I’m a Motherlover
INTERNET! Before we go any further, you must watch this if you haven’t already.
It would be my honor to be your new stepfather…
I think that is possibly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and I plan to watch it every year on Mother’s Day. Yes, Mother’s Day: that holiday on which I now also receive gifts instead of just giving them, because I am someone’s mother.
I know. I KNOW! I can’t believe it either.
Logically, I understand that I am a 32-year-old woman who has a child, and that this is not earth-shattering or abnormal by any means, but when someone refers to me as a mother, it just BLOWS MY MIND. I think my self-image is stuck on the 8th grade setting, because no matter how old I get or how much I do, I am still a little shocked when I look in the mirror and DON’T see my face framed by a bad perm and giant glasses.
Totally rad Hypercolor shirt optional.
Therefore, last Wednesday was a total mindfuck for me, as I was invited to (and attended!) a casual lunchtime gathering for all the mothers of small kids in my office. Our company has had a virtual EXPLOSION of babies over the past year – you can barely walk two feet without seeing someone’s cubicle or office door plastered with baby pictures (we are all a little guilty of abusing the color printer, is what I am saying) – so one of the newer mothers proposed that we all get together once a month to have lunch and…I don’t know, talk shop about vaginal tears? About how best to get poop out of denim? I was not really sure what to expect.
About the only thing I DID expect was a slideshow that the aforementioned Organizer Mom was putting together of all our kids’ pictures. She asked for photo submissions waaaay back in June, and you’d best believe I was all over that shit. I think I gave her, oh, TEN OR MORE photos of Sadie to choose from, because I simply couldn’t decide on one myself. And of course she commented on how cute Sadie was, and of course I will now love her forever for extending a simple nicety, because complimenting my baby gets you into my good graces faster than three Jagerbombs gets you into my pants.
Oh, I kid. I’m not wearing pants.
Because I was oh-so-anxious to take a break from staring at pictures of Sadie at my desk by staring at pictures of Sadie in a conference room, I was first person (NERD) to show up at the lunch. I made small talk with the other women until the Organizer arrived, and as I was helping her get the computer and projection screen set up, she said, “Did you send me a picture of Sadie?”
OH HAAAAYYYYLLL NO.
“Uh, yeah – like, a long time ago.”
“Oh, darnit, I thought so. It must be in my email somewhere.”
Internet, I do not think I have to tell you how close I was to crying – YES, CRYING – about Sadie’s picture not being in this totally inconsequential little slide presentation. But what I will tell you is that I ran down to my desk and quickly retrieved some pictures so that they could be included in that goddamn PowerPoint file, because SO HELP ME, those women were going to OOH and AAH over pictures of my baby for ten seconds on a Wednesday afternoon if it killed me.
And they did. AND IT WAS GOOD.
The slideshow itself was kind of surreal, because I’m just not used to hearing that much “OMG AWWWWW!” in the workplace, let alone out of these women, who are all super-smart, Ph.D. research-y types. Not that I think getting all mushy about cute babies somehow diminishes your intelligence…
Because if it did, THIS WOULD BE ME.
…it was just strange to see these women – all of whom I know in a strictly professional sense – talking about child-proofing and spit-up and preschool. And it’s not like I had nothing to add to the conversation (hey, I can talk sleep schedules with the best of them), I just felt like such a total fucking FRAUD for some reason. Like I couldn’t really believe I belonged in this room full of mature, capable mothers whose babies probably never spent two weeks leaking poo out the tops of their diapers before they realized HEY, maybe it’s time to MOVE UP A SIZE (ahem). Sure, I have a baby, but I’m just some clueless 8th-grader, right?
My mom totes had to babysit for me while I went to the Science Fair.
I wasn’t sure why I felt so inadequate. There were 2 or 3 other new mothers in attendance who were around my age, so it wasn’t necessarily an experience thing. But then I noticed that all the other people in the room were researchers, not assistants. And as the conversations continued, I realized that most of these women are friends outside of work, and meet up often to work out, go shopping, or just to let their babies have play dates together. It started to feel exactly like a high school cafeteria in there. Not that anyone was trying to be exclusive, but I suddenly felt the need to make sure I was wearing my TOTALLY NOT JEALOUS OR FEELING LEFT OUT face whenever the other women talked about meeting up for a glass of wine the night before.
I think it’s missing out on the wine that stings the most.
For the rest of the afternoon, I was feeling pretty self-piteous about the whole thing: WAH, I don’t have a smarty-pants career! WAH, I don’t have any good friends at work! WAH, I’m having some weird fucking identity crisis over what it means to be a mother! But by the evening, after a wonderful night out at a restaurant celebrating some friends’ recent marriage (with my awesome, social butterfly of a baby in tow), I was feeling pretty stupid about the whole thing. WHO GIVES A SHIT, right? Who gives a shit if they have a career – it’s not the one I wanted anyway. Who gives a shit if they’re friends with each other – most of them don’t have the huge network of friends outside of work that I have. Who cares if they all seem to be supermoms who never panic at Target because OMG the baby is fussing in line and everyone is staring AAAAGGGGGHH – I’m having the time of my fucking life learning how to be Sadie’s mother, and FUCK everyone else’s way of doing things. Right? RIGHT?!?
Well, I wouldn’t really be writing this entry if that’s really all there was to it, now would I? Shit.
A big part of the reason I resisted the idea of having kids for so long was that I was terrified it would change me, or – worse – that I would be forced to change. I didn’t really have any close friends who were parents, so to me, parents were those uptight, socks-with-loafers people who only had sex on anniversaries. Whenever I did come across someone my age who had a baby, they usually did nothing but cement my theory. I once sat next to a couple at a wedding reception who had a little boy at home, and MY GOD, Internet – it was like someone had drained their blood and replaced it with MISERY. I had met this couple a few years before, so I knew a little bit about what they used to be like, so it was kind of a shock whenever every blessed topic of conversation became an exercise in We Had A Baby And It Killed All The Smiles.
But my all-time favorite talking-to-parents situation (and one I’m actually sad I don’t get to experience anymore, because it is CLASSIC, my friends) is the ol’ Misery Loves Company Switcheroo. I can’t tell you how many times I participated in a conversation like this:
Parent: So, do you guys have kids?
Parents: OMG it’s just so hard – if you ever decide to, be sure there’s nothing – and I mean nothing – left in this entire world that you want to accomplish, because the instant those babies are born your life totally ends and it’s sleep deprivation and feedings and money, OH GOD, the money, kids are so expensive you just have no idea, our last vacation was ten years ago and we pretty much never leave the house, I think the last movie I saw in the theater was Jurassic Park, like the FIRST one, not even a sequel, but it doesn’t matter anyway because I have no time for movies and I haven’t seen my husband’s penis in seven months. Sooooooo?
Parent: When are you going to get pregnant?! SQUEEEE!
So, yeah. The parents I met were really, really terrible at pitching this whole baby thing.
But then – as it has done for me so many times in the past – the Internet came to my rescue. I started reading blogs about people who had kids AND left the house every now and then. People I could actually relate to. People who – bless their hearts – knew the value of a profane expression. And then some of my awesome friends had babies, and I realized that they were still the same cool people they were before they spent 25% of their monthly income on diapers. It didn’t take long for me to see myself as wanting to do this whole baby thing once I realized there were others like me.
Unfortunately, though, I don’t live very close to my IRL baby-havin’ friends, so I still tend to feel like a bit of an outsider when it comes to being a mother. But I can’t tell how much of my “outsider” status is something I assign to myself out of self-consciousness (or some kind of lame rebellion) and how much of it is genuine. Honestly, this post on Girls Gone Child says it best.
I know I’m still really new at this whole parenting gig, so maybe it’s just a matter of time before I see my reflection in a window as I’m carrying Sadie and DON’T automatically think I look like a clueless teenager. Maybe after another few months (or years) the label of “mother” will feel more natural and less identity-consuming. Maybe I won’t want to pass out when I look at Sadie and realize I’m the person she’ll call “Mom.”
And maybe I’ll stop pretending that the first time I hear my daughter label me as such won’t be one of the best damn days of my life.
In other news, we are now T-minus seven days from Sadie’s first day at daycare.
Tell me about it.
Entry filed under: And you KNOW THIS!.