Mommie dearest

Why I'm trading my typewriter for diapers and drool cloths

In my next fantasy, I'm running home before lunch to rescue my 16-month-old from his daily diet of old Barney tapes, which he watches over and over and over while my devoted housekeeper Bea changes the beds, folds the wash, scrubs the tub, and puts a chicken in the oven for dinner--all before loading the baby into the car to head north to fetch the older siblings from school.

Then there's the one where I'm smiling as I hold a metal cookie cutter aloft and mouth the words "OF COURSE I CAN, DARLING" as my six-year-old looks at me plaintively and asks for the 26th time this year: "Can't you come volunteer in the cafeteria like the other kids' moms?"

So that's it--those are the reasons I'm taking a year-long leave of absence from column writing. I'm going to smell the coffee, drink the wine, crack the novel, don the apron, and be--oh, this would be sweet--the first one to walk into the children's department for Neiman's Last Call.

By the time you read this, I'll be at the Discovery Zone. I'll be slopping hash--in an ugly hair net, if necessary--in my kid's lunchroom. I'll be yanking the baby out of the high chair and taking him, well, anywhere--the zoo, the mall, maybe even Dallas City Hall. I'm not talking about the reflecting pool on the City Hall plaza, though. No, I want my kid to get his first gander at what Mommy used to write about--say, esteemed public servant Chris Luna as he yammers into his telephone, advising a North Dallas topless bar to buy a certain type of nipple pasties so it can successfully circumvent city ordinances prohibiting lewdness and nudeness. For this favor--I will explain to the baby--Mr. Luna has received a beach vacation invitation and a $5,000 campaign contribution from the titty-bar owner.

Now that's an education Barney can't provide.
No, I'm not writing another thing until I've done at least one insufferably cute birthday party, complete with face painting, heart-shaped sandwiches, and a candy hunt on the front lawn.

I'm not coming back to this space until I sit in a dark theater with two kids and three boxes of popcorn watching 101 Dalmatians at three in the afternoon on a school day.

I'm not putting pen to paper until I can be one of those women I've always wanted to pluck to death with a sharp pair of tweezers--you know, the ones poised delicately on the couch at Borders books in perfectly pressed denim skirts on a rainy Monday afternoon, enjoying their second cup of cappuccino as they read a beautifully illustrated children's book to their impeccably dressed and ridiculously well-behaved toddler. (You remember me, don't you lady? I'm the frantic one tearing past you in search of the latest edition of the Fort Worth Mapsco because my 1989 version doesn't list the suburban street of Michael Irvin's old girlfriend, who lives there with their illegitimate child.)

People who know me, of course, think that my surprise foray into domesticity proves only one thing--that I'm out of my goddamned mind.

"You--a full-time, stay-at-home mom?" they say. "You--pressing tulip bulbs into spring soil; holding the baby's little hand as he squats on his play toilet; penning pleasant thank-you notes on pastel-colored notepaper? (I do hereby take this opportunity to apologize to all my children's friends who, over the past three years, have logically come to believe that their unacknowledged birthday gifts simply disappeared into some big, black sinkhole in my backyard.)

My editor, Glen Warchol, upon hearing the surprise announcement that I was taking off the rest of the year to fawn over the children, offered this sober analysis of my future: "You'll either be back here in six months, begging us to let you back in the paper, or you'll be drinking vodka out of tumblers and having an affair."

Now that's a vote of confidence.
What was I going to do, Warchol asked in wonderment, with all the free time I was suddenly going to have on my hands? Well, here's an admission or two: I haven't sent out holiday cards in four years (several old friends have now totally given up on ever hearing from me). I haven't cracked a cookbook in four years. I haven't balanced my checkbook in three years (hello, NationsBank). I haven't settled family health insurance claims in one year. I haven't touched two big boxes filled with my kids' snapshots and school memorabilia--all of which need to be glued into the three completely empty scrapbooks I bought when each of my children was born. And finally, I have done nothing about that mysterious, night-biting yard critter who has spent two long years feasting on my backyard row of once-healthy acubas.

Until the third child came along, I thought all this chaos was OK--a badge of honor, really, for the noble working woman. Sure, I loved my husband and kids, but my love for my work was so strong that I never, not for a moment, considered giving it up or scaling back.

A mere two years ago, I had complete and utter disdain for non-working moms--my two sisters-in-law included. I mean, what did these people do all day? The California sister-in-law had a law degree, for God's sake; the London one was a bright, well-educated woman from New York. Get a grip, I used to think; get a job; earn your keep.

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