Seven and a half years ago, your naïve spouse drove you to the emergency room with an extra pillow, your favorite movies (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and National Lampoon’s Vacation), a digital camera, and a gender-neutral baby outfit, size: extra-tiny. Fourteen long hours later, you were officially a mother.
You have not relaxed since.
You didn’t relax that time one of your sons was balancing on the top of the TV cabinet. You didn’t relax when your other son catapulted down the playground slide head first. You forgot to relax when one of them (you forget which one now) was choking on carrots. You would’ve maybe relaxed that night last week when both of them fell asleep immediately after bedtime stories, except that one woke up an hour later with a fever and an earache.
Yep, if you want any hard-earned relaxation, it is artificially induced.
Motherhood requires concentration. You must concentrate while you make breakfast (three different variations for three different people), remember to change out the laundry, put gas in the car, pick up the dry cleaning, take the cat to the vet, feed your neighbor’s dog while they’re on vacation, call Visa to convert your mileage points, send your sister’s birthday present, pick up milk at the grocery store, sign up your older son for soccer camp, drive your younger son to music class, and oh, yeah—take a shower. Even one more thing added to your list could cause your brain to explode, or severe global warming.
You try to access deeper parts of your mind to ask the deeper questions, questions like
- What kind of childhood do you want for your kids?
- How can you raise them to be responsible human beings?
- How do you instill a genuine love of reading?
- If you friend your ex-boyfriend on Facebook, will your spouse get really mad or just shake his head and laugh?
The only part of the motherhood equation that does not add up is the free association component. Oh, sure, you now associate with different people than you used to (pediatricians, teachers, toy store employees, Lego store managers, Baby Boutique proprietors, swimming coaches, babysitters, librarians, travel agents who have “Disney Specialist” printed on their business cards), but none of those associations are free. Your bank account continually hovers in the single digits due to the enrichment classes, toys, outfits, pool membership, insurance co-pays, and comic book subscriptions.
One quiet evening, your husband calls you over to the dining room table to witness the kids drawing contentedly (for once). They are engrossed in trying to copy Pokemon figures from their latest magazine. You look at their sweet little faces, and think:
Maybe childhood is hypnotic, too.