The Secret Life of Mothers

I was sitting at a staff meeting today, spending a great deal of concentration on simply keeping my gritty eyes open.

My colleagues were discussing the Alaskan cruise one of them just came back from, talking about how much there is to do on cruises, all the wonderful eating, the entertainment, the swimming, the shopping, the sightseeing – and I just wanted to shake them and shout: “What’s wrong with you people? You take two blessed weeks sequestered away from all earthly commitments, and you don’t just want to SLEEP?”

And then I realized, with a sinking pit of horror yawning beneath me, that there was nothing wrong with them.

There’s something wrong with me.

I now routinely daydream about sleeping. Yesterday I went beyond daydreams to the real thing, nodding off at my desk. The only thing that woke me was that in my dream I dreamed that I fell asleep at the wheel and rear-ended the car in front of me. The crash in the dream-within-a-dream is what woke me, heart racing, only to stare wide-eyed at my policy-ridden computer screen.

It’s enough to make me want to give up my license.

This morning, Bonhomme was bouncing about on the bed while I got dressed, and Dearest starts having a conversation with me from the kitchen. He actually expected me to hear him and respond in a perfectly logical and witty rejoinder (with well-modulated volume). Never mind the screeching toddler one foot away.

Dearest tries again later, again from the kitchen, right as Bonhomme falls down the stairs as I’m getting the stroller out the door.

Dearest stops talking about whatever it was, exasperated, as I kneel down to console my crying toddler and kiss his hands better.

The thing I’ve discovered is that the rest of the world has NO IDEA that I’m communicating with them using at most one tenth of available brain activity. They don’t know the secret life of mothers.

They don’t know that in our heads, almost every square millimeter of space is filled up with screams, the last time the diaper was checked, cries, how many minutes late we are right now, snacks, developmental milestones, the fact that we haven’t taken anything out of the freezer for supper, whining, whether the daycare needs extra changes of clothes or wipes or pull-ups or hats or sunscreen, bobos, and how much we would kill right now for three more hours of sleep.

They don’t realize that so many of the times that we laugh we are trying not to cry.

Our husbands don’t know that when we look at them from across the room and blink in confusion, that we weren’t not paying attention – we’re just trying to remember where in the world we we are right this minute and what do we have to do next and where is the darn kid.

On the weekend, I got to watch half of the movie The Secret Life of Bees before falling asleep on the couch. I have no idea how it ends, having read the book before having had a child (and therefore have had the memory of it subsequently written over due to limited RAM), but I did get to hear Queen Latifah tell me the four bee rules:

  • Don’t be afraid of the bees, but at the same time,
  • Don’t be an idiot – wear what you need to to stay safe.
  • Never ever swat the bees, and most of all,
  • Send the bees love.

These seem applicable to mothers too. I’d change them a wee bit though.

The four mother rules:

  • Don’t be an idiot – mothers follow Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and most of the time, we’re at the bottom. So feed us, and let us get some sleep. And then let us have a night off to go see our friends.
  • Never ever swat us – we swat back.
  • Send us love. Lots of love. And then some more. And some chocolate.
  • And lastly – be afraid. Be very afraid. Because despite having nine tenths of our brains filled with child-related tasks and worries and our bodies running on fumes of caffeine and hormones, we still manage to put intelligent thoughts together while getting everything done. Just imagine what powerhouses we’re going to be when the kids grow a bit more and sleep stops being a reward.

Some day, an Alaskan cruise is not going to sound like a foreign concept – or a joke.

Some day, coffee will be an indulgence, not a necessity.

Some day, self-actualization will be within reach once again.

But until then, I’m going to keep on kicking ass – occasionally with my eyes closed.

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3 comments so far

  1. Moosilaneous on

    And indeed you do kick ass!
    but – MMMMmmmm- sleep.
    My admin person saw me come in this morning and immediately started the coffee, I so seriously looked like I could use it.

  2. Cutie Booty Cakes on

    Thanks for sharing and I can totally relate!

  3. Lynn on

    Loved this post! Keep on kicking ass, girl.


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