“You make motherhood look so easy!”
Said a friend one day. A very kind and well-meaning friend. His statement took me aback and overwhelmed me with this odd mixture of guilt and gratification. I plopped my 14-month-old down to eat in the middle of a lively party. She calmly picked her black beans, one by one, and shoved them hungrily into her mouth without a fuss.
Frankly, I don’t remember how I responded. I don’t recall if I said thank you, or told him truthfully that motherhood simply wasn’t easy. I might have not said anything at all. I do remember, for a split second, trying to see myself from his point of view. There I was in my nicest jersey knit dress, makeup on my face, my hair actually done in gentle soft waves, toting around a baby/toddler creature and peacefully watching her eat. The truth was I was blessed with a good eater. The truth was that I locked myself in the bathroom for 30 minutes while I told Chris, the birthday celebrant, to watch our daughter so I could make myself look decent for his party. The truth was, I have never washed that nice jersey knit dress and if my friend were to look close enough he would see coffee stains on it. The truth was, I hadn’t washed my hair in three days and that’s why it was mysteriously wavy maybe thanks to the avocado and banana caked between my strands. The truth was, and is, and will always be, that motherhood/parenthood is just not that easy. It’s pretty, boringly, disgustingly, sleeplessly, insanely, loudly, stinkily, randomly, colorfully, outright difficult.
My dear friend doesn’t see the times I spend grumpily wiping the fruit stained handprints off the “stainless steel” refrigerator while Josephine sits in front of the TV to watch her second episode of Sesame Street. He doesn’t see the naptime battles, or the grocery store tantrums, or the times Josephine picked up or landed on dog poop in the backyard because for a moment I didn’t have my eyes on her and my reflexes weren’t quick enough. Sometimes I secretly let her eat cheerios off the floor. One time, she rolled off our bed and fell, with a loud and scary thud, onto the hardwood floor. We were both there, and we both regret not being fast enough to catch her. I’m sure had someone seen those moments, they would have thought, man — they are lousy parents.
But my friend paid me a very high compliment, and I knew that by his choice of words in saying that I make motherhood “look easy” implied that he knew it wasn’t easy, but in that moment I appeared to be a Happy Domestic Goddess Supermom who hopped gracefully off the cover of the front page of a Superb Parenting magazine. (side note: I really hate those magazines.)
So I guess my response to his rather far-reaching compliment is a simple thank you. Mothers (parents and caregivers in general) are far too often left unrecognized and under-appreciated for the multitude of roles and odd jobs they take on. As difficult as it is for me to receive such a compliment, I will take it, because it won’t get any easier. It gets harder. But we get better at this parenting gig. And the baby will grow up to be an adult one day, and she still might accidentally land in dog poop. (I mean, even I still do.) It’ll all be okay, because I’m confident we’re doing our best.
So, dear compliment-paying friend, one day when you plop your toddler down to eat and he miraculously obliges with minimal mess in front of a dozen or so people, and someone nearby watching says, “Dude, you make fatherhood look easy,” pat yourself on the back, because you’ll finally understand the weight of such a compliment.