"What's the toughest part about being a mom?" my childless friend asked me the other day. I thought about it for a moment. Is it the lost pet toad I found while putting on my sneakers this morning? The huge pile of laundry I have to de-louse sometime this week? Maybe it's having to answer "yes" when my homely daughter Kelsie asks me if she'll ever find a boyfriend.
In truth, all of these things challenge my sanity. Using a spatula to
force a slimy, struggling toad down into the whirling garbage disposal when I'm already late for work isn't what my therapist had in mind when he told me to take it easy and put me on
Haldol. But none of the things I just mentioned are my toughest assignment as a mother. What is the hardest part about being a mom? It's getting out of the house once in awhile and taking a moment for myself. Being a mother I have learned the following: The day that the babysitter calls in sick is invariably the same day that your oldest daughter just broke up with her boyfriend, your youngest daughter has questions about her cycle and is looking for someone to talk to, you have 20 errands on your Palm Pilot, four primetime shows to tape on three different networks with one VCR, and twelve incompetent colleagues are expecting you to put together a Powerpoint presentation on current marketing strategy. And amidst all this fuss and chaos, you somehow have to squeeze in five extra minutes to figure out how to make a healthy dinner for two growing girls out of mint skittles, the dog's heartworm medication and cherry cola. It can be done, believe me. But it ain't easy.
Nothing creates greater angst for parents than finding nurturing childcare for the times when they cannot or do not want to be with their children. My husband has recently gotten a new assistant at the office and has been working late nights and weekends on a special project with her that he won't reveal specific details about. So basically that leaves me to be both mom and dad to the girls from the time they get home from school until the time my husband staggers in at 10:30, exhausted, disheveled, reeking of cigarettes and Liz Claiborne. I'm going to kill him, of course, but first I have to find a free slot to schedule it in my Palm Pilot, and figure out some way to plausibly pin it on the crazy gypsy lady who has conversations with the garbage can at the end of our driveway. So when I want to take a night off, finding a suitable baby sitter for the girls is always up to yours truly.
The last time I got out of the house for a "girls night out" with my friends Janice and Doreen was more than a month ago. That afternoon I left work early to interview five possible babysitters who had responded to my ad on the church bulletin board. One of these young ladies could barely finish a sentence, had to continually steady herself against the wall, appeared paranoid and distracted during our conversation and was bleeding out of both of her
nostrils. I ended up choosing her because she was the best of the bunch. And even then the better part of my night out consisted of my cell phone ringing with "Mom, Kelsie took my hairbrush," "Mom, Jennifer said I'm ugly," "Mom, the babysitter's going through your dresser drawers." Ugh.
To current mothers, I probably don't have anything to tell you that you haven't already learned for yourselves. But to expecting or wanting-to-be-expecting mothers, I want to let you know in no uncertain terms that raising children will be one of the biggest challenges you will ever encounter. Until you're a parent, you can't imagine what it's going to be like, because according to the books children are a joy and an inspiration and the single greatest treasure in a mother's life. However, once they get into their teen years you will lose that fairytale illusion and realize the only reason the kids are still around is because they are too big to fit down the garbage disposal. "Parent Soup" may tell you that the greatest treasure in a mother's life is her children, but Chastity Lillicreme will tell you that the greatest treasure in life is a prescription of Haldol with unlimited refills.
So what have I learned over the years that I can share with all my readers out there? Many things. First off, even though I toil by day and toil by night, I try not to let a lack of sleep wear on my nerves; I am comforted by knowing that there will be plenty of time for that when I'm dead. Secondly, I can't take back things I said to my children in the heat of anger. When my girls were little and would make me mad, I used to tell them they were adopted or that I was dying. Jennifer is resilient but Kelsie still wets herself from time to time. Thirdly, having kids added a new dimension to my marriage that I didn't expect. When I first got married my husband and I were passionate lovers, but over the years we have evolved beyond that into platonic acquaintances, less like a husband and wife and more like a
brother and sister who share a bed but never touch. And lastly and most importantly, I know that I have the strength and discipline within me to be fully aware of what bills need to be paid today, how soon the sunscreen needs to be re-applied, when dinner has to go in the oven,
all the while folding laundry, feeding the dog, listening to the cat getting sick on the rug, and
managing to down a down 20-oz flask of Smirnoff without coming up for air.
Am I superwoman? No. I'm just a mom.
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