Mirrors and Motherhood: Why It’s Best To Not Look Too Closely


mirrorIt’s that time of year for those Mother’s Day commercials featuring happy, shiny moms who can wipe tears and bums in one fell swoop. The cards filled with sentiments about ever-supportive moms who selflessly give their kids the world wrapped up in chocolate chip cookie dough.

This Mother’s Day hype makes me feel like it’s January 2nd and I’m stark naked trying on swimsuits in a dressing room with fat mirrors and bad lighting. Like shopping for bathing suits, motherhood is better if we don’t examine our reflections too closely.

I’ve made three people. This fact is undisputed. I see them every day and I am pretty sure they are the same kids I started with, although one does seem way too happy to have come out of my womb. The phrase “making people” sums up my attitude about having children—they truly are their own beings.  I do not view them as “mine” in the sense that I “own” them because most things I own are not able to systematically lose or break all the other things I own.

I believe children come out fully cooked personality-wise. When I read my kids’ baby books, I realize that the personality traits I said about them then are the same ones I can say about them today. I don’t really have much control in that department, yet they make their own choices that bring out their uniqueness.

This insight might make me sound like I am confident in my parenting skills, but I mainly rely on the “they are who they are” theory when I’m drowning in guilt over my parental failures such as only serving food that come out of a cardboard box, being accused of always saying “the wrong thing” in a crisis or for resorting to fart jokes when the wrong thing has been said.

Speaking of fart jokes, my son, who is 13, says I’m sooooo immature (is it possible to be more immature than a 13-year-old boy?). He wonders why I can’t be a “normal” mom so the other day I tried my best, asking him serious questions about his science test and his hockey game without breaking into a song parody about how I’m going to make him read works of Shakespeare over summer vacation. To my relief, he didn’t like “normal mom” and released me from that burden.

Maybe he’s right. I’m 47 years old and still too immature to be a parent. I never came up with the right formula to “do it all” with a smile. I yell. I bitch. I moan. I cry. I do too much. I don’t do enough. I don’t always act like “everything will be alright” because I’m not always sure of that myself. I love them from the inside out and I definitely don’t tell them enough.

Yet my kids are pretty damn good despite my interference. I am proud that I ushered them into this world and hope that I have not become fodder for years of therapy to come. And it’s at those paranoid moments I am reminded that it’s not about me. It’s about them.

It doesn’t matter how I look in the motherhood swimsuit. What matters is taking the plunge, jumping in and getting wet.

Pancakes: The Redemption of Motherhood


I have been an inattentive mother. Granted I have a 21, 18 and a 13-year-old that don’t need me to wipe their noses or take them to the playground, but they still need my attention and my support, as we all do to be shiny, happy people who know that we are loved.

I have been working excessively for months, getting involved in many outside projects and spending a lot of time in my room on my computer as if I’m an air traffic controller that can’t leave her post for one second or imminent death will occur.

I believe I’m doing it for their benefit (money) but in reality, it does have a lot to do with my own issues, trying to shove my way into new opportunities. I’ve got my eye so focused on the prize that I am not noticing the kid who is tugging on my skirt for attention or advice.

This ah-ha moment came when for one of my many outside projects, I had to do a Q&A. One of the questions: “Ask the child in nearest proximity to you what he/she thinks of you in ten words or less.”

My 13-year-old son was that child. His answer:

A high achiever with extraordinary ethics.

Sounds impressive at first, doesn’t it? As I waited for my call about receiving the Nobel Prize, I started thinking, was this a job interview or a heart-to-heart about how my son felt about his mom? Where was the unconditional love? The never-ending listening? The always available for me?

So I devised a plan that guaranteed to propel me back into the kids’ good graces.


I got up before the younger ones went to school and whipped up a batch. (Not from scratch mind you, but mixing water and powder is one of my few culinary skills.) Big, fluffy pancakes, butter sizzling to create that golden brown goodness. These flapjacks went over so well it was like I was giving them ponies for their birthdays.

Happiness and carbs filled the house. Motherhood was making a comeback. Nothing rebuilds a relationship better than the starch that binds.

The next day, pancakes were requested and I was happy to oblige. Then the next. And the next. I felt so maternal, nourishing my children straight into elastic pants.

But it was quickly losing its magic. Everything in the house was sticky with syrup. The dog waited at my feet for her serving. I started eating them, too, despite my skinny-jean, anti-pancake stance. My daughter was afraid that she wouldn’t fit into her prom dress. My husband was sick of cleaning up the batter bowl. (Did I mention I don’t clean either?)

It’s been a week now and I’m pancaked out. My son requested them again this morning. I declined. He decided to make his own scrambled eggs and asked for my guidance. He was so proud he said, “I feel like a normal person who can make something to eat for myself.”

Now that’s a real mom’s job. Not making your kid pancakes per se, but making your kid feel like a competent human being who can feed himself without your intervention.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll make dinner.

Free Digital Photo by Mister GC

Only a mother, but not Whoopi Goldberg


During my childhood, my brother, sister and I each had a portrait hanging in all their 4-foot-by-3-foot glory on the living room wall, like we were the royal family.

In my portrait, I am a debutante-in-waiting, sitting tall in a pale pink, puffy-sleeved dress, waiting for my carriage to arrive.

Little Me

Little Me

My sister’s picture is angelic, with her flowing in waves of blonde curls and rose chiffon, waiting to fly into the heavens.


My angelic sister

And then there’s my brother’s.

Don't say your mother never did anything for you.

Don’t say your mother never did anything for you.

This dandy fellow’s portrait is the total brainchild of my mother.

Mom still remembers the moment she spotted the green and orange plaid suit in the local kiddie boutique and thought, “This is perfect for my red-headed son.”

However, she does not take credit for the pose and the nickname it inspired. “The photographer put him in that chair and your brother put his finger up like he was smoking a cigar.” she says. “So we called him Winston Churchill.”

It’s a legendary picture that no one can deny—no one except for Whoopi Goldberg.

Twenty years later, Little Winston Churchill worked in advertising in New York City. His agency was working on a Mothers Day campaign for Flooz.com with Whoopi as the spokesperson. After holding an office baby photo contest, my brother was chosen as the face of the campaign.

The copy: “Don’t say your mother never did anything for you.”

The ad men were confident they had a slam dunk with Little Winston front and center and Whoopi’s endorsement across the bottom. It bombed. Whoopi did not appreciate being upstaged by an elf, and she went all diva on his little orange behind.

When the ad came out, it was full-page Whoopi. The art department’s process ruined the original portrait and they paid $2000 to have it digitally restored. Flooz.com went out of business soon after.

But the real casualty is my mother’s shattered dream. She was so proud that her son and the suit were on their way to 15 minutes of fame. She told me the ad man said he was saving it to use one day.

She’s still waiting.

In honor of my participation in the Listen to Your Mother performance in St. Louis on May 9, I will be posting a series on motherhood. LTYM is a national program to “give motherhood a microphone” and I am so proud to be a part of it. I hope you check it out and come back for more stories.