One year ago this month, I took a second job. And though it doesn't offer a dental plan, sick leave, vacation pay, profit sharing, a Christmas bonus, an expense account, a 401(k), or even a company softball team, it does provide plenty of job security: I will be a mother every day for the rest of my natural life.
Raising a child—alone or with a partner—may be a labor of love, but, as anyone who's ever sung "The Wheels on the Bus" 11 times in a row can tell you, it's still labor. So imagine my weariness when I picked up a magazine in the pediatrician's waiting room touting the virtues of a little something called mommy time. Apparently the concept involves making it a priority to get out there and enjoy a manicure, a movie, a long lunch with an old friend—it's all about taking time for yourself on a regular basis. But here's the thing: I took 42 years for myself; now I'm taking time for a Cheerio-encrusted 21 pounder with three teeth, mashed banana in her eyebrows, and a tendency to wake up at 5 a.m. for breast milk and Blue's Clues.
Who are these manicured mommies analyzing the latest indie flick over salad niçoise? Are they the same women who bake from scratch, do Pilates, run multimillion-dollar corporations, volunteer at nursing homes, and campaign for clean air while having soul-shredding sex with their adoring husbands 4.7 nights a week and twice on Sundays? Because I don't know any mommies like that. Maybe they hang out at a special playground located in old Doris Day movies—they sure don't live in my neighborhood. The women I know feel victorious when they actually manage to pick up their dry cleaning. We're a motley crew all in serious need of a haircut and a shot of caffeine. Like the Marines, we do more before 9 a.m. than most people do in a day. We've seen things in diapers that would send plenty of members of polite society shrieking into the night. There is no surface in our homes that doesn't feel sticky, no blouse in our closets that hasn't been irrevocably stained. There is no part of our physical beings that hasn't been gummed, sucked, gnawed, or spit up on. We live mostly on teething biscuits, rice cereal, and the edge—and that, for better or for worse, till preschool do us part, is mommy time. God may have rested on the seventh day, but let's be honest here, that's only because he sent his son to live with another family. In the words of the late, great Warren Zevon, "I'll sleep when I'm dead."
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