Now And Then
I never thought I'd say this, but I miss being pregnant. If someone told me a year ago I'd be saying this, I would have squirted Metamucil out of my nose, I'd have laughed so hard.
To me -- as I've attested time and time again -- pregnancy is equivalent to having sharp needles inserted under my fingernails, hot oil dripped on my back or some other form of torture -- except with the torture, your bladder gets to stay the same size. So why the change of heart? Because I realize as a parent, I'm mediocre at best. But I was a great pregnant person.
Pregnancy, when compared to parenthood, is actually pretty easy. You know exactly what you need to do, even if you're the clueless type. For instance, if you're so dense that you've somehow missed one of the five zillion ads regarding smoking and pregnancy, or alcohol and pregnancy, there are a ton of books on the market that pretty much agree on the basics: Take your prenatal vitamins, go to your doctor's appointments, avoid putting chemicals into your body and gain a reasonable amount of weight. What's so tough about that?
Sure, you have to deal with unpleasantries like disappearing waistlines, disappearing belly buttons and disappearing brain cells, but contrast those minor annoyances with the oh-so-wonderful world of parenting. When it comes to raising real, live kids, even the so-called experts can't agree on what a mom's to do. Case in point: For every expert advocating time-outs as the ultimate discipline tool, there's at least five more who swear on their stack of Dr. Spock books that time-outs are single-handedly responsible for turning more kids into high school deviants than any other parenting gaffe.
So now I look back fondly on those magical days of being a parent-in-waiting. During that period, I was the model mother -- in my brain, at least. I'd make these long lists of all the things I'd do, and all the things I'd avoid like the plague once my little one made his entrance. Just for the record, by official count, I've now broken every single one of these commandments, including "Thou shalt use cloth diapers," "Thou shalt forbid thy child from sleeping in his clothes," "Thou shalt not feed thy child cold pizza for breakfast," and "Thou shalt not view McDonald's as a legitimate food group."
If I, as a pregnant person, had viewed me, as a flesh-and-blood mom, I think I'd have had Jerry Springer on the phone in no time flat. For despite my resolutions, I've become one of those women you see cruising the aisles of Wal-Mart in a daze, an opened box of Little Debbie cakes in one hand and a super-jumbo-sized pack of Pampers for her not-yet-potty-trained 3-year-old child in the other, promising her son French fries, money, firecrackers or other incendiary devices, if only he'll let stop hitting the baby on the head with his Buzz Lightyear action figure and let her finish the shopping in relative peace.
How have I descended so far from my early dreams of homemaking bliss? The decline is not easy to trace. My standards just kept slipping, little by little, until suddenly I woke up and realized there's not all that much difference between Roseanne and me. Well, that is, exclusive of her tendencies to crotch-grab, husband-hop and personality-switch. At the end of a long day, I too consider my on-the-job performance a success if the kids are still alive.
I admit, there are times I'd rather be a Martha Stewart mom -- who wouldn't? But if parenting has taught me anything, it has taught me there's more to life than perfectly stenciled, sponge-painted walls and homemade, heart-shaped pancakes with real maple syrup.
There is, for example, blowing off chores and spending an entire Saturday afternoon, swathed in pillows and blankets, watching the Disney Channel as a family. There's occasionally forgetting the food pyramid and eating Ben & Jerry's for lunch. And there's sometimes going against your parenting rules and promising your kid just about anything if he'll let you finish talking on the phone, cleaning the house or going to the bathroom.
Maybe, in a way, I'm actually a better mom than I'd be if I followed that stifling, exhaustive list of do's and don'ts I compiled years ago. And if not better, at least more fun. But that said, I sure wouldn't mind some steaming-hot pancakes every now and then. Maybe Roseanne and I can round up the kids and head on over to McDonald's.