Friday, October 30, 2009

The Moms

I've spent a lot of time with moms over the last nearly 20 months. To be honest, the mom culture was a huge part of why I was reluctant to become a mom. From the outside, moms seemed like people who got all their information about the world from Dora the Explorer and were more than a little sniping with each other. On the latter point, the battlefronts are numerous: working moms vs. stay at home moms, spankers vs. timeouters, cloth diapers vs. disposable (or crazy hippies vs. sensible people, not to be judgmental or anything), non-vaccinators vs. vaccinators (ditto, etc. I would add to "crazy hippies" "crazy hippies who don't care about public health"), natural birthers vs. epidural users (or people who are too crazy to be out walking free on the street vs. normal people), and of course, breastfeeders vs. bottlefeeders (or women who insist on living like slaves of the 15th century vs. those who choose sanity and liberation. Again, not to be judgmental). But who am I to judge, right? I have a theory about what drives these battles, other than people being crazy, but I'll save that for another time.

Now that I have become a mom, I have a lot more respect for moms. And I am also sniping (see above) and can no longer carry on an intelligent conversation, even about poop, and have no idea what is going on in the world (Michael Jackson died? really?). I have also figured out that mom culture is very diverse. There are actually several different kinds of moms, which I will tell you about now, as if you could stop me.

To be more precise, I have identified 4 broad categories of moms that result from combining 2 key sets of criteria, organized vs. disorganized and uptight vs. laid back. Most moms are lesser versions of these 4 types or combinations of types, of course, but this gives us a basic idea:

Type 1--The Mess (disorganized and uptight)
This is the clearly harried mom, usually of multiple children, who is rarely showered or dressed in clean clothing, nor are her children, who run circles around her and destroy things as she valiantly but unsuccessfully tries to stop them from eating rocks, hitting each other, breaking valuables, or jumping off the top of jungle gyms (or buildings). Her house is basically ground zero of Armageddon, complete with blood on the floor on a bad day. Dinner is Cheetos. And conversations with her go something like this, "I think we are--Johnny come back here!--going to go to the beach--Susie, don't hit your brother!--except that Joe may have to work--Sally, get down from there!--so I don't know--Mikey, don't eat that!" You might as well not bother to relate any information of your own to her because she can no longer understand English.

Type 2--The Proud Mess (disorganized and laid back)
This type looks very much like The Mess, except this mom doesn't give a damn about any of it. Instead of trying to control the chaos, she just sits back, smokes a cigarette (either literally or figuratively), and lets it all wash over her. Her lack of control is a point of pride for her. As another mom scrambles to prevent her child from eating a cookie laying in the dirt, The Proud Mess (proudly) proclaims, "Honey, my kids regularly eat grass coated in dog urine, and they are fine." She barely contains her contempt for moms who dare show up at a mom gathering with make up on, chiding them as "over achievers," and openly ridicules moms who don't let their kids watch television or drink juice.

Type 3--The Anal Mom (organized and uptight)
This is the neat freak mom who can't quite come to grips with the fact that small children don't really go with the decor or most of her outfits. Anal Moms will buy the "tasteful," neutral color baby bouncer because it matches the leather chairs, although they may eventually cave in desperation to the colorful rainforest bouncer that lights up and is more garish than a drag queen (I speak from experience. Not because I am drag queen, because I bought the rainforest bouncer. I'm not a drag queen, just to be clear). In extreme cases, Anal Moms either make their children play exclusively in their rooms or bring out one toy at at time. Messy toddler meal times induce mommy panic attacks and therapy sessions; Anal Mom will be running a handvac all over her child and everything in the vicinity within seconds of that dropped grain of rice. Sleep schedules are enforced according to a nuclear clock. Clothes are changed multiple times a day and are all adorable little matching outfits complete with hair accessories. The children's clothes are nice, too.

A related type is the Mom, Ph.D. This is usually a well educated mom, often one who has given up a high-powered career to stay home. Instead of coordinating baby gear with furniture and devising storage solutions for toys, Mom, Ph.D. pours her uptight, organized energy into reading mountains of childhood development literature and medical studies, usually with the end goal of her child winning a Nobel Prize. If you are around this mom for more than 5 minutes, you will learn how simple, wooden blocks create 13% more brain synapses than toys made from Chinese plastic. You will learn how peek-a-boo games help your child get over attachment disorder. You will learn how the number of times your child defecates per day can inform you of their optimal potty-training age (this requires a spreadsheet). But mostly you will learn that if you let your child watch television, he will end up in jail.

Type 4--The Cruise Director, a.k.a The Perfect Mom or the Classic Mom
(organized and laid back)
If you are a kid, this is the mom you want to have. If you are a mom yourself, this is the mom that makes you want to commit suicide. Life for this mom's family is one exciting activity, cool craft, healthy and delicious meal, and fun family vacation after another. This mom just loves, loves, loves being a mom, has probably wanted to be a mom since kindegarten, and embraces it all with gusto while letting none of the pitfalls get to her. This mom takes her toddler everywhere with her, from the grocery store to Paris, because she gets such a kick out of watching her child discover the world (the rest of us, who have come to Paris to escape our children, are not quite as thrilled). This is the woman whose reaction to finding out she is pregnant with triplets 2 months after her last child was born is, "God has so blessed us!" while the rest of us would at least consider atheism if not actually convert for revenge. If this mom has only 2 kids, it's usually because "we just can't afford to have the 6 we want." Oh, and she just loves to breastfeed, it's like her favorite thing.

So those are the types. Now, few moms are solidly in one camp and in fact can change types depending on the day. For instance, I am situationally either a Proud Mess, mainly because I let my kid eat dirt and I look askance at moms who shower every day, or the Anal Mom, although I keep it under control. Toys are strewn all over my house but that doesn't mean I'm OK with it. I'm basically Anal Mom with my house but Proud Mess Mom with the personal hygiene of myself and my child. I am definitely not the Cruise Director, because I generally dislike small children and try not to go anywhere I don't have to with mine, nor am I Mom, Ph.D. Not only am I too lazy to read all that crap, I feel like my children's genes will be enough to ensure they are geniuses. I don't want to overdo it and wreck their sparkling personalities with too many synapses.

Of course, these categories are confined just to "normal" moms. I am not even going to go into the whole psychotic mom thing, that is another whole world that I don't feel qualified to speak about. Yet.

At the risk of offending the spreadsheet...

...I am actually hanging out with a friend today during the blogging slot on my spreadsheet. Horrors! So no blog today, unless I dump Kevin from his slot. He probably doesn't deserve to be dumped, but we'll see how things pan out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Struggle to be "Accomplished"

I recently decided that I need to use my like 10 hours of free time a week for better purposes than watching the YouTube video of that wedding party dancing down the aisle to Chris Brown's "Forever" 50 times in a row, which is exactly what I did one morning last week, or looking at all my pictures on Facebook for like the hundredth time and scrutinizing how big my nose looks in each of them. Enough is enough, I decided, at this rate I'm never going to become a talented writer/pianist with abs of steel who is fluent in Swahili and cooks gourmet meals for her family every day. When I stop to think about it, I really don't know why it is so important that I become this extraordinary person. Hmmm, more on that deep question later.

So I have actually plotted out all my free time on a spreadsheet and assigned various tasks to various times. Yeah, I know. Fridays during Charlotte's nap, for instance, are for blogging, thus this entry. From 6-6:30 a.m. is Swahili study, which I am mainly doing out of shame that I am not fluent after being raised in Kenya (The first question people ask when they find out where I am from is, "So I guess you speak the language?" to which I defensively reply, "People speak English almost everywhere in the world and probably on some distant planets, making it very hard for English-speakers to learn other languages.") Thursdays during Charlotte's nap are devoted to housework, the idea being if I only slot one segment of time for housework, whatever doesn't get done is not that important. Fridays are for blogging and piano practice. At half an hour a week, it will probably only take me about 50 years to fulfill the promise I showed as a 4th grader, when I won first place in the Kenya Music Festival, and become an accomplished pianist. My mother will be so happy. Dead, but happy. Then in the evenings, I am supposed to work out and read books. This is the part where the spreadsheet collapses of its own weight, as do I, in front of the TV, eating some crap.

Now that I have written all this out, it really looks kind of ridiculous. When I come to the end of my life, I really doubt I'm going to care if I learned Swahili or how to play the piano, unless I somehow end up in a Tanzanian nursing home or in some strange society where people communicate through musical instruments, in which case speaking the language will be the least of my worries. And unless I figure out how to become a real writer and something comes of this, I really doubt it's going to matter if I had a blog. The exercise thing actually might make some kind of difference, I might avoid wearing adult diapers or something. Of course, exercise is the only part of my schedule from which I get absolutely no enjoyment (probably subzero enjoyment, really). The books--yeah, whatever. I already know how to read.

So why am I doing all this? It's a bit like the 19th century obsession with women being educated and accomplished so they could....sit around the house and be educated and accomplished. Accomplishment for its own sake. Which is pretty much just ego--in the 19th century, it was male egos wanting to have impressive wives so they would seem more impressive themselves. For me, it's just me wanting to be impressive, although I feel people who know me are sufficiently impressed (don't correct me if I am wrong), so I guess I just want to feel impressive to myself. Which is really quite pathetic. And probably plenty of justification for a life of utter sloth.
Now I really have hit the jackpot--maybe I can become an unmotivational speaker and go around convincing people that sitting on one's butt and doing as little as possible is the key to a successful and happy life. I think people would pay big money to hear that.

OK, so I have to slot some time in the spreadsheet to prepare for my speaking tour. Piano's out, sorry Mom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You're never too old for acne and pettiness

So I'm turning 35 here in a couple of months, which is quite shocking to me and probably to everyone who knows me and thinks I am gorgeous (not to mention immature). I still feel like I'm 13 years old much of the time, and worse, I act like it on occasion. And, yes, I still have acne, which I find to be a tremendous injustice, right up there with men not having cellulite even when they are obese and of course the genocide in Darfur.

Acne is one thing, but being a small person is another. And I don't mean being a size 2, a dream that died for me in like 7th grade. Seriously I could be starving to death and I'd still be at least a size 6 by virtue of my big bones. Now, see, this is exactly what I am talking about. Why do I still care what size I am?

No, I'm talking about pettiness, taking the low road, acting out of insecurity. Just for example--and this is just one among hundreds--Kevin and I were discussing personality types, with which we are pretty much obsessed. We are like Myers-Briggs experts by now. Our most recent reading on the topic confirmed our long-held theory, that the N-S indicator is the most important for compatibility (who needs a Ph.D. in psychology?). I mentioned a certain, very beautiful friend of mine as being a probable ESFJ. I later found an internet page open, which of course I did not look closely at, because that is too much work--all I saw was INTP (Kevin's type) and ESFJ. I naturally assumed that Kevin was researching his compatibility with my gorgeous friend so he could determine if running off to Fiji with her might be fun. So naturally I confronted him with his horrible misdeed. It turns out he was reading about career choices for his type and ESFJ was included on the same page since it is the exact opposite type. So while he may be thinking of leaving his job to go to Fiji, I don't think he is considering taking this friend of mine. Especially since she is an S.

Or at work the other week, I literally threw a tantrum in my boss's office because someone else was getting to do something that I wanted to do. I was like, "But I want to do that, and I've been here longer." She was like, "Um, you aren't even going to be here that day." And I was like, "But my hologram might could make it." Very mature.

Maybe the acne is a magical curse that will only go away when I finally learn to grow up and get over myself. Ever seen a 90 year old with acne? You will in about 55 years.