When I dropped you off at preschool this morning I noticed a big poster they’d put up on the wall outside the classroom. It had two columns, headed with the questions, “What does Daddy do?” and “What does Mommy do?”. Down the side was a list of all the kid’s names.
I scanned down the list to your responses. What does Daddy do? He works on computers. What does Mommy do?
That’s it, just “Dishes”. It should be funny and in a way, it is. But there’s a part of me that just got sad and pissed off and embarrassed all at once. Dishes? That’s how you see me, sweetheart? As a glorified cleaning lady?
Now granted, I’m really glad you didn’t say, “She naps while we watch TV all day” or “She sneaks all the cookies after telling me I can’t have any”. But still, baby girl, there’s a whole lot more to being Mommy than washing out baby bottles. (I wash out wine glasses, too.)
Here is what I do, sweetheart. I’m the one who brushes your hair in just the right way so the tangles come out without hurting you. I sit and listen intently every day to the intricate dance of preschool playground politics, most of which I don’t even understand except that a lot of it ends with someone getting a princess band-aid and you begging to have one, too.
I’m the one who knows you won’t eat apricot jam. I know you don’t like apples, but you will eat them if they’re cooked up in oatmeal or muffins or homemade applesauce. Strawberries, however, are a deal breaker.
Not to put too fine a point on it, kiddo, but I’m also the one who carries an extra pair of panties around in my purse for you… just in case.
I know when picture day is, when birthday parties and parent teacher conferences are, what antibiotic you took the last time you had an ear infection and which band-aid has a real booboo and which one is just for show. I take you to the dentist and the pediatrician. When you get shots or have your blood drawn, I’m right there holding you, making you laugh so you barely notice the needles.
I’m not going to lie, sweetheart. I also watch the clock some days so I can pour a glass of wine right at 5:30 and then count the minutes until your Daddy gets home (from his “real” job). There are moments when I’m about two seconds away from investing in some very effective ear plugs. My days are long and loud and it’s not all happy shiny mothering perfection all the time. I get annoyed, too. You know my hot buttons like no one else in the world— except your brother and sister, of course. I think the three of you were born with a “how to push Mama to the edge” manual.
But for all the times I’ve lost my temper, honey, there are a hundred more times where I took a deep breath and kept it together so that we could both get through the moment without tears. Because guess what, baby? All those times I’ve yelled too loud and too much and made you cry? I cry, too.
I’m the one who worries. About everything. EVERYTHING.
I’m the one who says no when you need me to, even though you never think that’s what you need. I promise you I don’t want to. It’d be so much easier to say yes and make you smile. I love your smile.
I pull you close when I see you’ve gone beyond shy into downright frozen, regardless of where we are and who’s watching. But I make you step out on your own sometimes, too, even if you’re scared, even though I just want to protect you from all the big world pushing down on you.
And yes, baby, I do dishes, too. Lots of dishes and laundry and cooking and grocery shopping. But those are the easy things.
The hardest part of what I do, honey, has nothing to do with housework and dishpan hands. The hardest part is letting you figure things out on your own when my crushing instinct is to be there beside you and keep you happy and safe and whole. The hardest part of being Mommy is giving you the room to grow into the amazing woman you’re going to be while always making sure you know I’ve got your back.
That’s what I do, sweetheart. But I understand that the dishes are just easier to see right now and that’s okay, too.