Mamas Day: The Supermom Fantasy

A version of today’s post first appeared on the Strong Families Blog as part of the Mamas Day 2014 series. In the words of Kalpana Krishnamurthy, Policy Director of Forward Together, “Mamas Day challenges the notion that mothers are perfect and instead uplifts the universal, very real picture: that all mamas – that don’t fit the Hallmark stereotype – are doing their very best. No matter what we call the people who have nurtured or mothered us, we want to celebrate them all.” Check out Kalpana’s and many other fine posts here

Family Selfie

I have a friend we’ll call Jessica. She is a supermom. She was raised by a supermom. By all indicators, her young daughters will one day be supermoms with theme birthday parties, perfectly organized hair accessory drawers, and pretty children who score above grade level on aptitude tests. We hang out at playdates and sometimes talk about motherhood, moms with paid jobs outside the home (me) vs. moms who stay home with their kids (her), moms who planned to be moms (her) vs. moms who just fell into it (me).

Today my nine-year-old stepson zooms across her backyard on a zipline, his long hair flowing, his orange “Awesome” hoodie stained on the pocket from the strawberry sundae he ate yesterday on the way home from school. My twelve-year-old stepdaughter sits on the highest point in the crook of an oak tree, her long legs dangling, her black high tops like a pendulum mesmerizing the younger girls as she leans down to display the gallery of selfies she taken since her mom got her an iPhone two weeks ago.

I yawn. Last night the boy came to our bed. He had a bad dream. I stumbled him back to his room, tucked him in, and fell asleep, his elbow cocked between my shoulder blades, my head hanging off the mattress.

I wonder out loud how I’d ever manage to care for a newborn.

Jessica says, “It’s different when they’re yours. Our bodies were made for this.”

***

Since marrying Henry, I’ve been asked by more than one friend, neighbor, acquaintance, family member, “When are you going to have a baby?”

“We already have two,” I joke.

The sensitive inquisitors change the subject, but some, failing to see that my reproductive future is none of their business, prod, “I mean your own baby.”

My own baby.

Our bodies were made for this.

***

Before I meet Henry I want children the way little girls want ponies. I picture a fantasy nena with my cinnamon skin and her father’s high cheekbones or doe-like lashes or poet’s hands or insert current beloved’s best feature here. I picture her wrapped in a rebozo at my breast, sleeping, occasionally waking to nurse without causing pain or disfigurement to my breasts.

In my twenties I want this baby more than I want a husband. This says more about the quality of my relationships with men than about my preparedness for motherhood.

In my mid-thirties something shifts. I get tired of dating the same guy over and over again. His name and profession and style change; but the constant is that he loves me best from a distance, loves the idea of me more than the actual complicated, messy me.

I think I love me—and by extension, my fantasy baby in the rebozo—the same way.

I start trusting the voice in me that warns of red flags (first date mentions of a “complicated” relationship with the ex; saying I love you too soon; he can call me, I can’t call him; take your pick), that heavy feeling at the bottom of my heart that knows I shouldn’t be dating this person no matter how beautiful his bone structure or lashes or hands.

***

When I reach home after my first date with Henry—appetizers and drinks at a rooftop patio in Old Town, plans for our second date already in the works—I text my best friend: I want to have his babies.

The mini me in the rebozo has hazel eyes and a goatee.

Henry and I fall—and grow—in love. We date for a year and a half.

And then, while I am on vacation in Mexico, my apartment building burns to the ground.

I return to Albuquerque with my passport, my laptop, and a pink suitcase of clothes. I move into Henry’s house. I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I play Legos, Build-a-Bears, bedroom-turned-grocery store where I can buy toast on a Hello Kitty plate for ninety-nine cents. Tutors, summer camp, chore charts, voice lessons, what do you mean that jacket doesn’t fit you anymore, play dates.

The rebozo baby vanishes. In her place stand two real, live, human children who go back and forth between our house and their mom’s.

Their birthday parties stress me out. They rarely make beds or pick up toys without being reminded. They don’t really like school.

I am not a supermom. My body was not made for that.

I have picked lice from his hair, boiled water for manzanilla that morning her first period came. These real, live children are kind and self-aware. They are honest and brave and funny and in touch with their emotions. They are creative and smart. They see and understand the world in a way that belies their years. And they have allowed me into their home, into their lives and hearts.

I am a writer. My body was made for story, the stories that flow from my pen, and this story—my life, this family, these kids.

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on May 21, 2014 at 11:54 am  Comments (13)  
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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ahhhhhhh! a breath of fresh air!  gracias Querida! 

  2. Wonderful piece, amiga!

  3. Michelle, this is wonderful and filled with love and future. Is it ok to share it with Summers? On another note, not that I am one to correct you in any way, I think you have 3 children. N

    • Thank you, Norty. By all means, yes, please share far and wide.
      3 children, hee-hee 🙂

  4. Super thanks for the props on your blog Michelle! Love the piece and appreciate your collaboration. super hugs to you super friend and super mujer! love adriann

    • Super thanks to you, Adriann, for inviting me to contribute to the Mamas Day blog. I needed to write this piece.

  5. Michelle, I just read it for the third time and I am crying at my desk. a beautiful cry that I obviously needed. Hugs and love to your familia!

  6. Michelle, I love to read your stories.

    • Thank you, friend. I love reading yours.

  7. Michelle, I was just talking with Molly Sturges and she mentioned you (so I looked you up). What a beautiful piece! My wife and I frequently find our bodies don’t always feel so “made for this” in the middle of the night or early morning. But anyone who’s had a parent bail knows that parenting is mostly about showing up for the job. I remind myself when I’m forgetful, short-tempered, and otherwise less than perfect that (at least) I’m here. I’m trying.

    You’re so right that children stand before you, their own being, very real and very much themselves and not all like whatever bucolic still-lifes one might have dreamed up. They’re much more interesting and exhausting than that. The crazy thing about younger kids is that there are never laurels to rest on. They’re not impressed by the work you’ve done or the sacrifices you’ve made. I guess part of selflessness is not expecting a certificate. Your friends, colleagues and neighbors can be indebted to you, but not your kids. Debts can be paid back—this is an entirely different arrangement.

    We take marriage vows once but we still have to decide to do it, to continue doing it, every day. Parenting is the same kind of long-term contract we re-up every damn morning. No pay-backs, pay-offs or buy-outs. No express shipping or expedited service. In a world of convenience, our families teach us that the things that matter aren’t worth circumventing.

    Thanks for inspiring with your writing as well as your continued mom-ness.

    • Thank you, Peter, for your kind words about my post and for your reflections on parenting. Yes, we are here, we are trying.


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