind. Dear Jessie, she is always looking out for my looks. I think she thinks I'm shabby.

"Mom," she said, and she put her hand reassuringly on my arm. "I don't think you will like this new job. I saw the pictures. Everyone's face is gray and their hair is black."

And leave it to my son, Joe, to find my darkest heart.

"Dad," he said when told the news. "How does Mom know she's ever going to have another good idea?"

And so, it was up to my women friends to cheer me, arriving at my home that first Tuesday morning with flowers, gifts, champagne and coffee cake.

They treated me like lifers might treat a fellow prisoner who's been paroled from The Big House.

"I feel like this is happening to me," said Paula, who started a scrapbook for me. Nancy and Linda brought flowers. Diana gave me a journal for whatever thoughts I don't exploit in this space. Betsy, the lawyer, composed a biting and hysterically funny "waiver and release" absolving me of any wrongdoing when and if I expose my friends' private lives in the name of this job. Peg and Nan and a pitcher of margaritas helped write it, and they all signed it.

They autographed a baseball in memory of my sportswriting days. "Paul's mother," read one signature -- the name my children gave one friend years ago.

These are friends born of car-pooling convenience, friends made as a result of choices made by my children. Our kids go to the same school or they are on the same teams or they're friends.

But chance was never so good to so many. These are women who are there for me, and for each other, every day. Something much stronger than the on-again, off-again nature of children's friendships has bound us together.

Some are stay-at-home moms -- the safety net for all of us who work. They are there when school closes early for snow, there when your child gets sick during math, there when your son needs stitches in a playground injury and you are an hour away.

And some are working moms -- women who will watch your children on their precious day off. And who share their tearful view from the center of a chaotic life, helping you to know that somebody may indeed have it worse than you.

They are the women your kids go to without fear or shyness. Women your children treat better than they treat you. Women who know your kids best -- and like them anyway.

These are the women who have been saying for years, "You know, you really ought to write this stuff down."

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