Thursday, March 22, 2007
What is this "Real" of which You Speak?
Well, I suppose it was inevitable. I've been tagged, and while I can quite blithely ignore the cute blanket "everyone who reads this post has been tagged to copy it!" statements at the end of some memes, I apparently possess just enough social conscience to respond to a specific by-my-very-own-name tagging.

Of course, because I'm lucky this way, it's not one of the lists of 400 books in which I lie, fudge, self-promote, and sometimes just honestly display my literacy (yeah, or lack thereof). Nooo, instead, my loss of meme-ing virginity, courtesy of Jack's Raging Mommy (let's see if she still respects me after I put out) has to do with an undefined definition of Real Moms. Which, apparently, falls under the strictly policed domain of, "The only rule is that there are no rules," as far as structuring posts and thoughts.

So, fabulous. I get to think. Last I checked, today was Thursday and therefore my day off. And yet, here I am, thinking.

Because I don't have the vaguest idea what a real mom is. I know lots of them, and I've even been known to be one on occasion, but [cue the music!] how do you define it? How do you put it into few enough words that blogger doesn't simply stand up, crawl through your computer screen, and bitch-slap you before dredging up the old Blue Screen of Death? How do you solve a problem like Maria?

I do know that the realness of motherhood is easiest for me to comprehend by focusing on the paradoxes, the spaces between two equally legitimate and true statements. Such as:
  • A real mom would unflinchingly remove her own arm if it would somehow benefit her child. But she will also guiltlessly root through the Halloween candy after the children are in bed, and will give a dose of Benedryl one extra night after the end of the cold because now that the child is sleeping again, she needs to, too.

  • A real mom will be able to admit, at least deep within her soul if not crassly out loud, just how embarrassing it is when your eldest gets on stage with the rest of the K-3 grades at school for the Christmas concert and then spends a full five minutes up to her elbow in her nose, and then eats it. A real mom will laugh at her children's mispronunciations and criticize their table manners and question their intelligence, artistic skill, athletic ability and basic humanity. But that same, real mom will summarily shoot laser beams from her eyes and slay you in your tracks if you, as non-parent, dare to say the slightest negative thing about her precious spawn.

  • A real mom knows what it's like to have her heart exist outside of her body, and will feel a whole-body ache at an odd moment because her child makes a perfect sigh, or facial expression, or stillness. She will, ten minutes later, flail about the kitchen for the nearest large spatula to be able to pry this barnacle child off her leg and will choose to eat dinner standing over the kitchen sink rather than sitting and, therefore, at risk for someone else in her lap.

  • A real mom will regard the father (and, sometimes, the gestational mother) of her children with an intensity and gratitude that isn't quite definable, just because, without that person, this child wouldn't exist. That same real mom recognizes that birth status and genetics have nothing to do with loving that child to the point of breathlessness and pain.

  • A real mom knows that what she is going through, as parent of this child in this moment in front of all these people in the line at the grocery store is unique and special and lonely and humiliating. She also knows that countless other people have gone through precisely the same experience, and she craves that recognition and understanding and absolution.

And so on. A bunch of paradoxes that add up to, motherhood is just another one of those life circumstances that allow you to simultaneously exist on both ends of the same spectrum. And what's even more fun is, you don't notice you're doing it until you think about it. A bit like a bumblebee in flight: we're not built for it and it's technically impossible, but as long as we don't stop to think about the mechanics, we get through it just fine.

So, there's that. But, because I don't feel like stopping and you can't make me, I do have another way of thinking about this all. (What? Shut up! I don't always twist discussions around for just one more perspective. I do not! Hey! You, there, in the back. Yes, you. I saw you rolling your eyes. Can it.)

Because, okay, then, I can't define a Real Mom with any level of intellectual satisfaction. Let's try defining a Fake Mom. Somehow that's easier.
  • Fake Moms love and like their children 100% of every day. They never resent the constant demands on their time, money and emotional energy, and they don't miss a thing about their life before children.

  • Fake Moms have never felt ambivalent about whether it's really a good idea to be bringing another child into the family. Especially not at the first meeting, the loudest tantrum, the walk toward the kindergarten classroom or the wave as the child heads down the aisle or into the back of the police cruiser.

  • Fake Moms don't have guilt. They accept their own limitations (which are, to be true, merely theoretical, because a Fake Mom has never actually reached a limit) and they placidly and gracefully set boundaries and accept failures, large and small.

  • Fake Moms don't pass gas. And they have cute, perky, braless breasts. Through their 80s.

  • Fake Moms actively enjoy children's media. Always, without exception, and without a longing glance toward their own premotherhood choices. And they never, ever put the child off for "five more minutes while I finish what I'm doing."

  • Fake Moms know there is a single, right way to do everything.

  • And they do it.

There. Phew. That was work. Let's see... how about Nisa, Mel, Melissa, Sara, Bob and Jordanna? What's a Real Mom? Any idea? Clearly I'm just casting about randomly here without a clue of my own. And no fair wussing out just because you've never been anyone's legal guardian; just as I am able to recognize a drunken horny frat boy from a few feet away, so too do you not have to be one to know one.

Wow, I've never tagged anyone before. It's an awesome responsibility. Let me offer a blanket apology now for any prior eye-rolling at the people who blanket-tagged everyone; that's a much healthier and less stressful approach to this. If I didn't tag you, it's only because I think it's unreasonable to tag more than six people - somehow seven is past my limit.