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Saturday, 01 January 2000

Real (Working) Mom

Written by  Sherri Mandell

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I worked part-time until my oldest was 12. I was there every morning and afternoon. I found it tough going. I don't know any mother who doesn't.

The need for food, comfort, talk, activity.

When they were little, I made up games where they ran into me and I pushed them down with a pillow. They loved it.

They kept running back.

I would hum Kachatorian's the Hungarian Sword Dance. I'd sing and let them spin.

I came up with activities I never knew existed. Playing with tampons, playing with spoons.

Love is a struggle: A constant challenge to remain calm, patient, available, kind, firm, and gentle.

I spent half the day giving out food and the other half cleaning up. The washing machine was thumping --the phone was ringing-the kids were painting the table-the dishwasher was humming, the baby was burping, the dog was barking, the blender was blending. In short, sheer pandemonium.

It was tough. I was tired. But I was there. From cockcrow to last bath.

Now my kids are a bit older. I work full time. When I speak to my children after they return from school, it's on the telephone. I talk them through making pizza in the microwave, urge them to after school activities, and encourage dog walking. I negotiate sibling disputes.

I drink a coffee. I look at the pictures of my kids on my desk. I'm a great mother. I never ever yell. I am calm, relaxed and authoritative.

In short, I'm a different person. Telephone mom!
At the end of almost every phone call I tell them I love them.

But real life is something different. Real life is much more complicated. Real life teaches you. Real like can't be reduced to a four letter word like love.

At home I'm not always telling them I love them.

At home, I'm living it.

And living it is not always pleasant.

Living it is children painting a salt concoction on the newly upholstered chair,

Kids fighting over wearing each other's socks,

And the dog eating the couch.

All of it there for the taking-and the leaving.

Love is a struggle: A constant challenge to remain calm, patient, available, kind, firm, and gentle.

If only I could parent long distance, life would be much easier.

But parenting is not a long distance proposition.

Just like a writer is somebody who writes, not somebody who talks about writing, a parent is somebody who parents. And real parenting doesn't happen over the phone wires, any more than real sex does.

Parenting happens at home. Where I am not the perfect mother. Where I am not a disembodied voice on the phone. Where I am human: fallible, tired, grouchy, and loving. Where the best and the worst and the in-between vie to be champions of my day-and of my children's days.

Still the mommying gets done. Like when you don't eat during the day, you end up eating all night. Children demand their fair share of parenting. When I can't give enough to my children during the day, I have to make up for it at night. Which means no down time for me. Which means that I do all my mommying on the second shift. Which means homework, baths, emotional nurturing, physical comforting, cuddling, fighting, and crying at night.

Even when their father is home, they wait for me. They need mommy to decompress, to download, to pour out their little hearts to.

Only real mommy will do.

Because parenting is being with children.

And we parents need our children to teach us


Last modified on Tuesday, 01 November 2011 08:06
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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

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