My family logs close to 2,000 miles every summer on the road. Move over spin class, because the family road trip is the ultimate test of strength and endurance. Do I wish we had a private jet? Yes. Until then, here’s what keeps us sane along all those miles:
1. Caffeinate. Unless you are a masochist, have mug in hand and GPS the rest stops with coffee that is actually drinkable.
2. Celebrate the ride. Kids think the car ride is part of the vacation. Go with it.
Here are step-by-step instructions for how to build a high speed jet to fly you to your next destination. NOT. Okay, that was cruel. Seriously, here are a few tricks my road tripping family has used to survive all those miles. (p.s No scrap booking supplies required!)
Stop for a pop without the mess. Catch it like a boss in a cupcake cup. Keep a pack of them in the glove compartment because who has time to remember?
Sauce Jar Stash
Avoid having to unpack suitcases if you unexpectedly need a toothbrush, contact lens case or backup underwear on the side of the road, or in the middle of the night.
Play “Are We There Yet?”
The All-New Chrysler Pacifica actually has an interactive app preloaded in the available 10-inch dual seatback mounted touchscreens. Kids can use the map feature to track your family’s trip progress. As one of many built-in games and apps on the available Uconnect Theater, this is a crowd pleaser for the whole family and your best defense against the question: “How much longer?”
Make Annoying Phone Calls
Enough procrastinating on the complaint to dispute your last cell phone bill. On the road, you are immune to long hold times. Pair your phone using Bluetooth and roll with a hands-free call out loud, so the whole family can cheer when you negotiate a free month of service.
Be Ready for the Sick
Do not be taken by surprise by a backseat puker. Roll with a large sealable bag for any trip over 10 miles. A club-sized pack of baby wipes and sanitizer go without saying.
Turn out the Lights on the Kids
Anything to get them to fall asleep faster. While you’re at it, get an eye mask for yourself to because you also deserve to nap in darkness.
Set them Free
Once you are on the road for a long haul, wearing a bra is optional. Really. Learn the side strap shimmy that does not involved taking off your shirt and you are golden until Grandma’s house.
Prepare for the Roadside Pee
Remember that thing we used to do before texting? It’s so cool. Try it with the other humans in your vehicle. You may even LOL.
You have kids. Congrats. You will never again know what it is like to casually stroll, browse, and try things on in a store like a civilized person. Your only option is to up your game, bear down, and get it done. Here are the top 25 ways to own shopping with the beloved, adorable little person who owns you:
25. Park close to the store. Shout-out to stores with family parking right up front.
24. Forget that case of water. Seriously, you are not carrying 24 water bottles and holding someone’s hand.
23. Don’t let them push the cart unless you enjoy your ankles being rammed.
22. Put them in a cart, regardless of age. See No. 23 for emphasis.
21. Resist the temptation to browse until you have all essential items covered.
20. Forget trying things on. Those days are over.
19. Pushing a stroller and a shopping cart is for suckers. Clip a basket to your stroller handlebar and shop like the wind.
18. Shop during nap time (in case that wasn’t obvious).
17. Pack a load of snacks that are not sticky or staining, but take time to eat, like dry cereal.
16. Know exactly which stores give out stickers or lollipops and have semi-clean bathrooms.
15. Know that bribery is totally fine.
14. Smile at everyone judging you when your kid has a meltdown at the register.
13. If it can’t withstand a swipe from a peanut-buttered hand, don’t buy it.
12. If they can read, give them your shopping list and a pencil so they can be part of the mission.
11. Allow them to touch or carry around anything they want from the store shelves, with the understanding that you are not actually going to buy it.
10. Warm up your sweetest sounding versions of: “We have that at home.” and “Not today.”
9. Caffeinate. Obviously.
8. Accept there is no such thing as “running in” to a store anymore.
7. Share the load. Let them carry the bag with the toilet paper.
6. When exiting the vehicle, pat them down for any toys, crowns, or other trinkets capable of triggering a major freak-out when lost in the store.
5. Always hold the hands of people shorter than the clothing racks unless you enjoy a panicked corn maze vibe.
4. When you can’t decide on a new outfit, ask your kid to tell you what they think.
3. Smile at all other mothers with screaming kids.
2. Know your minivan is boss because it can store all the bags without you breaking a sweat.
1. Buy everything you didn’t have time for… online.
There is no such thing as a smooth ride when you have a child in your car, no matter how old they are. Roadside emergencies with kids are the real deal. After many a roadside meltdown, I’ve tried everything from meditating to envisioning myself calmly dealing with each of these situations like a champ (as if!).
Some of these might hit close to home, and others might help you get your game face on for a future situation.
I Need to Pee Now
Just when you were enjoying the five minutes of silence from the juice boxes you doled out, it happens. Someone has to pee—like now. Of course, usually at that time, there is no restroom in sight. Have I been known to take along a few empty bottles for my boys to use in an emergency? Yes, but when you have a daughter, the circumstances may require a good old-fashioned squat next to a tree. If there is no tree, opening the passenger door provides a tad of privacy.
Running Out of Gas
You have remembered to pack everything for every family member, get the oil changed, drop the dogs off at the kennel, and usher everyone out the door at a very early hour. You are motoring along thinking this is going to be good, real good…then the radio goes, the car slows down to a crawl, and you just manage to pull the car off the road. Apparently you forgot to gas up. Oops. After spending a few moments explaining that Mommy and Daddy forget things too, you suggest some extra time on their devices while one of you calls AAA or starts doing the walk of shame with a gas can in tow.
I remember my parents slapping the air behind them trying to get my sisters and me to behave during long car trips. I could not understand why a little game of, say, screaming zombie monsters could be distracting. Now I understand. My kids know when my husband or I pull over to stop the flesh-eating apocalypse, we mean business.
They Are Getting Hangry
You tried to force-feed them breakfast earlier, but they weren’t hungry. You saw this coming. Five minutes in, they are begging for food. Good thing you remembered to pack lots of road snacks—only problem is you left them in the trunk and the next exit is 30 miles away.
Somebody Is Gonna Throw
And by throw, I mean throw up. They either ate said road snacks too fast, caught a stomach bug (because of course), or have discovered they get motion sickness (please no). You are really hoping they just ate too fast, but in the meantime you get to the side of the road quickly, because nobody should have to vomit all over themselves while being strapped down in a car seat. Also, please pass the wipes.
The Favorite Toy Is MIA
Three hours into your car ride as you are headed back home, one of the kiddos notices they have lost their favorite stuffed animal, book, or blanket. You brace yourself, then the howling starts. So, you calmly explain you can call the hotel, or wherever you were visiting, and simply have them send it along as soon as possible. This probably won’t be good enough, so you head to the nearest mall to to find a replacement and soothe your child with an ice cream to boot.
There is only one way to make it through roadside emergencies with kids. Be prepared. Be very prepared. Growing a few more (longer) arms would come in handy, and if I see you pulled over and running for the nearest tree, I won’t judge, I promise.
Brought to you by the All-New Chrysler Pacifica. The vehicle with mega-storage and an available built-in UConnect® theater to make every road trip one you actually want to be on.
Once our kids entered the “full fare airline tickets” demographic (what a scam by the way), we started driving everywhere. During some of our more epic road trips like, say, that time we thought 12 hours was doable in one shot (face palm), I’ve witnessed many things go down in the backseat. Most notable is the morphing of my kids into multiple road warrior personalities. Shout out if you can relate (or if you work for an airline and can hook me up with discount fares)!
9. He’s Gonna Hoot Henry
Oops. Ice cream counts as dairy. It really sucks when you overlook the ingredient that makes poor Hank upchuck in a moving vehicle (another reason to fly: Barf bags provided).
8. Motormouth Melanie
Mel just won’t shut that chubby, adorable, nattering little mouth and close her damn eyes. It’s a million years past bedtime, and she’s not even drowsy. Melanie must have a future in the CIA, or daytime TV.
7. Head Flopper Hannah
You’ve literally invented a new yoga pose extending yourself into the backseat to adjust her poor flopping, lifeless, sleeping head to avoid the future panic over “sore neck.” As soon as you return to your proper position—BAM!—flop city.
6. Can’t Wait to Be There Claire
Claire just wants to know when it will all be over. Everything about the car is boring. Her toys are boring, she wants none of the snacks you offer, and don’t even try amusing her with the radio. Just get there already.
5. Say Goodnight Gus
Gus is asleep the second you pull out of the driveway and doesn’t even wake up when you stop for gas. Gus sleeps with his mouth wide open like a drunken frat boy, but you love him for it.
4. Movie Buff Bailey
Once the blue glow of the screen hits Bailey, she is in the zone. She watches every scene with intense concentration even though she has already seen the film 30 times.
3. Drops A Lot Dahlia
Dahlia keeps dropping stuff. Markers with no caps, partially eaten food, the works. All dropping from her little paws, annihilating every inch of the backseat.
2. Tiny Bladder Brianna
You must decide between rationing thimbles of water for her to drink sparingly, or stopping at every other rest station.
1. Fly or Cry Camille
Camille just screams bloody murder for hours on end. She has been fed, changed, sung to, and entertained, but man, she’s just pissed to be in a car seat. Get the child on a plane stat.
Brought to you by the All-New Chrysler Pacifica. The vehicle that can handle all of your kids’ road trip personalities (and even has an available built-in vacuum powered by Rigid® to clean up after Dahlia).
When you announce you’re thinking about having a baby or have been trying to have a baby or are knocked up with a baby, friends and family and even strangers in the supermarket come out of the woodwork to oooh you and ahhh you and remind you for the zillionth time that you should use this brand of formula and should only offer ibuprofen to baby on Tuesdays when there’s a full moon and should probably just hibernate until baby comes ripping out of your vagina and robs you of precious eyeball closing opportunities with its sleep sucking superpowers.
But for all everyone has to say about motherhood, there sure are a lot of things they’re not saying.
Why is that? Probably because talking about things like losing sleep is like talking about the weather — it doesn’t really mean anything and is an easy way to make conversation and isn’t too real. I mean, the sleep loss is real, of course, but it isn’t real real; it isn’t something that cuts deep into the soul and leaves its mark for eternity.
The problem with this, however, is that motherhood is real. It’s more than just real. It’s soul-crushingly, mountain-movingly, universe-implodingly real. And for everything they’re telling you about motherhood, this is what they’re not:
You will never again be the same person you were before motherhood. Say goodbye to her. Her greatest successes and worst case scenarios pale in comparison to yours as a mother.
Every natural disaster and act of terror will become a what-if-that-were-my-child obsession.
You will suddenly find yourself reading every available consumer review for your single cup coffee maker in the event someone has discovered it doubles as a baby murderer.
There will always be a nagging feeling in the back of your brain — big for some; not so big for others — about letting your child play with the neighborhood kids alone for fear a predator lurks behind the merry-go-round.
If your child is born with or develops a disability or health concerns, you will spend countless hours in vain begging God to let you take his or her place.
You will encounter many instances in which you must fight with all your being against the very strong and very compelling urge to swoop in and save your child from everything.
You will think upon every fear and disappointment and emotional scar you harbor and hope to God your child never has to endure them. At the same time, you will know this is impossible, and your heart will hurt for him or her peremptorily.
You will look at bullies in public — both children and adults — and pray your child never falls victim to them or becomes one him or herself.
You will wake up in the middle of the night with a pain in your heart and tears in your eyes for your child. Other nights, your heart will swell with pride and your eyes will shine with glee at the mere thought of him or her. And there will be no identifiable reason why other than the love you share.
In a moment of weakness and delirium, you will find yourself wondering, in the midst of a four hour scream fest in which no amount of breastfeeding or diaper changing or bathing or rocking will calm your child, what made you think taking on the enormous task that is parenting was a good idea. And you will instantly hate yourself for ever even thinking something so reprehensible because you wouldn’t trade your precious bundle — every screaming square inch — for anything in the world.
There will be times when you are so tired and so dirty and so frustrated and so out of patience that you will need to simply walk away. Just walk away. And you will know when you have composed yourself enough to return.
You will feel immense guilt for anything from not breastfeeding long enough (or at all) to choosing to be a working mother. No matter what decisions you make, the guilt will try to snake its way in, for guilt does not discriminate. Eventually (hopefully), you will muster the confidence and strength to kick that guilt to the curb.
You will lock yourself in the bathroom on occasion just so you can breathe for one goddamned second.
You will spend hours staring at your child sleeping or playing because the simple act of drinking him or her in brings you indescribable joy.
You will encounter situations which cause your protective instincts to kick in without your permission. And what you are capable of doing to save your child is so primal, it will scare the living hell out of you.
You will discover you share a bond with other mothers — even those whom you’ve never met — that is so strong, you will weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice, for it is they alone who “get it.”
You will learn that the advice to “enjoy these years, for they don’t last forever” is doled out by people who are old enough to have forgotten that not everything about these years is enjoyable.
You will dote upon scribbles and crudely crafted finger paintings, telling your child how beautiful they are and meaning every word of it.
You will bask in the delight that is tickling tiny toes and participating in afternoon giggle fests, certain there is no sweeter way to pass time in the whole wide world.
You will believe there is nothing more divine than holding your child close and inhaling his or her honeyed scent.
You will truly understand what it means to put yourself second.
You will, for the first time, know what it’s like to love someone so much, it simultaneously hurts and overjoys, both physically and emotionally.
You will come to realize everything that matters in the world sleeps just down the hall.
You will be certain there is no greater calling on earth than that of mother.
On my cell phone, I have a photo I took a few weeks ago. It’s a photo of a toothbrush.
… smeared with poop.
… with a secondhand corn kernel caught right in the center of the bristles.
All because my three-year-old decided he needed something better than toilet paper to wipe with. Adventures with kids, you know?
The funny thing is, this photo – and the incident behind it – elicit no response from me other than perhaps an eye roll. Why? Because I deal with this kind of stuff all the time. I’m like a battle-hardened warrior, y’all. But when I show it to my childless friends? The reaction is something along the lines of OMGWTFBBQ! and a bunch of gagging and horrified eyes and hands clamped firmly over mouths.
This is just one of the things that separates moms from other women. And for your reading pleasure, here are a few more …
1. You can do anything – answer an email, take a dump, paint your nails, cook dinner, anything – with someone crawling all over you. It might take you a little longer, but you can still get it done … perfectly.
2. You stumble upon a moment to yourself and have a minor freak-out because for a minute you think you’ve forgotten your kid.
3. Your purse contains more of other people’s stuff than your own.
4. During a silence, your first thought is not, “Oh, they’re playing so quietly!” but “Okay, what kind of horrible mess are they making?” But you enjoy the silence so much that you’re almost willing to suffer the consequences.
5. You find poop in places that non-parents would be appalled at, like bathtubs. And pillows. And walls. And toothbrushes.
6. You get to go out for a girls’ night but are back home by ten o’clock – either stone-cold sober or barely buzzed – because your kids will still wake up at the normal time and demand breakfast as usual and being tired and hung over before 7 a.m. is not where it’s at.
7. You can’t remember where you parked at the grocery store, but your brain is a stunningly accurate database of your children’s current (and ever-changing) food preferences.
8. You see that the baby is chewing on his brother’s clean underwear and you just let him do it because hey, he’s happy and quiet and it’s not like he’s going to choke.
9. You would never splurge on frivolous things for your own bath, like an inflatable pillow and expensive bubbles and bath salts, but your kids have every bath toy and faucet cover and bubble bath and soapy finger paint and colored foam and color-change tablet under the sun.
10. You consider it a successful shower when you have time to shave up to your knees.
11. Your meals have morphed from grown-up (“Voila! Veal medallions and butternut squash gratinee!”) to kid-friendly (“We’re having chicken fingers and mac & cheese. Again. Want some mustard?”).
12. You threaten so much you have to rack your brain for newer and more threatening threats.
13. You can distinguish a “something’s wrong” cry from a “I can’t fit these two Lego blocks together” cry from three rooms away.
14. You can successfully decipher whether your kid’s whines mean he’s tired, hungry, bored, sick, thirsty, the tag in the back of his shirt feels funny, his nose is itchy, the couch is lumpy, his brother looked at him with “those scary eyes,” the dog doesn’t want to play, his junk is facing the wrong way in his underwear …
15. You like to think that fashion is still the number one criteria for your shoe purchases, but really you know deep down inside that the deciding factor is comfort and ease of slipping them on and off for school drop-off and pickup.
16. You answer questions like, “Do you have a vagina?” and “Why are your boobies so floppy?” without batting an eye.
17. For your own sanity, you encourage your kids to like the children’s TV shows you find most tolerable, and limit access to the ones you can’t stand.
18. You feel disheartened whenever they get old enough to start wanting to watch the crap their friends watch, and are not so easily swayed by what you think is cool.
19. You can answer almost any question satisfactorily while only half paying attention – but you know better than to answer “Right, Mom?” or “Okay, Mommy?” without first verifying what you’re “right-ing” or “okaying.”
20. You know which pregnancy gave you each stretch mark. “Oh, these lines? These lines right here on my hips? Those are from you. But those on the backs of my knees … those are from your brother.”
21. You have no problem peeing or showering with the door open and a kid or two chatting you up during the process – but you must have total privacy when you wax your upper lip, lest it come up in a conversation at school.
Y’all. I thought getting married changed my life. Then I had a baby and everything really changed. I think we all have some sort of vague idea of this because we have sisters, best friends, and neighbors who have kids, because we have younger siblings, because we babysat as teenagers…but the idea (even when we’re pregnant) of Motherhood exists in a sort of hazy, dream-like state. Because the reality of caring for your own child is so beyond comprehension that there’s no way to prepare.
Here are the things I was most unprepared for:
1. You will be exhausted. Forever. Because you’re waking up multiple times per night. And getting up for work. And cleaning the house. And NEVER, EVER resting. And even when you’re sleeping, you’re actually half-awake waiting for a cry, making sure they’re still breathing, listening to your husband snore, fuming about the teenagers down the street who are still playing soccer loudly outside after 10 p.m. ON A SCHOOL NIGHT. Speaking of which…
2. Noise makes you angrier than anything. And you hear every. single. noise. Because the baby just went to sleep and maybe you were going to sit down and catch up on Scandal, but now you can’t because your neighbor just rang the doorbell. And then the UPS guy came to the wrong house. And the dogs barked at a shadow. And…what? Yep. There’s the baby.
3. You won’t actually sleep when the baby sleeps. I really don’t know what people are talking about when they say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps and don’t worry about the dirty kitchen or the fact that you have nothing to wear except your prom dress or clothes stained with vomit and bright yellow poop.” When Zoey sleeps, I either stuff my face with food for the first time all day or rush around the house cleaning up. I can’t put that stuff off because a dirty house makes my anxiety skyrocket. And then I Hulk out.
4. You’ll cry. When she cries. When she smiles. When you’re reading “I’ll Love You Forever.” When she gets hurt. When she won’t stop crying. When you haven’t slept in 42 hours. When your husband asks you what’s for dinner. When you get up in the middle of the night to stare at her sweet, sleeping face and she sighs in contentment and your heart swells because you never knew you could love like this.
5. You can’t have nice things. This one would hurt if I didn’t love my daughter in that weirdly all-encompassing way that one does as a parent. Because I really, really, really love pretty clothes. And I really, really, really hate messing them up. But you will get poop and vomit and drool all over yourself — sometimes all at once — and it doesn’t come out when you’ve let it sit all day (and night), but you don’t always have time to change and do laundry. And what’s the point when, as soon as you do, the cycle starts all over again.
6. Everyone will judge you. All of the time. For everything. No matter what you do, someone will always be there to tell you it’s wrong. Or how they did it. Or how, if they had kids, they would do it. There’s something about babies that makes people feel as though they have ownership. Breastfeeding? Great but you should do it for at least twelve years. Co-sleeping? No way! You will absolutely suffocate your child! Solid foods? Start them at such-and-such an age and no sooner/later. You wrote a blog about that mom life? That’s so messed up. And you will smile and nod politely until, finally, after a sleepless night and a fussy baby, you snap and punch them in the throat.
7. You will love your husband. But in a different way than you did before. Women always talk about how the love they have for their husband grows when they watch him love the baby. I didn’t get it right away. This one took some time, but now, when he gets up in the middle of the night so I don’t have to, or when I get home and she’s wearing a “Future Zombie Hunter” onesie and pink socks with bows, or when he reaches for her and says “mine,” I go totally white girl and literally can’t even.
8. You will miss things. And sometimes you’ll be bummed about it. Sure, you won’t always mind because you have your mini-me at home and, honestly, you’d normally rather spend time with him or her. But sometimes you want to go see Guardians of the Galaxy or go skiing or have a girl’s night. But you can’t. Because you don’t have a sitter or there’s not enough time or you’re too tired to move. And you’ll have to remind yourself that one day you’ll be able to do things for you again, but for now, you have to enjoy your little monster as much as possible.
9. Occasionally, you will be jealous of your friends without kids. Because they get to do what they want, when they want. They get to sleep in and all night. They get to eat an entire meal sitting down. They get to have nice things and go nice places. They get to run to the store without carrying a diaper bag, unloading a stroller, and trying not to wake a sleeping baby.
But no matter what you feel or how tired or hungry or frustrated you are, the second she tucks her head into your neck, and holds onto your shirt, and falls asleep…
Words can’t do it justice.
And that mom life? It’s the best kind of life I’ve had.
I’ve seen you around. I’ve seen you screaming at your kids in public, I’ve seen you ignoring them at the playground, I’ve seen you unshowered and wearing last night’s pajama pants at preschool drop-off. I’ve seen you begging your children, bribing them, threatening them. I’ve seen you shouting back and forth with your husband, with your mom, with the police officer at the crosswalk.
I’ve seen you running around with your kids, getting dirty and occasionally swearing audibly when you bang a knee. I’ve seen you sharing a milkshake with a manic four year old. I’ve seen you wiping your kids’ boogers with your bare palm, and then smearing them on the back of your jeans. I’ve seen you carry your toddler flopped over the crook of your arm while chasing a runaway ball.
I’ve also seen you gritting your teeth while your kid screamed at you for making him practice piano, or soccer, or basket weaving, or whatever it was. I’ve seen you close your eyes and breathe slowly after finding a gallon of milk dumped into your trunk. I’ve seen you crying into the sink while you desperately scrub crayon off your best designer purse. I’ve seen you pacing in front of the house.
I’ve seen you at the hospital waiting room. I’ve seen you at the pharmacy counter. I’ve seen you looking tired, and frightened.
I’ve seen a lot of you, actually. I see you every single day.
I don’t know if you planned to be a parent or not. If you always knew from your earliest years that you wanted to bring children into the world, to tend to them, or if motherhood was thrust upon you unexpectedly. I don’t know if it meets your expectations, or if you spent your first days as a mom terrified that you would never feel what you imagined “motherly love” would feel like for your child. I don’t know if you struggled with infertility, or with pregnancy loss, or with a traumatic birth. I don’t know if you created your child with your body, or created your family by welcoming your child into it.
But I know a lot about you.
I know that you didn’t get everything that you wanted. I know that you got a wealth of things you never knew you wanted until they were there in front of you. I know that you don’t believe that you’re doing your best, that you think you can do better. I know you are doing better than you think.
I know that when you look at your child, your children, you see yourself. And I know that you don’t, that you see a stranger who can’t understand why the small details of childhood that were so important to you are a bother to this small person who resembles you.
I know that you want to throw a lamp at your teenager’s head sometimes. I know you want to toss your three year old out the window once in a while.
I know that some nights, once it’s finally quiet, you curl up in bed and cry. I know that sometimes, you don’t, even though your heart is breaking with exhaustion and the weight of crushed expectations.
I know that some days are so hard that all you want is for them to end, and then at bedtime your children hug you and kiss you and tell you how much they love you and want to be like you, and you wish the day could last forever.
But it never does. The day always ends, and the next day brings new challenges. Fevers, heartbreak, art projects, new friends, new pets, new fights. And every day you do what you need to do.
You take care of things, because that’s your job. You go to work, or you fill up the crock pot, or you climb into the garden, or strap the baby to your back and pull out the vacuum cleaner.
You drop everything you’re doing to moderate an argument over who’s turn it is to use a specific marker, or to kiss a boo-boo, or to have a conversation about what color lipstick Pinocchio’s mommy wears.
I know that you have tickle fights in blanket forts, and that you have the words to at least eight different picture books memorized. I’ve heard that you dance like a wild woman when it’s just you and them. That you have no shame about farting or belching in their presence, that you make up goofy songs about peas and potatoes and cheese.
I know that an hour past bedtime, you drop what you’re doing and trim the fingernail that your three year old insists is keeping her up. I know that you stop cleaning dishes because your kids insist you need to join their tea party. I know you fed your kids PBandJ for four days straight when you had the flu. I know that you eat leftover crusts over the sink while your kids watch Super Why.
I know you didn’t expect most of this. I know you didn’t anticipate loving somebody so intensely, or loathing your post-baby body so much, or being so tired, or being the mom you’ve turned out to be.
You thought you had it figured out. Or you were blind and terrified. You hired the perfect nanny. Or you quit your job and learned to assemble flat packed baby furniture. You get confused by the conflict of feeling like nothing has changed since you were free and unfettered by children, and looking back on the choices you made as though an impostor was wearing your skin.
You’re not a perfect mom. No matter how you try, no matter what you do. You will never be a perfect mom.
And maybe that haunts you. Or maybe you’ve made peace with it. Or maybe it was never a problem to begin with.
No matter how much you do, there is always more. No matter how little you do, when the day is over your children are still loved. They still smile at you, believing you have magical powers to fix almost anything. No matter what happened at work, or at school, or in play group, you have still done everything in your power to ensure that the next morning will dawn and your children will be as happy, healthy, and wise as could possibly be hoped.
There’s an old Yiddish saying, “There is one perfect child in the world, and every mother has it.”
Unfortunately, there are no perfect parents. Your kids will grow up determined to be different than you. They will grow up certain that they won’t make their kids take piano lessons, or they’ll be more lenient, or more strict, or have more kids, or have fewer, or have none at all.
No matter how far from perfect you are, you are better than you think.
Someday your kids will be running around like crazy people and somebody will still walk up and tell you what a beautiful family you have. You’ll be at the park and your kids will be covered in mud and jam up to the elbows, smearing your car with that sugary cement, and a pregnant lady will stop and smile at you wistfully.
No matter how many doubts you might have, you never need doubt this one thing: You are definitely not perfect.
And that’s good. Because really, neither is your child. And that means nobody can care for them the way you can, with the wealth of your understanding and your experience. Nobody knows what your child’s squall means, or what their jokes mean, or why they are crying, better than you do.
And since no mother is perfect, chances are you are caught in a two billion way tie for Best Mom in the World.
Congratulations, Best Mom in the World. You’re not perfect.
Motherhood is a series of unfortunate events that bonds women together in the most thankless and revolting job on earth.
Ok, so it’s much more than that, too, but the unfortunate events are definitely part of the universal experience.
Whoever a mother is — whether she’s Angelina Jolie or the teen mom at the grocery store checkout — I feel an instant bond with her, knowing we’ve both dealt with a puking kid in our bed or feverish baby at the most inopportune time.
I was in Girl Scouts for a brief time, and I acquired a snazzy collection of merit badges to brag about my accomplishments like practicing athleticism with purpose and volunteering for a good cause. I’m thinking of finding that sash and slapping on some badges that I’m really proud of: The badges of motherhood.