A book extra for Mrs. Perfect
A Chat with Marta, Taylor, and Girls
I’ve brought together today two sets of mothers and daughters in Bellevue, Washington to discuss current issues in Points Elementary School.
Bellevue, a city of one hundred thousand, lies six miles across the 520 bridge from downtown Seattle and is the home to the original Microsoft billionaires, the founders of Amazon, and the father of wireless technology. It’s a place where wealth is still referred to as new and old money and you’re never quite sure who has what due to a rather bizarre mix of Hummers, bling bling and Land’s End flannel.
Our panel includes single parent and graphic artist Marta Zinsser and her nine year old daughter, Eva who have recently returned to the Pacific Northwest from Manhattan; Taylor Young, wife of Nathan Taylor, and a full-time Bellevue mother very active in the school and community, as well as Taylor’s nine year old daughter, Jemma, who is undeniably the most popular 4th grade girl at Points Elementary.
Jane Porter: “Marta, let’s start with you. How has the move been?”
Marta: “Bellevue, Washington summed up in two words? PTA Moms. Women in Bellevue have way too much time on their hands. Not that they think they do. But pilates, play dates, and school auction committee meetings dominate their days leading to near nervous breakdowns and comparisons of who ought to be Mother of the Year. I know I’ll never be Mother of the Year. Just ask my nine year old daughter, Eva, who has recently informed me that I’m not a real mom, not like the other moms, and all she wants is for me to be everybody else. But here’s the crazy part: I worked hard to become who I am. I fought the peer pressure, ignored the criticism, and I followed the beat of my own drummer. And this is one of the reasons I had the confidence and courage to became a single mom—I thought I knew what mattered in life.
JP: “Eva, are you unhappy with your mom?”
Eva: “I love my mom, but we’re not in New York anymore. This is Bellevue and moms here are don’t wear boots and army jackets and ride motorcycles. They’re well… like Mrs. Young and they volunteer at school and help out a lot.
JP: “So Eva, you wish your mother was more like Mrs. Taylor?”
Eva: “Yes. Sorry, Mom.”
JP: “Taylor, you’ve lived here for approximately fourteen years now. How would you describe Bellevue?”
Taylor: “As a great perfect place to raise a family. We have some of the best schools, libraries and parks anywhere. With ski slopes just forty-five minutes away, and professional sports teams and all the arts in downtown Seattle, we have everything anyone could want. But it is expensive, and stressful. My life is all about my three girls, and I feel the pressure. There are days I can barely drag myself to my pilates—but I do, because the kids need me. Being a full-time mother is a full-time job and it’s by far the hardest job I’ve ever had to do.
Frankly, it’d be so much easier to have an outside job. To just get up and go to work and feel appreciated. But I’m a mom, and this isn’t about my ego, it’s about putting the kids first. And that’s why I volunteer at school, serve on the PTA board, assist in the classroom, and co-chair this year’s school auction. The kids need the best education possible. It’s a competitive world and unless we make our kids competitive, they won’t have all the opportunities they deserve.
JP: “Jemma, you must be proud of your mom.”
Jemma: “Yeah, she works really hard. She has meetings almost every night. Sometimes we don’t see her because she’s always rushing to another meeting.
JP: “Jemma, you and Eva must be good friends. You’re both in the same class at school.”
Jemma: “Um, not really. We have different friends.”
JP: “Do you ever talk?”
Jemma: “We don’t have anything to talk about.”
JP: “I see. And Eva, who are your friends?”
Eva: “Mmm, well, I don’t have anyone I really do stuff with right now but I hope pretty soon Jemma and I will be friends. I like her a lot. But everybody does.”
Marta: “That’s one of the reasons I’m getting involved at school. I work a lot and haven’t really spent enough time getting to know the kids in Eva’s class. I’m hoping by becoming a room mom that I’ll be able to help Eva meet more kids, and arrange more play dates.”
JP: “Taylor, you look like you’re dying to say something.”
Taylor: “I think it’s great that Mrs. Zinsser wants to help in the classroom, but she’s never even sent cupcakes in before. Why does she think she’s qualified to be Head Room Mom?”
Marta: “I didn’t ask to be head, but I’m happy to do what I can—“
Taylor: “You do know about the class auction projects, don’t you? The school’s live auction is the biggest fundraiser of the year and the class projects are a big money maker. (turns to JP) With the quarter million we raise every year at our annual live auction we’re able to bring in math experts, buy the newest in technology, purchase new books for the library. The PTA is invaluable. We make a huge difference for the school.”
JP: “Do all schools in Bellevue have an auction?”
Taylor: “All the good ones do—“
Marta: “Maybe we should be raising money for kids in East Bellevue, for those that come from immigrant families or impoverished families instead of our kids that already have so much.”
Taylor: “If our kids want to go to college, and we want them to go to college, then they need a competitive education.”
Marta: “And the kids across town don’t want to go to college?”
Taylor: “They can have their own auction.”
Marta: “Do you know how ignorant that is?”
Taylor: “If you don’t like The Points—“
Marta: “I never said I disliked The Points. My problem is with people who can’t see what’s beyond their nose.”
Taylor: “And what’s beyond my nose?”
Marta: “Nothing, apparently.”
Eva: “Mom!” (She reaches across the table, grabs Marta’s hand.)
Marta looks at her daughter then back at Taylor.
Marta: “We need to go.”
Taylor: “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”