The buzz phrase of the month is "the Mommy Track." There have been columns and columns written on who runs the course and why. What are the pitfalls? Who finishes? What are the rewards? Do children slow you down? Is racing around it addictive? Today, I would like to address the question, "Who mows the lawn on the Mommy Track?"
What prompted this question is a letter I received from a man in Cyril, Okla., who manufactures a starter for electric lawn mowers. It's a little red plastic button that replaces the gas cap. The letter that came with it reads in part, "Push-N-Start is particularly appealing to women who were probably the reason for the electric mower. Many women in their 80s are well able to operate outdoor power equipment if they can start the engines."Be still my beating heart! I don't know about you, but mowing the lawn at age 80 has always been MY lifetime dream. That and giving birth!
Why do I have the feeling that this letter was not sent to Art Buchwald, Russell Baker or George Will? (Maybe Ellen Goodman and Heloise.) The point is, unisex lawn mowers never caught on in this country.
I read somewhere that $4.3 billion is spent each year on the upkeep of America's lawns. I daresay $3.9 billion goes for treatment of back problems of the women who operate the lawn mowers.
I was one of those women with the foresight to have a lawn mower clause in my prenuptial agreement. The language was simple: I did not want to see the lawn mower, nor did I want to know where it was stored. I would not be required to read the manual or be checked out on how to operate it during an emergency. If the lawn grew higher than the house, a path would be provided for me to my car. In the event of a separation or divorce, I would relinquish custody of the mower in exchange for the house, car, children and bank accounts.
The power mower may not seem to be very important in the giant scheme of working women. But in a way it is symbolic of an era where time has stood still. In the high-tech world of gardening that boasts polyester blankets for plants, "kneelers" with handles and bicycle grips, computers that make planting, fertilizing and soil decisions, cutting the grass is still regarded as women's work.
I gave the Push-N-Start to my husband for his birthday. He said, "What is it?"
I said, "It's to help your lawn mower start on the first push."
"Boy," he said enthusiastically, "that sounds like a lot of fun. I can hardly wait to try it. It's a shame you can't enjoy yourself more."
The man never gives up.