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Let's Boycott the M Word

When was the last time you got out of the house? Really? My goodness, what supplies did you take? Are people still driving in cars or is Scottie now beaming them from place to place?

If there was a nuclear war and everyone was forced to live underground with Pez dispensers and dehydrated hot dogs, I think they would have more exposure to fellow human beings than I do at home with a three-week old and a three-year old.   Not that they aren’t human beings, per se, it’s just they’re more like homosapiens than companions. You can’t really discuss world events with people who still defecate in their pants without remorse. And what’s the use of mascara if all the Homosapiens really care about is your mammary glands and juice box arsenal?

As melodramatic as I’m making this sound, the person I really feel sorry for is Drew. Kid hasn’t left the house in three days. It’s not just that he has a new sister at home; it’s that is 847 degrees in the SHADE. (Come to think of it, maybe a nuclear winter wouldn’t be so bad.) The truth is, even as your heart expands with its new love, your world shrinks smaller and smaller and…smaller.

Brings to mind a sweetly pathetic anecdote my mother told me recently about how the highlight of her day as a mom of young babies was getting outside to collect the mail, and how irritated she would be with my dad if he happened to grab it on his way in from work. Her ten-yard walk to the mailbox might as well have been a trip to Paris, if Paris was 847 degrees and people didn’t wear mascara.   

I had a friend over today who had her baby mere days after I had Thing Two. We sat on the couch and nursed and burped (our babies, that is, not ourselves), and discussed bodily functions for the greater part of three hours. And it was wonderful — wonderful that another college-educated, lipstick-owning woman had a small world just like I do and that we’re both a little bewildered by it. We’re both in the bunker trying to negotiate this new thimble-sized universe after the detonation.

But it’s not that I’ve got a small amount of WORK to do.

I have worn tracks around my house like a mole, flitting from the living room to the kitchen to the nursery — and back again — like some sort of pudgy frenetic boomerang. It’s all I can do to keep up with the food requirements; the kids are eating me out of house and hormones. If it’s not something for Drew, it’s Maddie fussing in her swing; if it’s not Maddie, it’s Drew bulldozing my crotch with his giant head, trying to get my attention.

Nothing stops when a baby is born. People still must get colonoscopies and blow their noses. Having a child, or, more precisely, Becoming a Mother, is a lesson in NOT being the center of the universe, and it’s also a lesson in learning to live in a SMALLER universe. This is not just because the baby is so needy, but because the world presses ahead and leaves you alone in a house. I must die temporarily to my plans to become rich, famous and significant.

I now live for lactating and laundering.

How should I feel about this?

This reminds me of Rick Warren’s recent Purpose Driven Life e-mail in which he says God doesn’t spare any of us — mothers or anybody else — the menial tasks of life. He doesn’t spare us, according to Rick, because he didn’t spare his own Son the menial tasks — washing feet, figuring out meals, and so on. I like that because we mothers are up to our unwaxed mustaches in ordinary life in a way our pre-motherhood years could never have predicted, and it is comforting to know we’re in good company. Sometimes we get to walk on water, but most of the time we just have to play in the sprinkler with the toddler. And then do it again the next day. And the next. And. The. Next.

Because of this, I propose we start banning the M-word from our vocabulary: MENIAL. It’s entirely unhelpful and, as it turns out, a little insulting.

Tonight at dinner, Drew had somehow plastered baked ziti on his t-shirt despite careful eating. We didn’t realize this until he stood up from his booster seat and it looked like Quentin Tarantino had facilitated a wearable Sunday school craft. Gordon said, “You know Drew, you can be a foul human being sometimes.” (Or homosapien, I thought.)

Drew grinned.

Then we went upstairs where Drew proceeded to dump whole cups of water all over the bathroom floor at bath time. I threw the bathmat into the dryer. Then at bedtime, we spent 15 minutes directing Drew to pick up his room, toy by toy, block by block, book by book. After that, at Drew’s request, we read him the SAME story I had read him at naptime and at every nursing period today, a book I could probably quote verbatim except that it’s the War and Peace of toddler books — the longest possible Mickey Mouse saga ever penned by man or…mouse. Then I nursed Maddie. Then we bathed Maddie. Now we’re sitting on the couch watching Johnny Depp’s Biography, and if there’s anything NOT menial, boring or mundane, it’s the biography of Johnny Depp. Well pin a rose on his perfect little nose.

In the mean time, I can only hope that in the near future of tractor beams and dehydrated meat products, the word “menial” won’t really MEAN anything at all. Especially for us young moms. If most of motherly life is “menial” then most of it belongs in the recycling bin, and I’m just not willing to accept that premise.

Neither should you.