Monday, March 11, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Maternal Qualities

If there is one thing worse than writing-class-sharing Awkward Mom, it is pity-party Awkward Mom. Guess who got up today on the weepy side of the bed?

Once in awhile, I don’t like being awkward. Most days I embrace it with the passion of a teenage theater geek, but not today. Today I don’t want to be different. I want to be normal. I want to fit in. I want all the other moms to like me. Because today, all the insecurity of age 13 has bubbled to the surface in a hideous mess of tears and random Super-grabbing; holding them to me with bizarre entreaties to never grow up and leave me. They kiss me with patience and then squirm away to watch Sesame Street in peace, but at least they love me. At least they don’t think there is anything wrong with me. But then sometimes, they look at me and I can see it in their eyes. They know I am awkward. They know. They already know.

 My motherhood is in question today. My very existence. For what am I, if not a mother? Ugh. That isn’t the post I am ready to write. This one is about Mothers. Mommys. Mas. Moms. Today, I don’t feel like any of them.

Now, to be fair, I never feel like a mother. Mother is this mythical creature that lives in the pages of Dr. Sears or maybe on Pinterst. Mother is well beyond my limitations; she is massive in her skills, enormous in her powers. I think she might truly have eyes in the back of her head, hair perfectly parted to monitor all she reigns over. For she really is a queen. Mother isn't even my mother, who is a Mom: a Major General, to be exact. (Don't worry, I will get to it, I promise.) No, mother is something otherworldly in efficiency, perception, patience, and grace. Mother Mary. Mother Teresa. Mother Jones. Mother Nature. Mother Goose. Mother Hubbard. OK, she might not be a good example. In my initial writing I forgot to mention Mother Necessity and this was pointed out by Cousin Awkward. Can't forget her; won't get anything done around here without her. Mother Necessity or Awkward Cousin. There are actually very few Mothers, but the ones that exist cast huge shadows and loom over the rest of us like silent and slightly disapproving Easter Island heads. The only mother I have any chance of becoming is the one in Psycho; now which Super am I gonna Norman-Bates with my insane crying jags?
Mommy; I flirt with, but never quite land on. Mommys are warm, safe, cuddly, and reassuring. They look natural with a baby on one hip and the other hip propping open the fridge, as they make all natural baby food. The shameful fact that I didn't breast-feed counts me out here right away, and I always think I am over that one but it never really goes away. That bus advertisement I saw yesterday that proclaimed, "Breast-feed babies out perform formula-feed babies on every test in school!" brought it all back to fester in the back of my mind like spoiled formula left in a bottle under the couch. But that is all I am gonna say about that Infant Trifecta debate; you wanna go mess with the Hydra Head that the breast-feeding vs. formula-feeding truly is, then you go to Baby Center and follow one of their threads. Wear protective gear, they get really ugly. But, my real point is, I don't do the baby stuff so hot. My baby-wearing usually results in me calling Awkward Dad in a panic to come free us from the mess of knots I accidentally created. I am now forbidden to cut Super Preschooler's nails because I am "too rough." My lullabies end with my children gently placing their little pudgy hands over my mouth. Sometimes Super Toddler has to tell me that Super Baby needs a diaper change. My boo-boo kisses never work and the Supers have told me flatly that "Daddy is a doctor, he does it better." Basically, I am not warm, cuddly, or safe; unless it is the middle of the night, when Awkward Dad could sleep through an atomic attack and the poor Supers have no choice but to come to me with their nightmares. No, my Mommyness is relegated to the desperate dark.
I am not a Ma. Think about the Mas that you know. Ma Baker. Ma Kettle. Ma Clampett, although, technically, she was a Granny by the time they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. And Grannys are a whole other level of awesome, but Mas come close. Mas can do it all; homestead, hunt, sew, run crime rings, fix the plumbing, do electrical work, roof the house, head the PTA. Mas are fierce protectors and amazing chefs. A Ma probably shot or grew every part of that dinner that she is urging you to eat more of. Tell a Ma that you need a Martha Washington costume by tomorrow and all she will say, as she reaches for her thread, is pre-Revolution or post? Mas are nurturing and masters of tough love; the children of Mas come out of their households with skills and bright futures. Mas raise snowball fight survivors, backyard engineers, and Girl Scouts. My career in the Girl Scouts lasted exactly one year of Brownies, before my Mom was told that "We think Erin has other skills; we don't quite know what they are, but we are fairly sure there is no badge for them." I am no Renaissance Woman. In fact, I am not entirely sure that I would have survived the Dark Ages. My lack of cooking skills is legendary. My sewing skills are rusty. I am scared of the bullies and their moms, and I am terrified of the PTA. My house skills consist of the ability to plunge the toilet and occasionally kicking the boiler. My tree house plans don't get off the ground, my snowballs are never perfectly round, and the only thing I can shoot off is my mouth. I am no Ma. My children are gonna have to acquire all their skills from the mean streets of Ann Arbor. Or, more likely, their father.
There are more Moms than in any of the other groups. Moms are who fill the ranks, Moms are the soldiers of the maternal army. There are subsets therein; my mom at the top with the Major Generals, myself on latrine-duty or something. Moms are part of a well-oiled machine, which isn't to say that they aren't special and unique and perfectly compatible of making me feel like crap in their own special, unique ways. Moms are in charge. They make schedules and sandwiches. They are up before everyone else. They know that the matching left sock to the favorite rainbow pair that you want to wear to school today is under the bed. It isn't clean, but they know it is there. Moms know CPR. Moms do the taxes. Moms aren't afraid of whatever that is growing in the right corner of the fridge. They can help with homework, mostly because they have Wikipedia on their smart phones, but those are merely tools in their arsenal. Moms have tools. Moms have arsenals. Moms have it together. And I am not merely talking about Perfect Moms, although there are plenty of them around. No, I am talking about Moms of every stripe and situation. Trendy moms, nerd moms, healthy moms, couch potato moms, hipster moms, crunchy moms, SUV moms, homeschooling moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, cooking moms, ordering take-out moms, cleaning schedule moms, dusty moms, hoarder moms, the elusive likes-to-clean mom, no-tv moms, 2-hours-of-tv moms, here-is-the-remote-don't-kill-each-other-while-mom-takes-a-nap moms, which brings us to napping moms, no-napping mom, insomniac moms. There are as many types of mom as there are women who become moms, and, today, I can't compete with any of them.

Moms are my peers, but I very often feel left behind or like I am sitting alone at the lunch table. Even with my own mom or my friends, I seem to be the only one who didn't get a manual. Who doesn't have a master plan for my moming. Who can't read a parenting book without yawning and looking around for a good mystery instead. Who can't get it out of my head that I wasn't meant for this, that it is all some big accident, and that someday whoever is in charge of such things is gonna figure it out and show up to take my children away and give them to a real Mom. I feel like an impostor. I was driving the Awkward Mobile the other day when it hit me; "I am the only adult in here. I am actually in charge. Who the hell let this happen?!" I nearly drove off the road. When did I get put in charge of 3 little lives? Isn't someone going to fix this? Don't they know that I am really just 13-years-old inside and self-conscious about my freckles and the fact that my two front teeth are different lengths and afraid to talk to people and unable to spell and lonely a lot and interested in weird things like comic books and what life was like in the 1880s and writing but that I am secretly afraid of the nerds and historical reenactors and writers because I don't think they would like me or think I know enough, so I sit over here and I tell a lot of self-deprecating jokes because if I make fun of me first then you won't have a chance and then my feelings won't get hurt and that I use a lot of run-on sentences. Or run-on questions, which is what that actually started as.

That no one seems to know this boggles my mind. OK, well, I think my children have a pretty good idea, but everyone else seems to think that I am functioning fine and not freaking out because I have no idea what a kindergarten round-up is or don't have the slightest idea how long to sear meat or if bribing children to pee in the potty is ever a good idea. How do you guys not know this about me? I am not hiding this insecurity, like, at all. Could it be that you are all too busy worrying about your own insecurities and imagined shortcomings to pay any attention to mine? .....No, that couldn't possibly be it.

I know about your secret insecurities, Mom. I know everything. 


  1. What's wrong with being an awkward Mom? Maybe that's what makes you so special and especially loveable? You are you - and that's all that counts. We don't want you to be anybody else.

    1. Ah, thanks Mom! I love that I am loveable! :)

  2. Your identity doesn't start and end with the fact that you have kids. This is why I like you. And why your kids are awesome. "Mom" isn't an identity. Its a job title. And lets be honest: we have times at all our jobs when we're A+, gold-star, top performers. And other times when we're skating by with a C, looking over our shoulders while we take a minute to comment on a blog. The concept of motherhood is so fought with fairy tale bull-shit; the best we all can do is ignore everything and re-invent. Turn it inside out. I don't know about you, but I'm going by OMO now, because MOM just seems really played out.

    1. Wise words indeed, Truly. Thank you for giving me some insight here, sometimes I feel like I am beating my head against a wall and a little voice is asking me for apple juice the entire time... I am totally gonna start calling you a OMO. If I ever figure out how to pronounce it. :)

  3. Oh, Awkward Mom, what happened today to set this off? I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed and weepy this morning myself. I think it's a combination of daylight savings time and having to deal with Grammy before 9am.

    I like your different categories of motherliness. I don't fit into any of them either, preferring to take a pinch of this and a smidgen of that (and a lot of my own 'awkward') and mix them all together. But hey, Katie doesn't know the difference and I swear, the Supers don't either. (Despite that all-knowing look that Super Baby has on her face!!)

    And as usual, I agree with your mom (yup, we all know it's her, too!): we like you just the way you are and we don't want you to be anybody else. :)

    1. Oh, that bus probably started it all and then it was a pretty short trip into full-on crazy land. But dealing with anyone before 9am is criminal, so I am not surprised you are overwhelmed, plus, if my glance to the side is correct, I owe your blog a peek to see what is up.

      Super Baby is pretty all knowing, but you are right. They love me as long as I keep them in cheese sticks.

      My mom is so silly, she is never gonna sign that it is her either. Just boldly assume that everyone knows. Of course, everyone does know, which makes it all the better.