The Manual for Motherhood

That’s a misleading title, and I’m sorry if I tricked you into clicking on it. There happens to be NO manual for motherhood. UNENDING shelves of books out there, written by “experts” and books written from one particular mom’s experience, but no full-on manual where you can look up all the crazy situations you’ll find yourself in.

I have an “older” kid (almost 7) and a preschooler. Some of the new moms at preschool will ask me, “How did you handle that with Bowie?”, “Was Bowie like that?”, “Did you ever do xyz with Bowie?”

And based on my replies, sometimes I get very flattering responses. “Wow, you’re so good at that!” “What an amazing idea!” “How do you find the time to do that?” “Wow, I wish I was as patient as you!”

But, I take these responses with a grain of salt. I’m just another mom, doing the best with what she has where she is (to refer to a Teddy Roosevelt quote). And we all are. That’s the thing.

When they hand you that tiny, pink, wiggly-wriggly, screaming and (in Bowie’s case) poop-covered thing, you’re like, what the heck am I supposed to do with this? And if you have a hospital birth, that day they kick you out you’re like, “Seriously?! You’re going to trust me to take this home and actually be responsible for its survival?!?”

But you get it. Somewhere along the line, it clicks. You’re in mom gear now. And you always know what to do. Even when “what to do” means consulting Dr. Spock, calling the pediatrician or handing the baby to your husband and saying “take this.” You still did it, you still figured it out.

You do also make mistakes. It’s completely inevitable. But also survivable. That’s how you learn. Those questions that the newer moms ask me? Most of my answers were not innate, they were learned. It’s a process. Sometimes you just plain improvise. It might work, it might not. But, you had a problem, and you came up with a possible solution.

Also, and this is probably the most important thing, you DO NOT have to be perfect. Not one of us is. None of us. Not even the impeccably dressed mother at the park sipping her Starbucks, brushing her clean, tangle-free hair from her perfectly made-up face, browsing NPR on her expensive smart phone while her children stay near and play amicably with one another, and all the kids. Not even she is perfect. Really.

We all have the mornings where school lunch is pizza and fruit snacks (but they were organic, dammit).

We all get to the public restroom changing table only to realize this session involves poop and we have no wipes. So we use some wet paper towels and move on with it.

We’ve all done a spit shine to the kid’s face on picture day to remove the ketchup stain that’s been on his face for three days.

We’ve all hidden in our bedroom closet to enjoy a Snickers bar, because the same child that doesn’t respond when you yell his name 2 feet from him can hear a cellophane wrapper from 6 miles away.

We’ve all used a baby wipe to mop the sticky spots up off the floor before company comes over.

We’ve all been at Walgreens on February 13 digging through the reject pile of Valentines for the kid’s class.

We’ve all told the landlord the hole in the wall was there when we moved in. (That one rarely works, but we try it anyway.)

We’ve all told the pediatrician about the gallons of water they drink every day, even though it’s mostly milk with a little Capri Sun mixed in.

We’ve all been in an in-depth phone conversation about “what Sally did this time” when our kid falls 5 feet off the slide, and only find out when a very judgy other mom brings him to us.

I say, “we all”, but I guess some of you really haven’t done this stuff. Kudos to you! But the day may come. And I’m sure you’ve got a list of your own.

The point is, sometimes we’re Claire Huxtable. Sometimes we’re more like a clueless hobo that’s been left in charge of feral animals. But, we love our kids, and we figure it out. Every damn time. Pat yourself on the back more. And stop worrying if you’re a “good enough” mom. You’re the best!

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