I am not anonymous. You know my name. But as a mom, I sometimes feel like I am. Anonymous. Most mothers do at some point. We ferry our kids to school and sports and activities. Mindlessly do laundry and dishes. Help with homework and projects. Volunteer at school. We could be automatons or Stepford Wives. We do for our children without them ever realizing—or certainly acknowledging—just how much. We are the faceless people in the room who take a backseat to Phinneus and Ferb and Scooby Doo and Geronimo Stilton. We are often ignored. We are always taken for granted. And we signed up for this!
I have two children, a boy and a girl, nine and seven respectively. When they were born, and I held them in my arms for the first time, and I gazed down at their beautiful faces, I vowed to each of them that I would be the super-hero of moms. I promised them I would nurture their dreams, support them unfailingly, inspire them to realize their potential greatness: the doctor who discovers the cure for cancer and the first woman president! Since then, I have simplified my goals somewhat. Now, I just want to do a good enough job at motherhood that neither of them ends up in therapy. Or jail.
Not that I don’t think my children will achieve greatness. I believe with all my heart that they will. I’m just not sure that I will have had anything to do with it.
I’m a good mother. Not fabulous. Not terrible. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I want to be fabulous. I want to handle every situation with patience and grace and a calm voice, but half the time, even with the best intentions, I end up shrieking with rage. How ironic is it to be screaming at your kids, “Use a NICE TONE OF VOICE!!!!” Sometimes I hear the words come out of my mouth and I wish for a time machine that could propel me back thirty seconds so that I could make a different choice. Or some kind of device that would grab my words in mid air and suck them back into my mouth, magically rendering them unheard by my children. “Because I said so!” “You can do that when you’re eighteen!” “You’re making me crazy!” “I can’t take this anymore!” “I’m going to throw the TV in the trash!” (Like I would ever do that!) “If you don’t pass your spelling test, you’ll never get in to a good college!”
I suppose the fact that I worry about being a bad mother is proof that I am not a bad mother. But I want to be the best. I want anthems to be composed which praise my parenting aplomb. I want my children to laud me in their valedictorian speeches at their high school graduations. I want a three-page article in OC Magazine about Mother of the Year, Janis Thomas. But none of those things will ever happen. Because I am not the world’s greatest mom.
What I am, is there. I am always there for my children. I am there for them when they wake up in the morning and when they go to bed at night. I am there to help them with homework and pick my son’s clothing and comb through my daughter’s hair and make their favorite meal, which changes on a weekly basis. I am there when they get in trouble at school and when they win an award and when they pop their foreheads open on the coffee table. I am there even when I don’t want to be, even when I’d rather be anywhere else on the planet. Hopefully, it’s the being there that counts. Because on the calm, rational, patience scale, I pretty much suck.
Life gets in the way of being Super Hero Parent Extraordinaire. For I am not just a mom. I am a wife, too (which is a whole other area of concern in that I am merely a good wife, certainly not the best wife). I am also a writer. I work part-time. I am a daughter and a sister and an auntie. I volunteer at school. My days are filled with responsibilities and chores and commitments. Just like most of us women. We are pulled in every direction, feel the demands placed upon us by our children and our husbands and the PTA and Cosmo. We are supposed to be all things to all people. And we try, Lord how we try.
And then, we snap.
At least I do. I explode at my son for daring to ask for a glass of milk while I am simultaneously trying to finish a chapter of my novel, email the class parents about Teacher Appreciation Week, and bake a three-tiered sweet sixteen cake for my niece’s birthday. It’s not my son’s fault that I am overextended. His request is simply the final straw.
And yet, I soldier on. We all do. Hoping against hope that it’ll get easier or I’ll somehow channel the spirit of Mother Teresa the next time my daughter spills red paint on the carpet or my son refuses to do his multiplication on the basis that he HATES MATH, or my husband leaves his buffet of crumbly chips and crusty cheese spread on my clean counter before falling asleep on the couch. What else can we do but soldier on? Because this is what we signed on for the moment we first read that EPT with the two pink lines running through it and we cried for joy. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and I bet you didn’t either. None of us mothers do. But the bottom line is, that despite the screaming fits and the angst and those never-ending days that threaten my sanity and cause me to empty the bottle of Stoli, I wouldn’t trade my motherhood for anything.
Because one day, my son might receive a Nobel Peace Prize for his miracle cure; my daughter might be inaugurated on the steps of the White House.
And I will be there. I might just be another anonymous face in the crowd. But I will be there.