“My Story… ” Monday: Mrs. Johnson

(I love telling stories. It might be my favorite “style” of writing. It is, without a doubt, the stuff that most of my readers best respond to. This year, I want to tell you some stories about my past– about people who’ve made me who I am today. Some will be happy, some will be sad. Some you will find encouraging, some you will find maddening. But they all have one thing in common. They are all: People Who’ve Made Me Who I Am Today.)


I was fourteen years old when I met Mrs. Johnson. She was the petite blonde woman who taught my Honors English class. Even as a freshman, I already had several inches on her.


That first year of high school was the first time they had separated us by ability in such an obvious way. Always before that, we had had groups with letter or color names that were vague. Now, let’s be honest here– we all knew which group had the advanced kids and which group contained those who struggled more. But, as far as “labels” went, we were all pretty equal.


It wasn’t a huge surprise that I was in Honors English. All my classes were honors classes and, later, AP classes. I was a nerdy little “smart girl” and I was the third straight-honors kid in my family. No shockers going on here.


Mrs. Johnson rather liked me. I was a strong student with an affinity for writing. My vocabulary was vast and I adored journaling out the day’s topic. She loved my passion for learning.


One day, she walked down the hall beside me and asked, “So, Jessica, what would you like to be when you grow up?”


I mentioned some fields I found fascinating and said, “I think I’d like to explore that for a few years, until I have children.”


She paused, mid-stride, and faced me, “What do you mean ‘until you have children’? You mean you’d give it up when children entered the picture?” I nodded. She tossed her blonde bob and scoffed, “Well, you don’t want a career, then. You want a JOB.”


As she walked away, she glanced back once over her shoulder and added, “You’re too smart to be just a mom.”


Too smart to be just a mom.


The words stung, because they were obviously criticism. I was young, of course, and criticism hurt. It still hurts, to be honest.


But, even through the hurt, I felt indignation rise. What does she mean “too smart” to be a mom? Doesn’t the world need smart moms? Won’t my kids be fortunate to have a mom who’s “smart”?


Mrs. Johnson might be appalled to see me now, at home with three young children, no career in sight.


But I can say with sureness that, when I was asked to learn to operate oxygen tanks, apnea monitors, and feeding tubes– I was glad to be a “smart mom.” When I needed to learn CPR backward and forward– and demonstrate mastery of it in front of a huge medical group– I was glad to be a “smart mom.” When I had to advocate for, not one, but two special needs children– I was glad to be a “smart mom.”


And, as I now mother a seven-year-old who does math through Johns Hopkins University, I will confirm that–


Yes, Mrs. Johnson… the world benefits from smart moms. And this “job” I’m doing? Adds value.


I’m grateful that your words have made me truly realize it.

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19 comments to “My Story… ” Monday: Mrs. Johnson

  • mlearley

    I was just talking with a fellow mom at my church yesterday who stays at home with her kids and has choosen to home school. She has a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, so some people may think that she too is wasting her education. However, her son is in kindergarten is already ahead of the standardized testing b/c she began teaching him at an early age. I believe that if you have the right personality and are educated that your children can benefit greatly from a stay at home mom! Good job momma!!

    I do not have the personality to stay at home with my kids or the early childhood education background that would benefit them (I’m a finance person), so I choose what I felt was best for my family, working full time and placing them in a daycare that supports our religious beliefs, disipline beliefs and has a good education program. My husband and I have been discussing this all weekend, that moms need to stop judging others for what they choose for their family and just be supportive. Everyone and every family is different.

  • I only have high school and can still say that I’m a smart mom. Not everyone is called to be a mother right away and I so admire people who are able to go to college and really contribute to society with their talents, I however, know without a doubt that I was called to be a mom and a wife. and a young one at that. I will NEVER regret that. i’m so thankful that a teacher never dared to tell me otherwise ;).

    • I always love reading your story and about your experiences, Miranda. I love how different it is from my own! I’ve said before– in MY neck of the woods, I was a rather young bride at 25 and I’m one of the youngest mommies at the school. So, it’s always juts fascinating to hear others’ stories. :)

  • Susie

    My mom graduated from medical school at 21. She was brilliant AND they were rushing them through during war-time (1948). She worked as a school doctor for about 6 months, and then had my sister, and then stayed home with what turned out to be 7 of us. I was so happy to have a smart mom. It was only when I had my own children (and she was gone) that I realized ALL moms should be doctors :-D

  • Laraba

    Does that interaction make you mad at all (in retrospect)? It makes ME mad. It is SO snooty :-). JUST a mom? That is plain annoying!

    I had every intention of being a single career woman, and got my PhD in engineering after almost 10 years of college. Then, the Lord brought me and my husband together…we were married 4 months after I finished the PhD, and we had our first child when I was 30. I am now mom to 8, and I homeschool. If I had known I would be a wife and mostly full time mother (I do work one day a week) I might have done my life differently, but having an extensive academic background definitely makes homeschooling easier. I have areas of weakness, but I can teach most things and I believe I can figure out those areas where I don’t have much of a background.

    I think also that your gifted child is greatly blessed to have you around. Gifted children need someone who can understand the way their minds work and many people don’t. My kiddos aren’t brilliant like your son (I don’t think) but they still come up with some humdinger questions — philosophically, scientifically, and mathematically. I can make a stab at answering most of their questions and know how to look up the data if I don’t know the answer.

    I don’t believe being “smart” makes a person better, but certainly if the Lord has blessed you with academic gifts, He WILL use those gifts in your wondeful role as mother.

    • I also don’t believe being talented academically makes a person superior in any way– it probably made some things EASIER for me, but it didn’t make me a better person.

      You know… I find the statement offensive, but mostly ignorant and sad. That teacher had a toddler son at the time and I often wonder what was going through her own mind. I’m sure she was judged for going back to work and having someone else take care of him. Women are perpetually judging one another unnecessarily. I try to give her grace for that reason, but I do think it was a hurtful, thoughtless thing to say.

  • This reminds me of a conversation I had with my high school librarian. She wanted to know what I was going to do, and I told her I wanted to be a teacher. She basically told me I was wasting my smarts. “You could do ANYTHING! You want to be a teacher?!” What would she say if she knew that I now stay home with my kids, homeschool one, and play Duplos and playdoh with the other? Why wouldn’t we want teachers, and moms, to be smart?!

  • hmmm…I can’t imagine she really meant only idiots should be full time moms, but that could certainly explain a few societal problems. When I was in college I never dreamed I’d stay home with children…the horror! But then I had a baby and realized why on earth would I go through all the effort to have this baby and then give him over to someone else??

  • Oh my word. Love your “onion” stories. Peeling back more layers of your life and experiences. :)

  • [...] Mrs. Johnson, Mone January 21st, 2013 | Category: My Story… [...]

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