I never set out to be a mom. I never said, “You know what might be fun? To drive short people to sporting events and birthday parties, wash dishes constantly, fold skyscrapers made of laundry, and not get paid for it.” Yet somehow, that is where my life is now.
Don’t get me wrong, Momship membership has its rewards. The day I discovered I was pregnant with my first son, Covert Mom Skills started developing.
First, it was little things, like a sense of smell to rival a drug-sniffing U.S. customs dog at the airport. I could smell a barbeque six blocks away. Afraid some yogurt’s gone bad? Give me a whiff and we’ll have your answer. Need to know if the cantaloupe is ripe, or if there’s a fire in the next city? I’m your gal. The downside was pretty much all my favorite foods (I’m talking to you, strawberry ice-cream!) suddenly made me nauseous. Very soon I realized why God bestows this skill to new mothers: to make us aware of imminent diaper change emergencies.
Another skill that appeared involuntarily was the completely unnecessary talent of knowing the exact age of any child under the age of ten. I see a baby at the high-end kitchen store, perform a quick assessment of estimated height, weight, and number of teeth, and instantaneously announce, “Is your baby, what, 13 months old?” Parents are always impressed and amazed with this simple trick. I find it to be a superfluous skill, sort of like owning an assortment of 22 oven mitts (do I really need 22 in varying shades of blue and gray and tan? And yet, take a look in my pantry at home and there they are).
I could suddenly catch things. After a lifetime of fumbling with and clumsily dropping balls, groceries, boxes, books, keys, sunglasses, I could now—even with my eyes closed—actually catch any of these items when they were tossed to me (sometimes simultaneously) and hold onto them with an unbidden Velcro grip.
Shortly after giving birth, the sympathy skill showed up. I would find myself waiting to pay at Target, listening to a screaming infant (not my own) behind me, and instead of wanting to strangle the mother, I would turn around and say with genuine compassion and kindness in my voice, “Poor thing! Is he colicky? And is he, what, four months old?”
The patience skill arrived right on schedule. Me, previously known to hang-up on someone if they dared put me on hold for 10 seconds, morphed into the most patient person in the universe. I could now wait in the bank drive-up line for twenty minutes without batting an eye. I’d pull up to the teller window and say, “No problem on the wait time! Didn’t even notice! And by the way, I think the cream in your coffee’s gone bad.”
Another Covert Mom Skill that I did not expect was the ability to withstand being punched in the face by a toddler, or vomited on by a newborn. Bruises on my eyes, smelly stained shirt, who cares? I was immune to pain or embarrassment. I would find out later that these were valuable traits to have, especially as the teen years draw closer.
Social ease is a Mom Skill I acquired effortlessly. Even if the previously childless me would have thought I had zero in common with a lady at the park who had 17 tattoos, was wearing skin-tight bike shorts, and had her neon blue hair tucked neatly under a baseball cap with the words “Pro-Wrestlers, We Hold On Tight All Night” emblazoned on the front, now I could easily strike up a conversation about our children’s antics. We might even become BFF.
I became very very good at fixing things. Broken Hot Wheels cars, stuck Legos, dried out markers, stuffed animals with rips in their “fur,”—if my kids could break it, I could repair it. Sometimes I think I should start a side business to at least get paid for this talent.
I was leaving my corner drug store the other day when I realized I have another skill that I hadn’t bargained for: locating items. A random woman mistook me for an employee, asked me where something was—and I knew! I started to think about all the other times that had happened in recent years: thousands. I can walk into a mall I’ve never been in before, and like some sort of deranged victim of reverse amnesia, I can tell you where the closest restroom, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, and Macy’s is. This is a new one, even for me. I can enter a grocery store and in less than two minutes, find animal cookies, overnight diapers, and Tylenol. I am a walking GPS.
There is a dark side to this new skill set: invisibility. I walked into the dry cleaners the other day to drop off some of The Husband’s suit jackets. The attractive man at the counter called “Next!” and looked right past me. I turned around and noticed a beautiful woman, probably in her early 20’s smiling at him. Ah, she had her own covert skill: youth.