I know the looks.
I’m navigating an aisle in the supermarket, holding a small hand while steering a full-to-the-brim shopping cart with the other – masterfully, I’m so inclined to add. My other child is toddling behind, spinning in circles with his arms out, just barely missing knocking the rows of laundry soap off of their shelves before he finally notices that he’s fallen behind and follows. Repetitive, squeaky requests for a treat while we are in the check out line. Beaming faces asking if we can stop at the park on the way home for “five minutes.”
I know the bewildered faces of people who watch me while I’m at the store, fumbling my way through shelves, trying to swipe my debit card and keep tabs on two speed-lightning kids. It’s a look of pity. “Poor Momma!” looks. I get the well-meaning comments sometimes from strangers. I may banter back and forth with someone and say something about wanting chocolate or a trip to the store by myself, in an attempt at making small conversation.
Because sometimes, when a jar of salsa gets thrown out of the cart, or your child wanders behind the check-out counter and taps the cashier on their back to ask them an “important question”, you can’t help but daydream about solitary shopping trips. Or maybe even solitary confinement.
Most people are genuinely kind. They mean well. But, sometimes I think that they are just telling me what they *think* I want to hear. Which amounts to, ” you probably just want to get away from all of it…don’t you?”
I have said before that a mom wants, above all at times, to feel understood. She wants people to understand her plight, which is as follows: the balancing act of raising small, tenacious children to be good grown-up people…that you also have to take out in public on occasion. We want people to know that it’s a tricky business. And sometimes, like potty training, you have days that go super smooth and work out according to plan. And then there are the other days where accidents happen. Pants are soiled…and maybe the fire alarm button in an elevator is pushed.
To be polite, I sometimes placate to those people with a nod and smile. “Yes, I would like to lock myself in my bathroom with my smart phone. Thank YOU for noticing!” Two things I don’t admit often enough: yes, I actually do sometimes lock myself in my bathroom with my smart phone. And yes, actually, I kind of like this job. Like, I hardcore love it.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally get irritated with what I do every day. That I don’t meltdown. That my eye doesn’t twitch, my jaw doesn’t tighten, my fists clench and I don’t come thisclose to….never mind, actually.
I think that are four words that we moms don’t say enough: I kinda like this job.
That’s five words?
I think that so many young men and women are intimidated by parenting. Because…well, look at it. Walk into your nearby Target, head to the toy aisle and feast your eyes on parenting. Red faced children being pried away from the Lego aisle. Try to eat out at an Applebee’s on a Saturday night and scope out the family sitting several booths away from where you are with children throwing french fries on the floor and climbing underneath of the table. That doesn’t appeal to you?
Me neither, actually. But I’ve been there. And I have survived. Mostly intact.
I recently saw this meme…
And I have to say, it’s probably one of my favorite things. Ever.
Because it speaks of true things. Although, that doesn’t mean that the truth is only entirely full of bad things.
I saw that video that went viral last month. The one where people were being interviewed for a job that actually *spoiler alert* turns out to be entirely fake. The terms and conditions of the job listing that applicants were responding to said that while on the job an employee can never sit down, will hardly ever have time to grab a bite to eat, will get no days off, and must be on call for, like, 43 hours a day. Oh, and it pays NOTHING.
The job? The job of moms! <awwwww>
I forget how many hours it says that moms work in that video, something like eleventy billion hours in a week. And I totally understand the well-intentioned sentiments behind that video. To sell things (yay!) and to also say a great big thanks to moms out there everywhere. Because moms do deserve a thank you. (So do dads, but that’s a topic for another time.)
But if I weren’t a mom, and I watched that video, and I listened to the interviewer ramble off the list of qualifications and terms that one would allegedly have to agree to in order to be a mother…I’d be TERRIFIED. Because when we look at mothering, or parenting for that matter, in quantitative terms instead of qualitative terms, then we miss out on a big part of the conversation. And it’s a conversation worth having. Because if all you ever see are frazzled moms at the park, covered in the Capri Sun that their child just squirted all over them, it isn’t exactly going to leave you enthusiastically wishing for parenthood.
I think that motherhood needs some better PR.
I think that images and idea of what parenting/mothering is these days lingers between two extremes: you either have “mom confessional” type blog posts/websites/television shows out there, talking about how much parents dislike their own children and how they outright lie to them to get them to eat their vegetables or to stay in their bed. The image of a mom trying to escape, both from the baboon she is married to and her ingrate children comes to mind.
Or, you see the moms on the cover of a glossy magazine. Perfect basketball-sized bumps, stiletto heels – because, I know that there is nothing that I need more when I’m cooking an elaborate dinner than my favorite pair of Jimmy Choo’s. Just kidding, my shoes are from the Bass outlet store and sometimes, my dinners come from boxes with many colors on them- and photoshopped glowing cheeks.
Where is the in between stuff? You know, the REAL stuff? The nitty-gritty.
Where are the moms in jeans and t-shirts, on a Thursday morning, making eggs, turning on cartoons and just being? Or the mom who makes it through the store without her children toppling over a shelf of Campbell’s Soup cans? Moms who notch potty training, homework and t-ball victories every day. Inch by inch. It is tough work.
But do we stop to say that it’s good work?
Do we tell those sympathetic people at the grocery store that, “yes, they are a handful. But I love them and I love what I do.”
When someone asks us why we want more children, do we say, “some things are just more important to me right now than having some extra sleep and a ballooning savings account.”
Do we smile and not worry about hiding the crushed crackers in the carpet of our vehicle when we drop the van off to the attendant for an oil change?
Nothing overly pious, nothing prideful. Just simple gratitude and contentment.
I don’t see many doctors being ashamed of what they do. I can’t picture a pediatric nurse constantly rolling their eyes at their work. I can’t fathom seeing someone regret becoming president, or an astronaut, or a supreme court justice, or a movie star. Why should moms ever have to act like they don’t enjoy what they do? Why do we ever think that our profession is not at least as noble as any of those? Do we think that the web builders for Google or the CEO of Apple has better things to do than us?
Why do we have to get pegged with the image that we are trying to claw our way out of what we do?
Everything doesn’t always turns up 100% roses, no. There are things about the stuff that I have to do every day that I don’t particularly enjoy – literally, I do struggle to put pants on people who run away from me. My son scratched his bare rear end on the door frame of my bathroom last night because he had an itch. My daughter throws the shoes out of the shoe basket over her shoulder and across the room, sometimes more than once in a day. My kids argue about whether or not it’s dark outside. My kids will put their mouths on random things if I don’t stop them.
There are some things that….in the moment…maybe I could do without. But I would never, ever think of quitting my job. I’m actually starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m getting pretty good at it. I should make tenure or get a seat on the board in, like, no time.
I say we live like we have no regrets with our children, because maybe, at the end of the day, we really don’t. We have enough to worry about.