Until recently, I’ve simply seen myself as an underpaid babysitter who was busy watching the clock, wondering when the parents to these two kids were coming home.
But while running errands the other day, I was forced to recognize the reality of my life. This whole motherhood thing is a permanent gig.
Walking into the bank with the Monkey, I noticed our reflection. There we were, mother and son. We weren’t apart of some reality show gone horribly astray. I wasn’t trying to be the biggest loser. The Supernanny wasn’t feeding me instructions on the best ways to bring up my babies. I wasn’t in the middle of an amazing race or trying to get a weepy bachelor to marry me. This was real life, and somewhere along the way I had gotten the starring role as Mommy.
It was a typical scene, much like that of any sitcom where the frazzled mother is stressed and frantic. The Monkey was holding my hand; I was telling him to hurry up. I had just brushed Goldfish crackers out of the carseat and into the street, wondering if edible crumbs counted as littering as I did my best to kick the evidence under the car.
My son was in desperate need of a haircut and a clean shirt. He was asking me why we needed to go to the bank, what errands were, and why they were running. I tried my best to answer his questions while fishing for the deposit slip that I knew was hiding somewhere in my purse.
Instead, I found a Toys ‘R Us gift receipt, a coupon for fifty cents off three cans of Chef Boyardee Beef A-Roni, and a one-legged Batman figurine who had seen better days.
I couldn’t have been more of a mother in that moment if I had tried.
It might surprise you, but this whole thing—this image of me as Mommy—hit me as a little odd. I guess I’ve never really seen myself as a mother, but instead as some young, fit, rested woman that has her whole life ahead of her. I have wants and needs that I expect to be met. I crave attention and affection from the people who love me and become very impatient when I don’t get what I want, when I want it. Somewhere in the dark corners of my mind, I still see myself as I a child. Maybe it’s because I can still throw one hell of a tantrum.
You see, I go about my days as a mother, mechanically doing my job of tending to others’ needs without giving much thought to what the whole scene looks like. While I’m busy scrubbing the toilet, I don’t stop to look in the mirror—I stop to clean it. I don’t stare dreamily into the mirror, contemplating my life as a mommy. There’s never any time for that. Any minute the dog might pee on the floor or a fight over whose Hot Wheel is whose might spontaneously erupt.
Good mommies are like star quarterbacks. We don’t stop in the middle of the game to ponder how it’s all going; we stay two steps ahead of the game so we don’t get blindsided by the ball.
But that day, in the clean reflection of a bank’s security door, I was forced to look. There I was, a mother in all her unwashed, unshaven, sweatpants-wearing glory. I adverted my eyes, but it was too late. I had seen the horror and like a bad “Friday the 13th” movie, it had made a permanent impression that would haunt me for nights and nights to come.
How had it come to this? When did this whole parenting experiment go so horribly wrong? Having kids had always sounded like a fun idea. But like experiencing a devastating trauma, somewhere I lost huge chunks of time—the chunk of time where I suddenly went from being a girl to being a mother.
I think those huge chunks of time are what some people refer to as “Happy Hour,” which, of course, is how the kids got here in the first place.