Staying on the Funny Side of Motherhood

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I’m sitting there at the Busy Bee Preschool Mother’s Day Program – my rear end shoved into a seat so small I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to start having my pants custom made. So far,so good. Nobody can tell that I haven’t washed my hair since Tuesday, or that I’m still thinking of that last phone call where the client said I sounded like a great speaker, but they decided to go with the clown.

Nobody knows I’m half-asleep from staying up late forging through the drawers for forgotten chocolate after spending three hours trying to find that bra that makes me look like Madonna in the Vogue video. Unfortunately, I had to settle on the bra that makes me look like Madonna’s grandmother after a late night scuffle at the Monster Truck Rally.

I’ve made my rounds – complimented six new haircuts, one zippered pantsuit, a pair of flip flops that really did make her feet look a size smaller, and hoped God didn’t strike me down when I told Norma Jean that her rear end did not look big in those daisy covered Capri pants. I fielded the “looks” from mothers who didn’t believe I really existed because it’s always my husband they see in the carpool lane. I could hear them mentally crossing him off their “available” list – except for Charlene O’Hara who I’m pretty sure left him on her list which is growing faster than that hair on her chin. I’m just saying.

Sitting there watching the children sing to us, using gestures and hand motions that I’m pretty sure didn’t start out to be offensive – no two kids are singing the same note or doing the same motion – I’m pretty sure my kid is singing a different song. And we’re all digging for tissues as we pick out what we’re going to wear when our kid wins American Idol and beats out the other kids who according to Simon are second rate karaoke singers at best.

I hate there listening to the other mothers brag about their children while the whole “I’m a bad mother” script starts playing in my head. I try to tell myself not to listen, but I just can’t help it – kind of like when I’m standing in line at the grocery store and can’t help finding out what Jennifer texted to Brad yesterday when Angelina was out shopping for another baby. Mommy to the right says her son can already read and mommy on the left says her daughter can write her phone number and I’m wondering if it is possible that my child can learn his letters and numbers from the remote control. I’m hopeful. Another mommy whispers that her daughter just loves brussel sprouts and whole grain bread. I told my son to hand me a napkin the other day and he asked me if I wanted fries with that. Natalie’s mother made her dress by hand. I tried to paint my son’s name on his lunch bag and spelled it wrong. Mommy behind me says her kids just got through watching the mini-series on the Civil War. I told them my son has seen every episode of Law and Order and is now afraid of parks and women with low cleavage and badges. I’m starting to feel bad about myself until Sara says her husband left her for the bagger at the Piggly Wiggly and I start to feel better.

It’s funny what some of us women do – comparing ourselves to those around us – hoping she’ll have thicker thighs, or that her roots will be showing, or that their new car is really just a rental – just so that for one moment we’ll feel good about ourselves.

We get a good laugh listening to our kids describe us. Yeah, I say “laugh”, when really I mean that every woman there is deep in the throes of panic at the risk she faces of being exposed to the other mothers. We find out that Sara’s mom tastes dressings at the grocery store and Emily’s mom likes a certain our-letter- word. Barb lets the kids stay up until midnight and Josh’s mom draws her eyebrows on. Frank’s mom carries a flask in her purse and Natalie’s mommy takes little pink happy pills.

And then it’s my turn. Suddenly I’m in the hot seat. My cool and calm exterior – the face I try so hard to keep in place – is about to be peeled off to reveal the true mommy underneath. And there, in front of all his friends, my son announces that I am a 67-year-old with fake teeth, who eats his Halloween candy while he’s sleeping, lets him eat cookies before dinner, spanks him in the front yard, and says she loves him more than anything, just the way he is. And he turns and looks at me with that smile – you know the smile – the smile that says he’s forgotten all your misguided attempts, all the messes and all the lost tempers and all the added pounds and wrinkles – and just sees his mommy, the one who loves him more than anything – just the way he is. You are the greatest because you’re his mom.

Today I say to all the mothers out there. You aren’t perfect. You never will be. So stop feeling less than and comparing yourself to others. You will mess up – over and over – and so will the others. Yet tomorrow you will get up and try it all over again. And just remember – he doesn’t care if you taught him his numbers on time, or if you gave him his daily requirement of vitamins, or if you bought him that toy he’s always wanted. He loves you – just the way you are – because you’re his mom. So put away the mommy how-to book and go hug your kid – and tell him you love him, just the way he is.

Kelly Swanson is working mom, author and keynote speaker for the Charlotte Parent 2010 Moms At Work luncheon.