To my mother Sally Flynn, and all mothers, I wish a restful and relaxing post-Mother’s Day season full of pampering and peace. Good luck getting it. As a mother myself of a beautiful, intelligent little three-year-old, I’ve learned a lot (and I’m not talking about my becoming bilingual from hours and hours of Dora brainwashing). There are a few things you’re not told before becoming a mother: I’m not sure whether it’s because they’re too embarrassing to admit to or because the fate of the human population depends on maintaining some level of reproduction.
Myth No. 1: Movie Labor
All those movies where they show five minutes of labor and then they place a sleeping baby into the arms of a mother with perfect hair and makeup, that’s a crock. As I recall, it was several hours of screaming and writhing while people are snapping pictures of you looking like you just survived a natural disaster. Just when you think all the horror is over, they hand you an adult diaper to wear home and you still look pregnant.
Myth No. 2: Maternal Instinct
Maternal instinct is made out to be an instantaneous turn around from the wild and free-spirited young woman to the mature, demure super-mother. Wrong again: it’s merely the transition from carefree to paranoid. Maternal instinct is decidedly animalistic, meaning your good-hearted nature is now only as good as what the person talking to you is saying about your child. Criticism of your child forces you to choke down your inner lioness, ready to pounce on and eviscerate the offender.
Myth No. 3: Motherhood is Pristine
You know those TV commercials with the clean living rooms, full of stylish decor? Not real. In the world of motherhood, throw pillows are actually thrown. Recliners become diving boards. Your LCD screen is covered in crayon. Unless you provide your child with an entirely separate playroom, surrounded by tall gates, door and window locks and padded walls, your entire house is a minefield. I have become something of a ninja—I can trip over a toy, jump in mid air and land on point without snapping a single crayon or waking my daughter from her nap.
Myth No. 4: Motherhood is Beautiful
While the emotions of motherhood are beautiful, it is hard to feel so yourself sometimes. Most days my three-year-old outshines me. Her wardrobe is larger and newer than mine, if I’m in a hurry I brush her hair and not mine, her shoes always match her outfit and she won’t put on a pair of socks that don’t match. When we show up to preschool, I know I don’t look like her mother, so much as her handmaiden. I don’t remember the last time I took a bath alone, sometimes I have to change what I planned to wear despite the weather because I haven’t had the opportunity to shave my legs in a week…okay, two weeks. I admit I’ve surrendered my expensive perfumed shave gel for use as a bath toy for drawing pictures on the shower wall.
Myth No. 5: Your Teenager Thinks You’re Dumb.
I haven’t experienced this wonderful passage of motherhood yet, but I’ve been told the war stories. Being young enough to still remember it from the flip side, though, I’ll let you in on something…your teenager doesn’t actually think you’re stupid, they’re just sick of you always being right! Let them make some mistakes, they’re going to anyway. Be easy on yourself, you did a good job; besides, eventually your children will have children. That’ll show them.