Oh, great. Here she comes. That mom. You know the one, the mom who only shows up to half the parent nights? The one whose kid made a huge scene at the free folk music concert? She’s so the mom who makes a point of exposing her kid to everything. I can’t stand that mom.
Except I’m that mom.
I’m the mom whose kid constantly has a crust of something on her face, dried snot or avocado or spaghetti sauce. I’m the mom who uses the eco-friendly laundry detergent that never gets stains out, even though I scrub at them with a bar of Fels- Naptha, so my kid always has faint outlines of grease or finger paint or god knows what on her clothes. I am the mom you refuse hand-me-downs from.
I am the mom who never seems to have baby wipes when wipes are needed, the mom who forgot the extra socks or the raincoat at home. I am the mom who counts on your wipes, your extra socks.
I am the mom who blithely brings her kid to the restaurant, and then looks horrified when her kid spills milk, screams for no reason, flails in the booth, and eats like a heathen. I am the mom whose own meal, which she was so glad not to have to prepare, is ruined when she threatens her child with leaving the restaurant right then, but of course we don’t, because I am the mom who will eat her goddamn food while it’s hot.
I am the mom who can’t even talk about vaccines, I feel so strongly about them, because I am sure to offend some ignorant nincompoop in the room who does not agree with me. Especially if I’m at a party drinking red wine, because then a torrent of vulgarity will spill from my mouth, and my pulse will rise, and I will be more obnoxious than I already am in my wine-loosened state where I guffaw and dominate conversations as my kid, unattended/ignored, grabs her fifth cookie from the platter and double-dips corn chips into the hummus.
I am the mom whose kid has no inside voice. I am the mom whose kid, even outside, is heard above all others. I am the mom whose outside-voice kid has Teflon hands and head, because all hats and mittens are ejected about thirty seconds after I yank them on my kid, and so when frost is on the leaves and the wind wails mercilessly, I am the mom whose kid’s hair whips around her uncovered head and whose fingers are lost in the drooping sleeves of her oversized coat, and it drives me nuts every time, even though I know she’ll crave those mittens if it’s cold enough, but it’s not about mittens or a hat. I am the mom who likes to be obeyed, and who never is.
I am the mom who wants to hold your baby, but I don’t offer, ever, even though when my kid was a baby I’d hand her over, beaming, to most anyone who asked. So I am the mom who you probably think finds your wonderfulamazing baby boring, just because I have a hang-up about imagined boundaries. And instead of asking you questions about the baby I’m too hung-up to hold, I’ll overcompensate by blathering about what my kid did when she was however many few months old, and then I’m the mom you want to get away from, fast.
I am the mom authors of parenting books use as an example of what discipline techniques not to use. I know this because I read those books, and I nod my head at certain passages, saying “hmmm!”, and then a few weeks later I just dump them back into the library bookdrop and instantly it’s as if they never entered our lives, these methods of counting to three or renaming “time outs” as “quiet moments” or whatever.
I’m that mom who doesn’t do Elf on the Shelf, because it teaches brand loyalty and conformity, even though Elf on the Shelf is totally the kind of thing I’d have been enthralled with as a kid. Also, I’m the mom who would forget to reposition Charlie or Chuckles or whatever the hell his name is, and then poor Chunkers or Chaz would languish on the shelf for days and days in a row, unanimated by doting parents.
I am that mom who, if we are out drinking grownup coffee somewhere, will say “blah blah Bringing Up Bébé blah!” and then think privately about how I tried that completely reasonable business of serving only one snack a day, and that technique lasted, like, less than a day. I am the mom whose bébé would be forcibly ejected from France.
I’m the mom whose daughter is sometimes mistaken for a boy, despite of (or perhaps because of) her Dorothy Hamill haircut. If she were a boy, I’m sure she’d be mistaken for a girl.
I’m the mom who tries to teach her child the military alphabet, because I think it might come in handy, but I have no patience whatsoever for baby sign language.
I’m the mom whose kid arrives half an hour late to your kid’s birthday party with a sloppily handmade card and a jar of ginger jam or pickled ramps or something else wildly inappropriate and unappealing, because even though I spent 45 minutes at K- Mart in the toy aisle, I couldn’t bring myself to buy a present there, what with all the batteries required and Pixar movie tie-ins. And you think, “doesn’t that girl’s mom ever do anything fun?” and the answer, yes, is no, I don’t. And I’m the mom who’s proud of that, because I’m teaching my daughter that things don’t matter, even though I know full well things do matter.
I’m the mom who has a million other things going on, most of them only tangentially related to being a mom, and who strives to be unapologetic about it, but who also is apt to agree to a playdate just to try to cut the inevitable guilt and doubt she feels about being not involved enough, having not signing her daughter up for wee one soccer or ballet or even swimming lessons yet. And I’m the mom who loathes playdates. Doesn’t my kid get to play with friends all day long at preschool? Why should I have to squander my precious time at home with said daughter on a forced visit with this playmate’s mom, a woman I have nothing in common with but who has lingered here anyway, despite my encouraging her to drop her son off and enjoy a few hours to run errands in peace?
How about that mom who’s always so laid-back and nonplussed about running a bit late, and is never in a bad mood and seems totally comfortable in her own skin? God, I wish I were that mom.
But maybe you think I’m that mom. Maybe I fooled you. You, calm and normal- seeming, with a well-adjusted spouse and a car manufactured in this century. I fooled you. Nice one, Mom! Please enjoy the ginger jam. It’s pretty good.
Sara Bir is a chef, food writer, and usually confident parent living in Ohio. Her essay “Smelted”, from the website Full Grown People, appears in Best Food Writing 2014. You can read Sara’s blog, The Sausagetarian, at www.sausagetarian.com.