I have an alter ego. I’m pretty sure many of you moms do, too. Apparently, motherhood has made me do a 180 on a lot of my perceptions from childhood. For instance:
- What it means to “play house.” As a young girl, I have fond memories of “playing house.” When I grew up, little girls lined up stuffed animals or Barbie dolls, made a family, and played house. Or, if you were lucky enough, maybe your parents bought you a real dollhouse. Your toys and imagination would lead you to create a happy family, and play with the orderly ideal of what it meant to make a house a home. As I reached adolescence, my mother was very keen on reiterating, “marriage is not a fairy tale.” She was smart in preparing me to understand that Barbie and Ken weren’t truly all smiles in real life. But, what she failed to tell me was that if marriage isn’t a fairy tale, having children isn’t child’s play. “Playing house” in real life is often loads of laundry, scrubbing toilets, dishes overflowing, toys everywhere, items that constantly require repair, screaming kids, hungry husbands, you name it! Playing house in real life is dirty and messy, and quite honestly, not really all that glamorous. What a silly, naïve girl I was to think I actually wanted that, right?
- Travelling/vacation time. As a kid, I loved family vacations. Each year my family took a beach trip, and I would spend weeks making my list of things to take. Sunglasses? Check. Favorite books? Check. Cute new swimsuit? Check. These days, the massive amount of effort required to travel with my young kids also requires me to spend weeks of preparation that I have come to loathe. There is always something that gets forgotten, and causes a massive headache in route. Oh, we forgot the Zofran (for my oldest who has major motion sickness)? Ok, so he barfed on the plane’s descent. No biggie, we have the change of clothes for him, right? What, no change of clothes? Why would we need a change of clothes for him? He’s six. But we do have a change of clothes for the two year old. Too bad he wasn’t the one who barfed.” You get the picture. Sunglasses? My accessories are the least of my worries! Favorite books? Who has time to read? Cute new bathing suit? Why do I need it when the last time we went to the beach I ran into the ocean fully clothed after my two year old who dashed into the ocean (with phone in hand, I might add, which sadly got submerged), These days, I need a vacation from our family vacations!
- Sleep. It’s heavenly. Why, oh why, did I battle my parents at bedtime and naptime as a child?
- Checkout aisles anywhere. So much fun when you’re a kid! Now, I just wonder what clueless knucklehead came up with the idea to put all that junk at checkout when frenzied mothers everywhere are digging for their wallets and trying to pay and get out of the store as quickly as possible? Was it really necessary to add one more battle for us there right at the end? Not to mention how much I love it that my oldest son, who was an early reader, could ask me serious questions at checkout like, “What does sexy mean?” thanks to the rack of family-friendly magazines staring him in the face. The dreamy checkout aisle of my childhood is seriously evil.
- Time spent in the car. “Mom, wheeeennnn are we gonna get there?” What kid likes to stay in the car? These days, arriving at my destination could mean I have to wake a sleeping toddler (always best to let sleeping babies lie!), unbuckle contained kiddos (at least they couldn’t kill each other when they were strapped in their carseats!) or, if I happen to be lucky enough to be in the car by myself with a little “me time” for my own music and thoughts, it means I have to get back to the tornado facing me when I arrive at my destination. Yes, I believe I’d like to stay in the car. All. Day. Long.
- The perception of playing dress up. Trying on mom’s high heels, makeup, and jewelry is such a treat for young girls. Yet, nobody tells you how unrealistic it is to wear high heels after you have children (how are you supposed to save them from impending death by “fill in the blank” if you can’t get there quick enough?) Fine jewelry is impractical – my younger son has actually broken beyond repair a gold necklace a family member gave me. And makeup – are you kidding me? It only accentuates the droopy eyelids and “smile lines” that have crept up in the years since I became a mom.
- Food. If it tastes good, it will probably lead you to a slow death, possibly involving such things cavities, cancer, IBS, and heartburn. Do you know how hard it is schedule doctor appointments to take care of the poisoning you did to your body as a child when you actually have kids of your own? Doctor’s schedules do not revolve around your childcare schedule, or children’s after school activities. Thus, veggies are good!
- Bathroom time. “I don’t want to go potty!!!” somehow morphed into “Yes, a few minutes of alone time behind a locked door!”
- The perception of daydreaming. As a child, I often drifted off into daydream land. It was enchanting to get lost in the thoughts of “what if?” What if I married a prince? What if he had a unicorn and a personal wizard who could grant me magic powers? These days, my “what ifs” can lead me into near panic attacks. What if my two year old falls down the stairs? What if my six year old gets bullied at school? What if my boys end up marrying little she-devils who want to run me out of their lives so I can’t visit the grandchildren? Yes, it’s a slippery slope. Better to stay on task instead of getting lost in my own thoughts.
- What I want to be when I grow up. From an early age, we “train” children to reach for the stars. Astronaut. Doctor. Teacher. Lawyer. Firefighter, etc. Have you ever heard a little girl say “I want to be a….mommy!” I haven’t. Why is that? Why isn’t the role of a mom worthy enough to stand on its own? It’s because we, as a society, are trained to want more, to expect more. Well, let me just tell you, for me – being a mom IS more. Much more. More of everything. More tiring, more demanding, more fun, more exhilarating, more frustrating, more fulfilling, more chaotic, more messy, more empowering, more life-changing. What kind of crazy person would actually want to take on this job when she grows up? What kind of person would actually relish the opportunity to be a part of such chaos?
This mom right here.
I’ll admit my childhood perception of what it meant to be a mom was waaaay off, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like both versions, and both perceptions of motherhood make up who I was, and who I have become. Apparently moms do have split personalities, after all!
This mother’s day, give the moms you know a big hug and let them know it’s ok to be a little crazy sometimes. Because, after all, it’s part of our job description. You’d have to be at least a little crazy to sign up for something that causes you give up so much – motherhood is an unending call to selfless love and sacrifice. But, hey – someone’s gotta do it! And I am ever so thankful I did.