Monday, July 6, 2009

Different, Like the Rest of Us

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm "different." The phrase "You are NOT right!" has been directed at me with remarkable frequency. It's a little strange, really, since on the surface I look like a stereotype. Thirtysomething, married, one boy, one girl, two dogs. We worry about money, elections, where our kids will go to school, our parents getting older. We're just like everybody else. And when people tell me "You're not right" it's usually because I have elucidated a universal truth that no one else wants to 'fess up. My biggest dirty little secret? Every single day I count the minutes until the kids' bedtime so I am done being a mom that day. Except it isn't really a secret since I'll tell anyone. Even a social worker.

The thing is the stuff I will admit to is usually stuff everybody else feels, at least some of the time. You know how I know this? Bestsellers. Chick lit is rife with stereotypes like me. The moms are overwhelmed, trying to balance work and kids, sometimes disappointed with where they are as opposed to where they thought they would be at their current age. If nobody else felt this way no one would buy these books. The characters would be impossible to relate to. In real life I am surrounded by the grown up version of Pollyanna. Everyone I know talks about how they are so grateful for their wonderful kids and they say prayers of gratitude all day every day for their perfect, blessed life.

I don't believe them. I KNOW that they all get tired of wiping peanut butter off the TV and crayola off the walls. I KNOW that when no one is looking sometimes they yell at their kids. For no good reason other than that they are tired and the kids are being kids. I KNOW they sometimes let the kids watch too many cartoons just so they can get something done. Or maybe just so they can take a nap. Sometimes, after I admit these things to a shocked group of classroom mothers, a few of them admit it too.

I don't typically gravitate to chick lit because I like my characters to be more exceptional than I am. Better. More. Maybe they overcome bigger problems than I face (or ever hope to) or have some incredible talent that I wish I had. But it's nice to know they pee in the shower despite their amazing, superhuman gifts. Still, part of escaping my life involves reading about things I don't get to actually do.

Gritty realism is not my forte as a person-who-writes-things-but-does-not-refer-to-herself-as-a-writer. My life is full of it. I can't go three days running from bad guys in the woods and still be interested in making out with my boyfriend because frankly, I would stink. A lot. In a book the delightful man who captures the heroine's heart would be entranced by her musky scent. Since I deal with BO and dandruff all the time anyway I don't really want to write about it. Or read about it.

So what it boils down to is I like to read and write things that would never happen to me. Or anyone else. But I still want to know that the character is scared of something, proud of herself, or embarrassed sometimes. Different, but the same as the rest of us.

(Just for the record, though, I really am different. I'm downright odd. It's okay...I'm good with it.)


How's this for gritty realism? Within 30 minutes of posting the five year old stops up a toilet, overflows it, and steps into the playroom announcing he did wash his hands with soap AND wiped his heinie. (In five-year-old vernacular this is code for he did neither of these things.) While he is squirming back into his underwear I notice a poop stain on the carpet. A full seven or eight feet from the bathroom. It is the only one and defies explanation. No poop on hands or feet (that I can see) and no other stain indicating a trail of any kind. Dogs are outside. No idea how mystery stain manifested. Five year old to the bathtub and out comes the carpet cleaner and scrubber. You can't tell me all those other moms would be singing psalms and hymns of grateful praise right now.


  1. You are not so different. I just had a conversation similar to this with a friend recently. With three grown children, motherhood for me was a job. It was something to accomplish in a day with the least amount of damage done as possible. There were moments of joy, but mostly it was work. It was a horrific amount of responsibility and ungodly tiring. When I told her these things she looked at me like I had three heads. She thought motherhood was fun! And the thing doesn't get much easier even when they are grown!

  2. Thanks for the validation, Lucy!

    I really do think a lot of mothers feel the pressure. Sure, some of us love every minute of it but most of us have moments of doubt. It seems like we're throwing each other under the bus if everyone clings to the dogmatic assertion that motherhood is always a joy.