As a longtime pet-lover, dog hair and a little dirt here and there never bothered me. Then I became a mom and the entire world suddenly became filthy, disgusting and cootie-covered.
When Grace was born, I sanitized all our window screens with a bleach-covered toothbrush. Then our house almost spontaneously combusted because someone (me) fell asleep while boiling silicone baby bottles. That’s right, they were silicone and didn’t need to be boiled. But I was going for the Gold Medal of Momming back then.
Instead of sleeping, I anxiously plotted every moment of my 6-month-old’s next day, to maximize her awake time to such meaningful effect that she’d net a full ride to Harvard by 14. Planning the whole day ahead of time seemed like a guarantee that I wouldn’t lose my tightly coiled shit.
Then, the next day, my carefully planned shit would uncoil within 10 minutes as Grace was sick, the dog was skunked, Canada would be called in early to work, and someone was too tired to remember where their car was parked (me).
Other type A moms terrified us with warnings not to let Grace watch any cartoon that had more than seven edits per minute ( you did know that all modern cartoons will give your child ADHD or optic seizures, didn’t you?). Researching every ingredient in everything edible, hand sanitizing Grace’s entire ecosystem, and adhering to the Mussolini of timetables added up to no one having any fun. White knuckling every controllable moment of mom-hood ― not to mention trying to control the things I couldn’t control ― like weather and news ― left me joyless, frazzled and furious ... which drove my family crazy.
While I was babbling all this to a fellow perfectionist-mom about how hard it was to find slower cartoons that weren’t the racist, sexist, violent and politically incorrect Bugs Bunny cartoons of my youth, and how I was ashamed that Grace watched cartoons in the first place, instead of me forcing her to make animals out of felted wool or warm wax, my friend Catherine grabbed me and said, “Being a Mom is supposed to be fun. Go for the x*# bronze!”
I stared in shock. Catherine had been my first control freak. She had set every bar on the highest rung, cleared it repeatedly, then complained about how she wasn’t completely perfect. She‘s designed clothes, acted in TV and film, is a brilliant cook, has impeccable legs, is profoundly well-read, and her home is beyond stylish. I always endeavor to copy her style and control-freakishness.
Then, as her wisdom entered my soul, the scales fell from my eyes, and I suddenly realized that Catherine’s hair was in a messy bun, her kitchen was a cheerful riot of opened cupboards and food everywhere, her dog was fat, and she had a smart, happy, well-rounded teenager with a yard sale of a bedroom floor. And Catherine was HAPPY. Relaxed and happy.
I stared at her in newfound awe. “How did you do it? How did you let chaos take the wheel?”
Catherine beamed, the brand new Buddha of Bedstuy.
“Lowering the bar. I stopped trying to be the Mary Lou Retton of everything. Being a mom is like a loud, colorful bumper car ride where driving responsibly isn’t exactly the point, and a 7-year-old is about to T-bone you with gleeful intent. So, when I finally embraced the chaos, I stopped judging my husband and kid for not being Oksana Baiul, which only made all of us miserable. Make peace with your mess, the smells, the yelling, the dust muffins and the sticky floor. The only one who is judging you and expecting you to be Nancy Kerrigan is you. Be Tonya Harding, without the rabbit fur coat and the knee-capping ex-husband, of course. Let go or be dragged. And see how much more you like life. Besides, your kid won’t remember anything that happens before she is 5, so if she watches Bugs Bunny it won’t make her love rifles or be mean to people who lisp, it just might make her laugh. And it might make you laugh too.”
I instantly relaxed. Now, not only do I embrace my tattered sweats and calloused feet but my husband is grateful that I’m not scrutinizing his parenting and home-management styles through the evil eye lens of Martha Stewart, who is squarely to blame for all this going for the domestic gold, as opposed to what used to just be living one’s life. If Grace wants to watch Octonauts while naked and dirty on a laundry filled couch, I’m down with it.
Fellow moms, stop driving yourself to daily power yoga-pole dancing class and maybe, just maybe, take a goddamn nap. If we stop judging ourselves for letting our kids have a suspiciously old looking lollypop from the bank teller, we might just stop judging other moms for allowing their kids to eat Cheetos off the car floor. When another mom asked me if it was cool to give Grace a cookie, I uttered my new mantra, “Sugar happens.”
Feel free to spread the Going For The Bronze credo. The marriage you might save might be your own.
Catherine Lloyd Burns is the author of It Hit Me Like a Ton of Bricks, as well as the tween novels, The Good, The Bad And the Beagle and The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen. Here is a super helpful link to her website and her work! Catherine Lloyd Burns
Top Ten Ways To Know You Are Going For The Bronze
- When one of your dogs throws up on your thick pile bedroom rug, you let the other dog eat it. She’s much more thorough AND you save money on dog food.
- If it hasn’t been a week since your last shower, you’re trying too hard. Remember, greasy hair is free conditioner.
- When your potty-training, naked, 2-and-a-half-year-old poops in the backyard and then scoops it up with the dog poop scooper, you tip her a quarter.
- Taking the time to put on underwear feels more indulgent than going commando.
- When you and the hubs finally accept you need to have sex, you figure out how to do it while the both of you are lying down.
- Multi-tasking consists of eating while showering, napping while meditating, pumping while driving and lying down while making the bed.
- You would never text and drive because it takes too much effort.
- You put on yoga pants and call that going to yoga.
- If you are wearing earrings AND a bracelet you’re trying too hard.
- Ditto for fingernail polish and makeup. Grooming is for sissies. Or Kardashians.
Cuz, in case you haven’t noticed, there are no Olympics of parenting. Nor is there pay, so go take a frozen yogurt break.
Dear Reader, in an attempt to bring you up to speed on how This Old Mom happened, this is a better version of an earlier post. All of which are available on my messy DIY website, ThisOldMom.com. Feel free to visit but please don’t judge.