Motherhood ‘Help Wanted’ Ads

Brand-new mama, April 30, 1986

Here I am as a brand-new mama, April 30, 1986

This is the motherhood ad I thought I was answering when I was young and naïve and not yet a mother.

Wanted: Loving mother to raise beautiful, perfectly behaved children. Expect 100% cooperation, starting with newborns who sleep through the night, and ending with teenagers who count you as their best friend, with never a cross word and certainly no “attitude.”  You and your adoring husband will sit with your reverent children in matching outfits every Sunday. You will be to church on time, of course. They will all be straight-A students who help old ladies across the street and even though you don’t have an ounce of musical talent, your children will perform in their own musical group, delighting all who hear them. They will be beautiful people, inside and out. You will always wear the latest fashion, with perfectly done hair and makeup. Finally, you will never have a day’s worry once you become a mother, but will spend your days basking in the glory of being mom.

You can stop laughing now.

“Have kids,” they said!  “It’ll be fun,” they said!

Sure. As long as your idea of fun is cleaning up bodily fluids, visiting the ER for swallowed dimes and fishing Legos out of noses.

I finally figured out –  it’s all a grand conspiracy.

You start with this adorable new baby and you’re hooked on this motherhood thing before you realize it’s too late to change your mind.

In our family, we had 10 kids before our first one became a teenager. We were REALLY hooked by then!

As it turns out, here’s the ad I really answered:

Wanted: Loving mother to raise strong-willed children with minds of their own, whose streak of independence starts with newborns who refuse to sleep. For weeks months on end. And toddlers whose first word is no.  Your teenagers will think you’re old-fashioned and out of it, even if you text and know what LOL and OMG mean. You and your husband will be lucky to only miss the first 15 minutes of church – no matter time it starts – and if the kids’ hair is combed, you will count it as a victory. You will also have the pleasure of being peed on, pooped on, vomited on, doors slammed, hysterical crying because you told them to clean their room, boogers wiped on walls and teachers bitten because – as your 6-year old said – they were “annoying.”  You will barely find time to shower, you won’t find time to shave both legs at the same time and when you put on make-up, your kids ask where you’re going.

I’ve been “in the trenches” parenting for 28 years now – and I still have 10 kids at home, although in less than 3 weeks, three of them will be graduating from high school and then I’ll be down to just 7. In 3 years, I’ll be down to two. Time flies. (Who am I kidding. No one is moving out – free rent at Mom’s!)

Twenty-eight years in, I know the second ad left out the following:

Things you’ll learn: Patience. Multi-tasking like a boss. How to speak teen. That love multiplies every time you add a child. And a child-in-law. And a grandchild. That happiness is an inside job. To enjoy the moment. That days are long, but years pass in the blink of an eye. To take great pleasure in small victories. That there is no grief deeper than one involving your kids. That having 5 teenage girls at the same time gives you grey hair. Or maybe it’s that you also have 5 teenage boys at the same time….  That kids do grow up and no matter how annoying they can be, you miss them when they’re gone. And miracle of miracles – they miss you.

And finally:

Reward for years of mothering: Slobbery toddler kisses, handprints on walls, kindergarten parties with you as room mom, then cheering those same kids on when they play for jr high sports teams 10 years later, late night talks with teens (who think you’re cool but won’t admit it), family vacations from heck that turn into hilarious family lore, the value of tradition, watching your children grow up and spread their wings, but still turn to you for advice, welcoming your first grandbaby and then another and another. A heart filled to overflowing and the knowledge that maybe – just maybe – you’ve made a difference in this world.

Knowing what I know, I would chose motherhood again.