My daughter, who worries about everyone's self-esteem, frequently tells me that I am the Best Mom in the World. Except on those occasions when I am the Meanest Mom in the World, usually when homework or brushing teeth is involved. Note to God: the next time you have a bright idea to do something like this, don't create long division or the cavity, all right?
My son, the Zen center of the family, doesn't say much about my momness. He does things instead, like wear my FM writing tshirt instead of his father's company-logo'ed work shirt to school on Dress Like Your Parents' Career day. When another boy asked Mike why he wants to be a (insert sneer) writer, my son was reported to have said, "Cause my mom makes more money than my dad." (See? That's my DNA.)
Recently I was invited to hang with a bunch of working moms and talk career versus raising the little ones. Bad coffee, low-fat muffins and women in pantyhose and full make-up at eight-thirty a.m. aren't my idea of fun, but if I don't get out of the Cave once in awhile Alfred starts to complain.
They sat me with the full-time working moms, all of whom were fifteen to twenty years younger than me, and way better dressed (and my shoes actually matched.) The big topics at our table were maternity leave, scrapbooking and reliable babysitters. I worked through every pregnancy, I got over crafts twenty years ago and my mom is the only babysitter we use, so I couldn't contribute much.
Talk then turned to careers. I've been out of the corporate game since 1992, but I was amazed at what females are willing to do these days for fifty thousand dollars a year. Sixty, seventy hour weeks, commuting to the city in the family's crappy second car, dodging supervisors bored with their wives while trying to figure out the latest version of what used to be called Lotus in my day (she says, in her best, old business crone voice) and cracking their skulls against those glass ceilings, only to come home and try to be a Good Mom. P.S., their kids hate them, they haven't had fun sex since Ronnie was in office, and their last vacation was a working one, while their letch boss who drinks his lunch gets the expense account, the secretary, the company car and the Quarterly Sales Meeting trip to Vegas.
One mom, though -- there's always one -- was happy, happy, happy. She loved her great job (which was important.) She adored her beautiful children (future Presidents.) Her marriage was perfect, her husband was perfect, her home was professionally decorated, yada yada yada. She couldn't imagine why other women couldn't emulate her success, if only they'd work a little harder at Finding Creative Solutions and Giving of Themselves.
After ten minutes of this, pretty much everyone at the table wanted her dead, but they brought around more lemon poppyseed muffins and the other ladies took consolation in low-fat consumption. Happy Mom eyed me, maybe because I'd been pretty quiet. "I didn't hear what it is that you do, dear," Happy Mom said as she stared at my tshirt, which read "Still Plays With Dirt."
"I'm self-employed." That's the standard answer I give everyone.
"I'm a writer."
"Really? My sister-in-law wrote a children's book, you know. It did very well, so she's going to write another this summer." Happy Mom gave me the patronizing, I've-got-relatives-more-important-than-you smile. "And what do you write?"
She hmmmmed a little fake interest. "Anything published?" Of course not, this tone implies. You're wearing a Still Plays With Dirt tshirt.
"A few things."
"Well, we're having a famous author as our guest speaker today. You might want to talk to her after the meeting." Happy Mom gives me a superior smile. "That's what this is about, sharing and learning from one another."
The lady who invited me gets up and announces that it's time for the guest speaker, a famous author who just moved into the area. A list of novels and genres are read, along with hits on the bestseller lists. Happy Mom gives her full attention to the podium.
Me? I walk up to it.
Happy Mom's face turns red, and stays that color for most of my speech.