It was 10:30pm. I lay there on the floor in front of the fireplace, too exhausted to move and thankful for the peaceful sound of nothing. My arm, though bony, was a good pillow for my head, which had not been combed since the morning before. My dog was chewing on something expensive, like a shoe or a checkbook, and the cat was making a hlurping noise from his place in the laundry room (a.k.a., Hairball Central).
This was the moment that the question surfaced to my cotton-filled brain: “Why do I smell like pee?”
As a mostly single working mom, I could lie to you and say that this was a strange thought to come bubbling up from my subconscious. It is not. This question, along with many others, define what it’s like to be doing too much for too little and on too few brain cells. Here are some other questions that the legion of haggard, feminine zombies are often called on by the great laughing forces of the universe to answer.
1. Why did you put that in your (insert orifice here)??
No, frozen peas do not belong in your ears and dog turds don’t belong in your mouth. And pudding CERTAINLY does not belong in a diaper. Yet, moms across the globe must utter the words to put these actions into question. Indeed, perhaps there is a reason for the toy soldier in the dog’s butt, but it’s not one that belongs in the adult world. It belongs in the mom world, and is usually followed by a high-temperature disinfection process for the child and a really nice snack for the dog.
2. Where is the hairbrush?
Perhaps you have a home where things stay where they are put when you put them down. You may not know this, but you live in a strange pocket of reality where clearly no small humans tread. In the rest of the world, tiny hobgoblins pick up random, vital parts of your life and move them for NO APPARENT REASON. Do you need to drive to the store? Rest assured, your keys are not where you put them. They are at the bottom of a bucket full of sand and assorted hairballs that your 3-year-old found interesting. The hairbrush? It has been spirited away into strange vortex that has developed between your 11-year-old, 15-year-old, and 17-year-old: The Puberta Triangle.
3. How did you get up there?
Do not ask this question, good gentles. Therein lies madness.
Okay, so you clearly put your 2-year-old in his crib and gave the allotted songs, warm milk, and stuffed animals to ensure that he is safely napping. What surprise and horror to find that, only a few minutes later, he has found his way ON TOP OF THE COUNTER. You worry that he may have contracted some Spiderman virus from a radioactive donut and is shooting webbing from his footie pajamas. You are probably right. The best thing for you to do is spray your countertops with Teflon and teach him how to fight crime.
4. What do you mean, “hobbies”?
It’s not your fault that other people have time to do things. You have your hands full with being second-hand Barbie – Not only do you have to be the doctor, veterinarian, teacher, cab driver, and chef, your hair is always full of gunk and someone has written something on your leg in sharpie.
Hardcore mom-ing means that you don’t have a lot of time for hobbies. All those books you bought to read? Holding up the bum end of the broken table. All those fancy cake pans you bought? Last-minute macaroni bowls for when you run out of clean dishes. It’s okay, though. You can always do it after the kids go to bed and before you pass out still wearing your bra. Who says genius can’t be cultivated in 5-minute increments?
5. What am I doing wrong?
Ooooohhhhhhhh, sister. If you’re doing your best to love your family and keep yourself sane, you ain’t doing nothing wronger than the rest of us.
Guess what? Whether you’re single, working, hiring an au pair or using Minecraft to put your kids to sleep, you are probably doing the best you know how to do. Sure, the kids think that “home-cooked meal” means you brought the McDonald’s back to the house. You’re not a bad mom.
I firmly believe that it is our job as parents to make mistakes. Yes, we will miss important Band concerts. We will forget the name of our daughters’ creepy boyfriend. We will likely put salt in the pie where we were supposed to put sugar. But, we will screw up in ways that will make laughter possible. We will make the mistakes that encourage our children to do better and be wiser than we are. These are the scars that they earn honestly, the ones that they will take with them and use to build a better future for everyone.
So, you smell like pee. That’s okay. So do I. For whatever reason, it’s who we are right now. All those questions that run through our heads and out of our mouths are jewels. They are markers to prove we are creating memories that will bind our families to us for a lifetime. And if all that costs is a little sleep and a heavy dousing of perfume, I still think it’s a pretty good investment.