Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." - Isaiah 30:21

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No Makeup

A good friend and I recently compared notes on our newborns. Or rather, under the guise of discussing our newborns, we compared our mommy skills. That is, we compared our fears that we might suck.

Okay, no. We both figure we're, you know, decent at it. ("Decent" pronounced with that shrugging overemphasis on the first syllable, the way your mother would respond when you asked what you should wear for Thanksgiving dinner.) Our kids have emerged from our foray into parenting relatively unscathed, appearing rather smart and pretty darn cute, too. But this has led the outside world to assume we're phenomenal parents. That we know exactly what we're doing, we have made informed choices on all elements of childhood health and well-being, and we are, above all, confident.

Which is kind of a joke, especially if you've met my kids. Have you ever had a conversation with Delaney? What exactly am I supposed to do with her? That's a kid who should have come with a manual. With a super thick trouble-shooting section.

Yet with each child, and with each friendship, I come closer to fully recognizing the dirty little secret at the heart of motherhood: None of us knows what the hell we're doing. Those moms who look like they have it all together? Yeah, they don't have a clue. (In my experience, dads don't usually know what they're doing either - but they'll just come right out and say so.)

Personally, I would rather spend the day with a mother who recognizes that the decisions she makes for her family are based on little more than best guesses. She considers the research, identifies the option that she interprets as having minimum risk, and inserts a healthy dose of intuition. I dread spending time with parents who honestly believe they have it all figured out. Seriously. They're annoying. Well, that and the fact that I don't believe they exist, so I count the people who present that way as extra fake. If I have ever presented myself that way, I would like to apologize at once.

So consider this me answering the door with no makeup, in an unflattering tank top with inadequate support. With my messy, un-sexy ponytail, let me say that I question every decision I make, strongly suspect my kids would be better off with someone who is nicer, and get annoyed all too easily. I overload on what I hope is unbiased research regarding nutrition, birth options, vaccines, child development, and education, and still get no further than throwing up my hands and saying, "Well, hope we made the right call on that one. Guess we'll see."

I'm coming around to being vocal about this, finally, because the truth is we all have to wash off our makeup at the end of the day. We all take off our bras when we put on our pajamas. (You do, right? Because you really should. Breast cancer risk and lymph flow and all that.)

So no, you are not the first parent to decide that the only possible way these enigmatic, precious creatures have been entrusted to you was through some great cosmic mistake. Nor are you the first parent to post Instagrams of the local, organic, superfood-packed dinner you just made, leaving out the fact that they had McDonald's for lunch. And can we please agree to not discuss remembering to brush their teeth in the morning?

support for new moms card
And then there's my all-time favorite gem from Hallmark

As if to highlight my point, the mail truck pulled into the driveway while I was writing this. The mail carrier handed me two packages from Amazon, containing most of our curriculum for the year, along with the acknowledgement from the school district that they've received our letter of intent to homeschool. I wish I could say that I gleefully snapped a picture of today's mail and posted it to Facebook with a comment like, "Take that, sub-par public education system." My reaction was more like, "Oh crap. We're really doing this."

Then I read the letter - and found a glaring grammatical error in the paragraph detailing the RSA regarding evaluations and reporting. The official letter from the school district informed me that I did not need to "turn the evaluation into the state" unless requested. Well, that's a relief, because that would be one hell of a transformation. Add one point to my homeschooling confidence.

Unfortunately, Liam just informed me that he never ate breakfast.


  1. If it makes you feel any better, Jenny, I always believed that we wouldn't know if we were doing it right until the kids all reached adulthood. If they didn't end up as convicted felons we could figure that we didn't do everything wrong. If they ended up as God-fearing, law-abiding, productive members of society, we could give ourselves a pat on the back. And if they ended up in therapy we would not take it personally!

    1. More and more lately, I'm thinking if your kid winds up in therapy it means you did something *right* - that they can recognize when something is "off" and take steps to correct it. So I fully intend to pat myself on the back even if (when) my kids are in therapy ;-)

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  3. Cute and comforting blog post Jenny. Thanks. I'm realizing more and more that there's nothing to worry about. Give 'em wings, give 'em roots, give 'em cotton candy for breakfast ... whatever. They more than anything need to know you love and support them, that there are boundaries (and that's not really limiting, it's liberating), that rich or poor there is always somewhere for them to come back to. The parents who ask, "Am I doing right by my kids?" are the best parents.