Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mrs. Tom Foster

Sometimes in listening to my mother make phone calls, I am taken by how much her sense of self is entwined with her role as wife. She, of course, grew up and was a young mother in a much different era than I. Spending time recently with her, I noticed how she identifies herself on the phone as "Mrs. Tom Foster"--NOT as "Mrs. Janice Foster." While at home in Kentucky one day I called the local phone company to dispute some charges on her phone bill. She sat in a chair and called corrections to me as I tried to talk to the customer service rep. When I identified myself as "Janice Foster", she immediately announced in the background--"No--Mrs. Tom Foster."

Thinking this over, I knew that I would never call the phone company or anyone else and identify myself as Mrs. David Patton. I guess I never have.

I can't even say that my mother does this because she never worked outside of the house--she did. She worked from a young age at an insurance company and continued to do so after becoming a mother; my grandmother served as babysitter. After a while, and a bunch of kids, she did stop working to focus on us, I suppose. Then when we were older, she worked in an optometrist office for some years.

I think that my mother calls herself out as the wife of a man for a couple of reasons. First, it is an act of pride. She is proud to be married to my father and always has been. Secondly, it is how things were done in her time. I would bet that when she first married, every wife labeled herself in that manner. Many wives didn't work at that time. Today is different; women in general have a stronger sense of self and identity that isn't part of the husband. Many wives have just as big a role outside the home as the husband does in terms of working and supporting the household.

It is interesting to me to hear her call herself "Mrs. Tom Foster." One of these days I'll ask her about it.

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