I define myself by being a Mommy. I could climb Mt. Everest, trek across sub Saharan Africa and finally learn how to parallel park but nothing I ever do could compare to the joy of being a Mom. Or is that just what we’re supposed to say? There is a dirty little secret about motherhood that no one ever lets you in on until you’re popping your kid’s A.D.D. medicine like it’s candy in the desperate attempt to hang onto the few remaining strands of your sanity: There will be moments that, even though you love your child more than the air you breathe, this little person that you would gladly give your own life for, this gorgeous angel that you feel is literally an extension of yourself…will drive you absolutely freaking crazy. And I have come to the realization that it’s perfectly ok.
Do you remember that old song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”? The song was in reference to men vs. women but sometimes I feel like that song could aptly apply to Mommy vs. Mommy. It seems like we’re always trying to one up each other; as if making our kids out to be smarter, more athletic, talented and overall better than they actually are makes us better mothers than we actually are. If I were to mention to a certain girlfriend that Prinny had just mastered Mandarin Chinese while standing on her head whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy, my friend would say her daughter did the exact same thing six months ago. And did it better. (This is so obviously a gross over exaggeration. We don’t do anything involving Yankees.) I look back on Prinny’s first six months and according to the stories I tell, the child practically had a halo on her head and a golden light shining around her as she levitated from the crib. But if I let myself remember it correctly, I have a vague memory of a girlfriend showing up unannounced at my front door, giving my dark under eye circles from weeks without sleep, puke stained sweat pants and milk stained shirt a disgusted once over before offering the encouraging words of: “You look like hell.”(Needless to say, she didn’t have children.) But I still couldn’t help but put on a happy face and pretend that my little sleep deprived world was just roses when all I really wanted to do was beg this friend to watch my newborn baby so that I could take a much needed shower. I simply couldn’t admit that in the two weeks since Prinny’s birth, I hadn’t mastered the art of motherhood. But what I failed to understand is that no one expected me to. Because no one bothered to tell me.
Recently a girlfriend and I were out shopping with our kiddos when a child the next aisle over had a complete melt down. He was throwing anything he could get his tiny hands on, kicking and screaming on the floor and crying so hard he literally made himself sick. While seemingly everyone in the store turned to stare and judge his poor mother, (and yes, we wheeled our buggies over to observe the commotion) all I wanted to do was rush over and offer her a Xanax. Or two. Because, while thank the Good Lord my child has never had a tantrum to those extremes, we’ve all been there. Stressed to the limit, exhausted and ready to either pull out all of our hair or just sit down and sob. And in those moments we all needed someone to hold our hands and assure us that no, we haven’t completely failed at motherhood. This happens to all of us. And if our mothers could make it through it without prescription drugs, then by goodness, we can do it too.
A few nights ago, I asked my darling five year old to clean her room before bedtime. She gave me a “Are you serious, Mommy?” look before making an audible sigh, dropping her shoulders in defeat and walking back to her room. For a brief moment, I was pleasantly surprised that we had avoided an argument. And then I heard her singing. My precious daughter was singing the words to Twisted Sister’s 80’s battle hymn for teenage angst, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” As her little voice got louder and louder, all this Mommy wanted to take was a drink. After her room was cleaned and my little rocker chick was in bed, I called up a girlfriend to vent about my day. We ended up talking well into the night about the joy, stress and panic attacks that come with being a Mommy. She admitted that at that very moment she was hiding from her kids in her closet and I admitted that I occasionally pee if I laugh too hard. (I would have appreciated a little heads up on that one too.) She then proclaimed that after breast feeding two children in less than two years her boobs now “look like a Kenyan’s.” I swear, I laughed so hard I…well…you get the idea. And that was all I needed. No wine, no screaming into my pillow, no frantic late night call to the pharmacy, just hearing that some other Mommy was going through the same thing.
I happen to have a beautifully independent, amazingly stubborn and incredibly head strong child. When telling my mother about Prinny’s latest attack on my sanity, she told me that she could loan me a book about raising strong willed children. I asked why she had the book in the first place and she gave me the same exact look my five year old had given me the night before. She quickly responded with: “How do you think I survived raising you?” Well there ya go. No one ever said raising children was easy and no one certainly ever promised that I would survive motherhood with my sanity intact. But my goodness, the sagest of well intended motherly advice could have never prepared me for just how much I would love every crazy, dramatic, hectic, absolutely wonderful moment. Just don’t check my medicine cabinet.