I am often asked by other mothers how I am enjoying motherhood, each of us knowing this is a trick question. They have been there through the late nights and early mornings, the sunny afternoons spent playing outdoors with other mommies and babies and the rainy days with the marathon house cleaning sessions between baby demands that make you feel like Supermom. I have already learned that this question is somewhat rhetorical, and often is a proverbial hand on your shoulder, an offer to run for milk or a triple caramel latte, an understanding of lost independence at the mere cost of unconditional love. I have pledged to a sorority of infinite happiness and struggle. Struggle to control tears while watching the evening news, looking on as a toddler skins his knee while learning to walk, or runs to hug his dad who has been at work all day. To control smiles as a little girl chases after her puppies in Washington Square, shares her french fries with the seagulls outside of McDonald's, and takes joy in finding worms in the dirt. And to control the impulse to give other baby-toting mothers a hug and my phone number, just in case we need each other.
I am often asked by those who wish to be mothers what it is like, and I have no words to answer that question. "What was it like not to be a Beatle?". I forget what it was to be just me, to make the decision at 10 pm on a work night to go out for a few beers, to run in to the gas station for a snack without unhooking a car seat, to leave the cart in aisle 10 while I run to aisle 7 for a forgotten can of clam chowder. I vaguely remember eating only cookies and coffee for two meals in a row, and never thinking that I was depriving someone else of valuable nutrients or keeping them up at night. Can someone remind me what life was like when I slept for more than three hours at a time? I haven't done that since November. Is it okay to say that I sometimes hate being a mom, especially the absent-minded redundancy of the days, but always love my little boy? Will that answer cause a potential mom to re-think her decision to try to have a baby? Everyone hates their job from time to time, right?
I forget what it is like to not have a little sidekick who looks to me for everything, and can't imagine life without him.
I never planned to have a child, now I am planning to have another. To give my child the gift of a sibling, and to have someone else to bear the overwhelming feeling of love that nature gives us when we have a child so I don't inadvertently smother Jake with it. That is what being a mother is like.
That said, I almost lost my mind yesterday when I thought that I finally had a break between constant growth spurt induced feedings to grab a bowl of Raisin Bran and put in a movie. A meal good for regularity, bad for a mom alone in a house with a baby. Five minutes into the cereal Jake started squeaking for more food. This after three hours of nursing plus eight ounces of formula. I went to his swing, thinking that I could keep him amused while I shoveled food into my face. Wrong. He started crying, and the cats saw this as their golden opportunity to get what they wanted too. Bailey immediately jumped onto the entertainment center, started chomping on the orchid- which is silk and yet somehow alluring, Tyler began meowing and crawling up my pant leg (of course by pants I mean pajama bottoms. With jack o'lanterns on them, because that is somehow okay now) to get herself closer to my cereal bowl which she knows is brimming with milky goodness, the phone rang, and a parade of ambulances (ambuli?) raced down the street. Jake was startled to tears from the commotion, Bailey knocked the orchid over, Tyler got her claw stuck in my pants and pulled them down all the way to the floor, the phone rang again, and just as the ambulance sirens died down, the firetrucks followed. And how did this end? Bailey took a nap on the off-limits-to-cats mantle, Tyler ate my cereal, Jake fed for an hour and six minutes, I never did check my caller ID, and I got stuck on the couch with no pants on. And that movie? It was on pause because the remote was hidden, found later across the room next to the diaper changing supplies. I got to stare at Audrey Hepburn enjoying a gelati in front of the Trevi Fountain for sixty-six minutes.
I amused myself by telling Jake all about our summer spent in Rome. Because that was the kind of thing we did before we had him.