I swore I'd never wear leggings. But then I got pregnant and fat and couldn't wear my long underwear and since it was deemed that all pregnant women are always hot, there isn't any maternity long underwear in the land of cold-flesh-stripping-wind, so I succumbed to the next best thing. At least I'm not wearing them under sweaters and pretending they are the same thing as pants, because, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, they are SO NOT. Yes, chick on the bike with the floral panties, you may want to reconsider your fashion choices.
Anyway, in this post I want to take you back a few years, to a time when I was dedicated to the idea that I would never have children. I'm not a fan of kids. I can think of a few that I like, some quite a lot, but generally, they piss me off. And babies? Seriously, socks and duct tape were invented because of babies. I can think of 100 reasons to not have children. Many of which are very noble, like “there are too many people in the world, I should not add another mouth to it!” Others less noble but no less valid like “I really am grossed out by poop.” Standing in line behind a woman and her brood of snotty entitled brats, I'm the one usually thinking, "enforced sterilization, brilliant idea! We can put it in kool-aid!"
I still have those thoughts, by the way. Don't think the "joys" of impending motherhood have made me baby-crazy. I see a screaming child throwing himself on the floor of the supermarket while his mother begs him to stop and offers him chocolate and I'm thinking, "if I run you both down in the parking lot, Darwin will thank me. I'll get a motherf*cking medal!"
Years ago I didn’t even think I had what it took to be a mother. The culturally reinforced idea being that the “Perfect Mother” is patient and caring and loving and calm and, above all, happy to sacrifice every ounce of their soul to the care and nurture of their child. You hear these ideals all the time from mothers, don't you? The "I gave it all up for my child and it was the best thing that ever happened to us" "Once I knew I was going to be a mother, nothing else mattered" "You stop being selfish the moment you become a mother." Quick, quick, tell me more about how you gave up saving gorillas and a place at Harvard Law school for your child! I can totally match that. I gave up… heroin. Yeah. Actually, I was *going* to be a heroin junkie, but I gave up that dream for the sake of my child. The sacrifices I make, you wouldn’t even believe it! You also hear the scorn in their voices when they talk about women who put their children into daycare and rush off back to work (and who worse yet, are glad to talk to adults again), who, oh the horrors, dyed their hair while pregnant (it totally gives your kid autism, dontcha know), the women who hire nannies and then ship the spawn off the boarding schools. Okay, I'm totally with you on that one. Hiring an au pair so you can keep up with your book club-museum openings-Sex in the City-lifestyle? Why the hell did you bother to breed, you cow! And since I knew that I would not want to stop being an archaeologist and going to far off places, I just figured that children and I would just not mix.
But I've come to think about motherhood differently, obviously, before I got pregnant (so this is not the hormones talking, I thought this stuff out long and hard). I changed my mind and figured, hell yeah, I can totally do this, I have amazing genes and gifts that should be passed on to posterity! If other women can keep up with their careers and have grown up jobs, why is this denied to archaeologists? Why can’t I have it all? Why can’t I just try? Why, since I certainly don’t fit into anyone’s idea of a cultural norm, expect to fit into the über-narrow category of “Perfect Mother?” Why should I even try - the “Perfect Mother” usually turns up on Nanny 911 or Supernanny begging for help because she’s too patient and caring and has become nothing but a breeding doormat with a brood of future sociopaths!
This change in thinking is because I've been reading a lot of blogs over these last few years - written by women who may not necessarily fit the culturally accepted idea of the “Perfect Mother,” but who rock at parenthood all the same. Women like The Bloggess, as well as Dooce, the Pioneer Woman, and Aunt Becky (from Mommy wants Vodka), gave me the confidence I needed when I began to realize that I wanted to make little Archaeospawns with the Danish Boy. You don't need to have all the things that THEY tell you make a “Perfect Mother.” What you really need are balls.
Metaphorically speaking. Although the other kind do help with the conception bit of Mommyhood.
(And I do know of a number of individuals who have balls, who make excellent Mommies, although we call them Daddies, but I'm talking about the cultural ideal of "motherhood" to which I think many women feel the need to live up to. Fatherhood comes with it’s own set of problems.)
Dooce taught me that you can have severe post-partum depression, ending in a full on break-down, get hospitalized, and still be a great mom (no one's died - I say, SUCCESS!). Pioneer Woman taught me that you can end up living a life you never expected and you are quite possibly not qualified for but still successfully raise kids in circumstances you never imagined and that it's okay to not do laundry and miss sushi. Aunt Becky taught me that you can be full of compassion, patience and respect for people, and sometimes you can want to beat them with baseball bats, get uproariously drunk and dance on tables, and this is okay too. The Bloggess taught me that you can be off the wall, slightly nuts, and absolutely glorious and still be a mom.
Then there's all the real-life moms I know...
Actually, they intimidate me because they are totally grace under fire. Ladies, could you please bitch a bit more about your kids? The times you want to bop them on the head or run away and join the circus because at least then you'd get some peace and quiet? I mean, I get why you don't, because some nutjob (or ex-thing) will call child-protective services on you and trolls will leave nasty messages telling you how you have simply RUINED your child's life because don't you know EVERY CHILD IS A GIFT FROM GOD?
Despite having too many fantastic real-life roll-models that totally undermine my confidence levels, I realized that I have many excellent Mom qualities that are going to help me be an awesome mom. Ever seen the contents of my purse?
Half of that stuff is first aid stuff. The Tic-Tacs? Actually holds painkillers. The silver pill packet? Antihistamines. Ray Bans? 'Cause a girl has to look cool, you know. (Hey I had a lot more money last year. I worked in the desert, I needed sunglasses. I lived in a tent, I deserved Ray Bans.) I have eye drops and hand creams, lip balm, cuticle cream, iodine wipes and band-aids. Hair clips and bobby pins (I may need to pick a lock) and throat lozenges. I have a bus pass for Århus. I have scratch paper and pens because I need to write stuff down (ISBN numbers for books I want, addresses, things I need to buy or remember) and my husband is a journalist who never remembers to carry a pen and notepad of his own. I am PREPARED.
I may get distracted and put the peanut butter in the fridge and the butter in the pantry, but I know where almost all of my husband's belongings are at any given time. I have cat like reflexes - my husband came THIS CLOSE to grabbing the door of the wood stove, which was HOT, with his bare hand, and I reached out, grabbed his hand and yelled "NO!" I can also whip up a risotto out of whatever is in my kitchen. I'm a lot more patient than I thought I was (dig with a stark raving lunatic who can't find his ass with both hands and a map, if you manage not to kill him - or even lose your temper with him when he totally screws up, *and* successfully excavate a square despite his best efforts, you are WAY more patient than Job, who was actually really kinda whinny). And did I mention I have balls? I can say "no" and risk you hating me forever and ever and I know you totally mean it this time! I catch my kid eating dirt? Ah, well, it's full of minerals, how about next time we eat some carrots, m'kay? Skin your knee? Uh, oh, do you think we'll have to amputate? No? You think you're going to make it? Well aren't you brave! Let me just bind that up for you and you can be on your way then.
So thank you to all the moms out there who gave me insight into the workings of the mommy mind, those who blazed a trail for me to follow, those who tripped, fell, broke a limb and lived to tell me “dude, there is a serious pot-hole up ahead, watch your ass!” I say:
THANK YOU! I AM GOING TO TOTALLY ROCK THE SHIT OUT OF MOMMYHOOD!