Nothing can prepare you for motherhood – except of course Lamaze class. It’s been 20 years since I graduated with a license to breathe and I still don’t consider myself prepared. I can usually breathe just fine, but the complexities of motherhood go beyond mere breathing.
Motherhood requires visits to the pediatrician, playground and preschool. It involves tucking your kids in at night, and later, sneaking back into their bedroom to marvel how angelic they look when sleeping. It encompasses the pain felt during childbirth and the bittersweet twinges experienced when your child boards the bus on the first day of kindergarten or walks down the aisle in a white wedding dress. The job entails holding back tears and letting them flow – and knowing when and where you’re okay to do either.
It’s about priorities. For instance, a mother headed for a long, hot bath discovers her child needs help with biology homework. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? I think we all recognize the obvious answer to that question. Calgon, go away. Can anyone tell me the name of the guy who grew those peas?
Motherhood involves pacing – the floor on a Friday night 15 minutes past curfew, as well as the pacing required of marathon runners. Except instead of miles, mothers measure their stamina in a culmination of early morning breakfasts, baseball games, piano lessons, soccer practices, orthodontist visits, goodnight kisses, and the occasional cameo role as a tooth-loving fairy.
A mother possesses a thorough knowledge of pat-a-cake, Ping Pong, poker, and folding paper airplanes. She’s familiar with Playdoh, Pokemon, pogo sticks, Facebook pages, driving permits, and prom dresses. She should be adept at pacifying a crying baby and placating a heartbroken teenager – and everything in between (with an emphasis on the ‘tween).
A mother listens. Early on, she understands the importance of distinguishing a hungry cry from a bored one. Years later, she drops whatever she is doing – any hour, day or night – to sit at the kitchen table and chat with a teenager who is inexplicably both home and interested in conversation.
An experienced mother is always (and I mean always) ready and able to locate certain items at a moment’s notice. These include, but are not limited to: a #2 pencil (sharpened, with eraser), three-ring binder, hot glue gun, clean basketball uniform, and toilet plunger.
Motherhood is popsicles, peeling apples, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The role involves the ability to identify poison ivy, spot tadpoles, and know the difference between a frog and a toad.
Mothers demonstrate unlimited patience. They read, Go Dog, Go over and over until they know the words by heart. They sing the ABC song, quiz on state capitals, and do their best to learn new math. They get up without complaint at 1 a.m. when the baby is crying – again. They answer the phone and say, “I’ll be right there,” at 2 a.m. when their teenager has a flat tire – again.
A mother should be equally skilled at playing Go Fish and going fishing. She senses when to reel her child in and when to let go of the line and allow him or her to fly free. She encourages perseverance, curiosity, acceptance, and passion. She serves as her children’s biggest ally, fan, and cheerleader.
Mothers are called upon to be teachers, managers, referees, doctors, chefs, clergy, taxi drivers, psychologists, comedians, and hair stylists. They often serve as family photographer – which explains why they hardly ever appear in the picture themselves.
Motherhood starts on the day a woman gives birth and never really ends (thank goodness). The job involves infinite worry and infinite love, not necessarily in that order. From diapers to driving, preschool to prom, sticky kisses to slimy pets, straight As to summer school, skinned knees to championship trophies, first loves to broken hearts – it’s all part of the package. The magnitude of it can be overwhelming and sometimes I have to remind myself – to just breathe. (Happy Mother’s Day everyone!)
Jill Pertler, award-winning syndicated columnist and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication.” is collecting fans on Facebook on her Slices of Life page. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.