Or, why I’m unfit to be a mother.
1. You cannot under any circumstances be OCD about mess.
I was recently in an argument with my husband, Tim. Like, a really bad one. The kind where you’re crying and threatening to leave and questioning whatever brought you together in the first place. And at one point, while he was in the middle of a long diatribe about something no doubt important and heartfelt, something caught my eye.
It was a bit of dust on the nightstand.
And, no matter how hard I tried, I could not focus on anything other than that dust. Tim’s voice actually morphed into the “Wahwahwahwah,” that you sometimes hear in cartoons. It got so bad that, mid-sob, I actually took the tissue I had been blowing my nose into and wiped the nightstand down.
Thankfully Tim didn’t notice. But I felt really weird about myself after.
So imagine what kind of coping skills I have had to develop given my house is a freaking minefield of toys and snacks and dogs and diapers and bowls of oatmeal and juice cups and milk cups and milk bottles and dirty gym clothes and clean gym clothes and laundry baskets AND THE ENDLESS PAIRS OF SHOES EVERYWHERE… and… and…
Do yourself a favor. Either don’t have kids or check yourself into therapy now.
2. You cannot fear bodily fluids.
The ratio between times you think your kid pooped in their diaper and times they actually did is about 8:1. However, the ratio between times you decide to check for poop with your finger instead of the sniff or peek tests and times they actually did poop is a solid 1:1.
Some days, I have been peed on, puked on, snotted on and gotten a thumb-ful of poop before 8 AM, and I haven’t even had a drink yet — or been around others who have been drinking.
Nothing gets your day rolling quite like catching hot barf in your bare palms so that it doesn’t get all over the couch (see above re: OCD).
Here’s the thing, though. I have severe emetophobia. Meaning I am TERRIFIED of vomit and vomiting. Like, more terrified of it than I am of DYING. While I’m a real trooper when it comes to poop and pee and mushed up food lovingly shoved into my mouth by a baby just learning to self-feed, I simply cannot with the barf.
When one of our kids is puking, Tim is amazing at stepping in because he knows how difficult it is for me to be around it. I generally stand there, gaping, paralyzed with horror or run to the other room mumbling something about some childhood incident.
However, Tim has a habit of picking up the puking son and then pacing around the room instead of holding him over a sink or toilet. He’s also 6 feet tall and we have stone floors. When that shit hits the floor from those heights it covers some serious distance. While I appreciate him coming through in my moment of weakness, I then spend the next several days in a state of total paranoia, bleaching household surfaces in tourettes-like outbursts and closely monitoring my own wellness.
It doesn’t help that Luke has officially been nicknamed “Luke the Puke.” Tim warned me he might get this, but I never believed him. I have since changed my attitude.
If none of the above concerns you, by all means, pull the goalie and go for that baby.
3. You MUST NOT fear sass.
This is what we were met with when trying to potty train our oldest, James.
James regularly tells me to get out of his playroom and “Go be in the kitchen.” Tim has been trying to train him to also say, “And make me a sandwich,” but it thankfully hasn’t stuck.
In addition to constantly giving me “TWO THUMBS DOWN,” James also felt the need to explain to my mother the other day that I am “not nice” but it’s ok because I’m “so beautiful.”
Between the sandwiches and the bitchy-but-hot comments, I’m going to have to enroll him in sensitivity training early.
3. You must be ok with your body, and talking about bodies in general.
I’m always amazed at other parents who use the correct, medical terms for the more private areas of the body. Call me immature at 37, but I can’t imagine saying “penis” to my own husband with a straight face. I’ve birthed two kids and I still stumble over how to refer to my lady parts to my gynecologist. How can I ask our sons to be so clinical?
The other day, I was showering while James was puttering around in the bathroom. At one point, he looked at me and said, “Mama, where’s your wien?”
“Wien,” obviously short for “wiener,” is the word we use to refer to male genitalia.
“Mommies don’t have wiens, James. Only daddies do,” I tried to explain.
James took a long, totally disconcerting look at me.
“Well,” he said. “I think your wien is just broken.”
Bottom line: Get a way better plan than we have about explaining things like this. Practice on your friends. Try not to laugh.
4. You must never, under any circumstance, do anything sweet that you don’t plan on paying for later.
Our nanny, who is basically god’s gift to nannies, always arranges one of James’ blankets into a heart, Carnival cruise-style. It’s laid out that way for him when he goes down for a nap, and again when he goes to bed at night.
Since he is a bit of a psycho who needs things JUST SO at all times, this can present a bit of a problem for us.
The other night, I woke up to him screaming, “MY HEART!!! MAMA!!!!! MY HEEEEEAAAART!!!!!!”
Obviously, my immediate reaction was, OH MY GOD MY THREE YEAR OLD IS HAVING A HEART ATTACK.
I raced into his room and there he was, pointing at his slightly disheveled blanket, in abject horror.
“IT’S ALL BROKEN!!!!!!”
Unfortunately, our nanny never taught me this heart-blanket technique, so there I am, pants-less, contact-lens-less, and out of a dead sleep, straight up trying to origami a knitted blanket into something that even marginally looks like a heart.
I vowed to have a talk with the nanny the next morning, to reprimand her for doing something so totally adorable and loving for our son.
5. You must not fear the television.
See reason # 1 that I drank the other week.
6. The amount of patience you must have at all times is STAGGERING.
That would be our son Luke, slowly and systematically removing the butter-drenched peas and carrots I so lovingly prepared for him from the bowl, and placing them on the counter. Not pictured: his greasy hands all over EVERYTHING after.
Don’t even start me on the 45 minutes it takes James to eat 6 cheerios.
7. You must have large quantities of emergency wine on-hand at all times.
Or some other poison. Or whatever it is that keeps you sane. It makes all of this so much easier. And when it doesn’t make it easier, it makes it way, WAY funnier.
8. Most importantly, you cannot fear feeling all the things, all the time.
The range of emotion you will experience each day from the moment your child is born until, presumably, the moment you die would make the most over-the-top soap opera star seem unaffected.
“But I already cry at everything,” I said. “How much worse can it get?” I asked.
Oh No. Nononono. It gets much, MUCH worse. And you will never be free from that emotional burden, ever again.
For example, have any of you ever seen this scene from the movie Dumbo? I now have to leave the room when it comes on while James is
torturing me with watching it because the last time I unsuspectingly sat through it, I straight up openly, ugly cry sobbed and honestly couldn’t get it together for, like, a few hours.
It’s a beautiful burden to bear, though. My mother used to say to me, “Your child’s joys are greater than your own, as is their pain.” I never truly understood this until I became a mom myself. But there are moments where I feel so incredibly overwhelmed and, frankly, terrified, of the knowledge that I will never enjoy a carefree existence — in the truest sense of the word, free of care — again.
But, one of my favorite sayings in the whole world, my life’s mantra, if you will, is “No grit, no pearl.”
Never has this been truer for me than as a mom.
So round up all those rules and, whether you can hang or not, you’ll know that there are millions and millions of us out there doing and fearing the same damn things, but doing it all anyway.