Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Hardest Job on Earth Is a Mother!

HEAD’S UP: Yours Truly is still in North Louisiana trying to be the best patient advocate possible for my ailing Ma Ma. I arrived a few days after Old Girl was admitted to hospital on 31 January in atrocious shape. While much better, she is not yet well enough for me to return to Gotham where there are at least eight million stories. Dutiful daughter that I am, I remain in the southern branch of the family seat. Happily, I do have stories. And I plan to tell them.

THE other day when I was home for a quick bite and power nap before my next errand, I turned on the TV to catch the “Oprah” show, already in progress. Because the Big O has been on a mission for years to make the world a better place, I tune in to watch and cheer her deed du jour if I am near a TV. The day’s show featured interior designer Nate Berkus taking on the chores of a stay-at-home mom of three, to presumably understand whether he could do it and/or to show America what it entails.

Allow me to take this opportunity to assert that Motherhood is the most difficult job any of us will ever undertake. I am not a mother, but I have observed motherhood in action. I am in awe. Never, ever do I fail to declare to women who describe themselves as “just a housewife” aka stay-at-home mom that they are not “just” "a" “housewife.” They are demigoddesses: teachers, tutors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners, pediatricians, personal shoppers, designers, seamstresses, policewomen, lawyers, judges, CFO’s, chauffeurs, chefs, maids and so on. Who else can take on all of these roles, except a good mother?

In any case, NB was the mother for an afternoon of three kids. Two of them were school age and one an adorable, well-behaved 2-year-old. To say he was SuperCrazyBusy is an understatement. I still marvel that he got through the day with his sanity intact, and so did he.
Nate Berkus and 2-year-old toddler B. Photo courtesy of Harpo Productions Inc.

Incidentally, NB is one of the “most nicest” guys you will ever meet – even when the cameras aren’t rolling. Last year, he kindly allowed me to sit at his table at a fundraiser hosted by Donna Karan et al. when he learned that someone took my seat at another table. He was a congenial host who put everyone at ease, and he included me in the conversation. After the event was over he saw me home in a taxi. I’ve since ran into him at a couple of events, and he was similarly as sweet as pie.

Watching NB swim against the tide as Mr. Mom got me to thinking about my situation here in Monroe. Since I got my driver’s license a few weeks ago, I have been running around like an Energizer Bunny – but with not nearly as much energy – trying to get things done for my mother and the odd errand for myself, like pay my Chase credit card bill. Mind, I don’t have children or a husband – only my mother who lives in a nursing home, thus relieving me of myriad responsibilities. I do, though, have a house to clean and alas, am only doing a barely passable job. I must confess to turning the oven into a receptacle for dirty pots and pans. My outside job is running VEVLYN’S PEN, which has been in the dark until very recently – a luxury I can enjoy because I am the boss.

Still, I am dog-tired. Sleep has become a luxury. I go to bed late and wake up early. Where do the hours go? Everyday, around 5, I realize with sadness and pessimism how much I did not get done. It seems that I only complete three or four errands a day. How is that possible for someone up and running at 7:30?

When I watch shows like “Ambush Makeover” and “10 Years Younger,” I am shocked at the appearance of the participants, mostly women. Most are either housewives, moms who also work outside the home and women who may or may not work outside the home but who also care for a sick or infirm loved one. They look bad. Bad! Countless times the reason is, “I let myself go,” because there was no time to do personal grooming when there were so many others to look after. While trying not to be judgmental, I was always saying under my breath, “Girlfriend, surely you can do better than this.”

The last few weeks have shown me that I am less sure that they can do better. I’m also not so certain that given the same circumstances I wouldn’t be a sight, too (not one for sore eyes). My edges have begun to fray. I have not been going to the gym because I tend to work out in the mornings, and that is when my errands must be done. By 5 o’clock I am too tired to think about step class. I’ve also worn a few garments that while, not dirty, are not clean. Thank God for dark clothes. And it’s easier to just gather my hair in a rubber band and keep it moving. I've taken to using my toothbrush to floss my teeth. My eyebrows really need some attention. I have not cooked in a week. At night, I forage in the refrigerator for whatever I can eat without much fuss. Red-pepper hummus spread on wheat bread, with sauteed cabbage and carrots on the side can hit the spot in a pinch.

I have far less to do than the aforementioned women. Yet, I can feel myself going and I can’t stop myself from going. It stands to reason, then, that if a woman has children, parents, a husband, house and an outside job competing for her time and energy, she may look frightful.

Like NB, I see the light.

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