I grew up in the Santa Clara valley of California, Sunnyvale specifically. We had a creek behind our house and a cherry orchard at the end of our street. I spent many days catching pollywogs in the creek, building forts and gathering huge bouquets of wild mustard growing beneath the cherry trees. After the harvast, we climbed high into the branches to eat the remaining cherries. A line of walnut trees circled our orchard and long branches over-hung the fence at the end of the block. In the fall, we kids, armed with our dad’s hammers, industriously shelled nuts on the curb to bring home to our mothers. During those formative years, the computer industry exploded and our beautiful little fruit-growing valley became the Silicon Valley. I learned to drive in Intel’s parking lot.
After college, I landed a much-coveted job at Apple Computer, Inc. I had my own desk, a salary and stock options. About a year later, I had my first child. When I looked into the intense little eyes of my first-born daughter, I couldn’t look away. I tried to be a working mother, but I did a lousy job. My focus had changed and no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t care about computers anymore. So, I left my chic, upwardly-mobile, Silicon valley job to stay home with my little girl. I am proud of my career choice – raising my little brood is the best thing I’ve ever done.
Sometimes I wonder what I could have achieved, if I had stayed in the working world. One day, while the kids were sitting around the kitchen table and I was spreading peanut butter and jelly on bread, I told them that I had once worked for Apple Computer. We had one of their computers on the desk and their eyes got big. They had never considered that I might have done anything other than be their ever-present, oatmeal cooking, sandwich-slinging Mom.
“Did you make a lot of money?” one of them asked. “Sort of” I answered. One of the older ones, my little philosopher, put two and two together and said,”If you had stayed there, we could’ve been rich!” A raucous chorus ensued of “yeahs” and “woo hoo’s” and “we could get new bikes, dogs, our own rooms, etc…” I waited till the noise died down and said, “True, we could’ve have had a lot of money, but you, you, you and maybe you wouldn’t be here to enjoy it. With all that working, I wouldn’t have had time to have so many kids.” Silence. I could see their little brains working this over. They went back to their sandwiches.
“I’d still be here” said the oldest with a smug expression, starting a fresh uproar. I smiled and turned to empty the dishwasher.