I have no mother-in-law jokes. I just simply don’t. Why? Well, you see I love my mother-in-law. I’ve only ever had one and only plan to have one. She’s the same one I’ve had now for 27 years. I not only love my mother-in-law but I also deeply admire her. See, love and admiration can be two different concepts but Josie (my mother-in-law) receives both accolades from me.
Although now retired, I believe many of today’s working women can still learn a lot from Josie. As a wife of 55 years, she and my late father-in-law raised three children: Simon, Richard and their little sister, Gaynor, who became my wife. All three of her children have, themselves, made significant contributions to the world of commerce, let alone demonstrated themselves to be sterling spouses and intentional parents.
While the children were young, Josie worked part-time to help with the household income. Her priority was always her parenting but where there was an opportunity to carve out some time to earn a little extra something to help build the family budget, she would and she worked. From hairdressing the neighbors to helping out at the local bridge club, she did what she could, when she could.
As the children grew into adults themselves, Josie went to work part-time for a store that no longer exists — a place where people used to actually take photographic film to be produced and printed. If you remember those, you’re at least as old as me!
The regional management saw her potential and offered her a full-time position, which she accepted. Before long she was promoted to become manager of the store and she supervised three employees; managed inventory and took the lead role on welcoming people into the store.
These tasks were second nature to her as a wife, mother, neighbor and friend. Josie knew how to welcome people into her home — so she did the same in the store. Josie knew that each of her children were different, so she supervised each of her employees differently. Josie knew how to manage a pantry and so she had no problems with inventory. Her wisdom from her primary role as a homemaker served others well in her role as a workplace supervisor.
If you’re a person of faith, I believe Josie would fit the profile of the women mentioned in Proverbs 31.
I’m sure in 2022 there are some, maybe younger, readers thinking this story is quaint and cute but somewhat patriarchal and to some extent that would be true. My father-in-law was the primary bread winner. He was in the traditional sense the “head of the family” but like the old saying goes — make no mistake, Josie was the neck! They were a team and together they were an economic unit, but first and foremost a loving, caring and fun family to be in and with.
So much of who we are and how we are at work comes from who we are and how we are at home. One of my mottos has been: “Happy at home, happy at work.” Sadly, I have found that when some people focus too much on the latter, the former suffers, but interestingly, when we prioritize our marriage, our family and our neighborly relations, our work seems to work better. It’s almost as if effective workplace performance and workplace relations are just the fruit that falls from the tree when we sow the seed and till the soil at home first. It’s like an inside-out approach.
So, that’s why I have no mother-in-law jokes and I hope Josie is just as much of an inspiration and a role model to you as I know she has been to me and my wife, her daughter, Gaynor.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). For questions or comments, email Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.