Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mother that I Thought I Would Be

Yesterday Maisy had a lollipop for lunch.  Granted, it was an organic, Vitamin C enhanced, made-with-real-sugar lollipop from Whole Foods, but it was still sugar on a stick.  I was driving back from the East Bay trying to feed Maisy a lunch of apple slices and whole wheat bread about to pick up Elana from preschool.  Maisy was listless in the back seat, her eyes slowly drooping into nap land as she neglected her apple.  I knew that if she slept the 15 min it takes me to cross the Bay Bridge to Noe Valley, she would wake up when we got to school and completely skip her afternoon nap.  (Not napping at home = no down time for mommy.)  So, I did as any sane mother would, I pried her with candy.  Immediately Maisy perked up and happily sucked her bribe.

As I monitored Maisy carefully in the rear view mirror (for drowsiness not for choking) I was reminded of a funeral I attended some ten years ago.  I was teaching in DC, part of the Teach for America "Let's save all the poor kids by giving them high-energy, privileged teachers from good colleges" campaign.  One of my homeroom student's grandmothers died (this grandmother was also the primary caretaker of the student and her younger brother) and I went to the funeral accompanied by Ted and a few fellow teachers.  In the pew in front of ours sat a mother and her toddler daughter, maybe just over a year old.  The mother quietly shushed the baby while trying to listen to the eulogy.  When the shushing and the patting stopped being effective the mother pulled out a lollipop.  The baby happily grabbed the treat and popped it into her mouth.  Occasionally the baby would drop the sucker on the floor and the mother would pick it up and stuff it back into her daughter's eager mouth.  Obviously, I was mortified.  What kind of mother would let her precious, innocent baby rot her teeth with that garbage?  I would never, ever, not in a million years do that!  (By the way, I wonder how I would have judged that mother had she let the baby throw a tantrum during prayer?)

Have you been to a nail salon lately and seen a 2-year-old getting a pedicure? That was never going to be us!  Never mind that nail salons let off toxic fumes and the polish is laced with lead, what kind of mother would tart her daughter up in pink polish and pay ten bucks to do so?  Do you know how many starving children in Africa $10 would feed (I don't either, but I am sure that it is a ten-spot could buy a goat or two)?  Well, that mother would be me.  It's not that I think that my toddler needs the rose-petaled foot bath, or the pumice scrub.  Rather, it provides me an opportunity to have a rose-petaled foot bath and a pumice scrub.  While Elana is pampered by the lovely Vietnamese nail technicians, I can relax in my massage chair and catch up on the latest issue of Us Weekly.

Here are the other ways I have deviated from the ultimate mother I intended to be:

Before I procreated
Children should not watch TV, especially before the tender age of two.  Television only hinders their imaginations and creates obese children.
The electronic babysitter allows me to accomplish so many things that would otherwise be neglected (like personal hygiene).  Rarely does a day go by that both kids do not watch some TV.  Maisy, by the young age of 15 months, learned how to demand Super Why.  She would point to the TV in our bedroom and plead “Why, Why, Why, Why!” 
Epidurals are for wimps.  Mothers have been giving birth for centuries without these drugs, and so can I.
After 12 hours of labor with the first, I happily accepted the drug.  From there on it was known as “The Best High Ever”.  When Maisy came, and she did fast, I staggered into triage screaming “Give me those damn drugs NOW.”
My children would work around my schedule.  Ted and I would not become slaves to their napping needs.
While, in theory, I still hold some hope for this, my children have demonstrated countless times how horror films are envisioned when they’ve missed a nap.
Although spanking has been taboo for a few decades now, I thought one step ahead- I would treat my children with dignity and never scream or lose control.
Does it count as losing control if my face turns bright red, veins start popping out of my forehead, and I pound my head against the steering wheel while shrieking  “Stop yelling and kicking my seat!!!”
My children would learn how to sleep soundly through the night in their own room, and in their own BED, by 6-months of age.
At midnight the baby would wake and I’d feed her and put her back in the crib.  At 2 am, Ted would try to calm the screeching babe for a few minutes before I would shove him aside with a grunt and feed her again.  At 4 am, I would bring the baby to my bed, lift up my t-shirt, and give her full access to the milk machine while I tried desperately to go back to sleep.  Neither of my kids slept well until we sleep-trained.  We actually upgraded to a California King to accommodate the girls’ frequent nighttime visits.

I asked a few fellow mothers- mothers that I find to be amazing and near perfect- how their values have been tested by the task of raising children.  Many lamented about what I call "The Chicken Nugget Conundrum".  Before pushing out kids from their nether-regions, almost ever mother I talked to would have gladly plucked her eyelashes out with poisoned tweezers than give a child McNuggets.  (Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, writes that these chunks of "chicken" contain 38 ingredients, including tertiary butyl hydroquinone, a byproduct of petroleum.)  However, after the reality of parenthood set in, during a busy afternoon with a hundred and one errands to accomplish and a hungry, cranky toddler in the back seat, the drive-through option is not scoffed at lightly.
Here is the rest of their list:

Before Procreation
Disney Characters- princesses, Tinker Bell, Buzz Lightyear, etc. 
Disney controls the minds of children, forcing them to dream in Princess Pink and Lightening McQueen red.
When a $5 toy brings 2.5 hours of happy playtime, it is well worth turning your house into the Magic Kingdom. 
When women let their personal appearance take a back seat to that of their child’s they are allowing their self-worth to be less important, too.
Many mothers find it hard to shower more than three times a week, and yoga pants have become the status symbol of the exhausted mother.
As an avid backpacker, Amanda never imagined planning an all-inclusive package vacation.  She wanted her children to explore different lands, foods, and cultures.
Who needs diversity when you have Kid’s Club and poolside drink service?
When it comes to discipline, counting to three is degrading.  When parents talk to their children reasonably children will respond reasonably.
“That’s 1.  That’s 2.  That’s 2 and a half!  All right mister, I mean it this time!  That’s 3, TIME OUT!!!”
Cloth diapers all the way!  And, no chemical-laced formula for our perfect offspring.
Both are fantastic ideals, but in reality cloth diapers leak at night, are a nuisance on the go, and washing out poop is nobody’s idea of a good time.  Formula may not be the best option, but it isn’t a death sentence either.  

After reviewing my and my friends' lists I've concluded that fulfilling these lofty, pre-breeding,  mothering goals would leave us as exhausted, cranky, tantrum-y mothers.  This makes me ask, what is better for my children- an hour of Sprout a day and the occasional lollipop and Chicken McNugget lunch, or an exhausted, overextended mother with premature graying and vodka in the coffee mug?  A little petroleum has never killed anyone.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with these sentiments. I would add that I never thought I would pretty much forget what music I like to listen to, and pretty much only have kid songs on repeat in the car. Pre-child I loathed the Elmo songs that my kidded friends would play, and now I see that I am not much better with our selections (but no Elmo yet!).