Mom Gets a New Badge

So, I know someone who peed her pants in a pet store this week. It was NOT me, just someone I KNOW. Because I would never, ever pee my pants in a pet store or anywhere else. Nope. Not me.

But, I’m not going to judge because…I totally get it. (Even though it was NOT ME, remember?)

See, this friend of mine was running errands with her kids. After doing the morning dash of breakfast and dressing, she packed all of their stuff – snacks, drinks, diapers, wipes, changing table blanket, toys, more snacks – then wrestled them into safety seats before they could manage to UNdress themselves. She really needed to use the restroom, BUT the kids were already cranky, so she decided she could hold it. She could. She is super awesome like that.

Then she drove a loooong way to get to the shopping center, like 35 minutes because this friend lives in the middle of nowhere and it’s a long drive to get to Target. Which I completely get because I also live in the middle of nowhere and it really IS worth the drive just to get to Target.

But by the time they got there, the kids were even MORE cranky. The family restroom was RIGHT THERE, BUT…the kids. The kids were so freaking cranky. And they really wanted to get to the pet store to buy stuff for their new pet turtle. Which I completely understand because MY kids also got a new pet turtle this week and they also were excited to go to the pet store.

So, she still had to pee, but raced through Target, paid, then loaded up the Target stuff and the kids, drove to the pet store, and hauled the kids inside. Because they were cranky, remember? They were excited, remember? So, she made it to the pet store’s restroom, got the cart and the kids inside, then parked the cart the perfect distance from EVERYTHING so her youngest kid couldn’t touch ANYTHING. Of course! She was very careful and even though she REALLY NEEDED TO PEE, she took her time about it because GERMS. That’s what moms do, right?

She even made it into the stall, but then, in the act of dropping trou…the flood-gates opened and…she peed. Right there. On the trou.

And she was so embarrassed, and so laughing and so…done. Done with those underpants – but even more done with this badge called “the indignities of motherhood.”

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard about this badge. It’s everywhere. In every post on the Interwebz about not peeing alone or pooping alone. Or not having time to shower, or shave ones legs or wear makeup. About not getting a hot cup of coffee. Or a warm meal or regular haircuts or new underpants when the old pairs are tatty and have no elastic (or they are peed in a pet store).

And it’s in every post where some mother is judged because she DOES have a real hair style or coordinated clothes or invisible cuticles. And in every post where we assume that woman with the great, seasonally appropriate handbag that is NOT overflowing with snacks and diapers must be selfish and/or have a sugar daddy.

I don’t want to be the woman who pees her pants for THE CHILDREN. (Good thing that was someone else!) I don’t want to be the mom who is so attentive, I leave the door open to the bathroom while attending to my personal business. And I don’t want to be the mom who looks like yesterday’s coffee on it’s third reheat, creamer congealing on the rim. (At least not EVERY DAY.)

My friend doesn’t, either. She’s taken off the badge – the badge she thought said, “Mother” that really says, “Sucker.” And she has a new one. It says, “Human.” And the next time she has to pee – she’s GOING. (Unless it’s a nasty gas station. Because GERMS.)

PS Here is our turtle. It looks JUST LIKE my friend’s turtle. But it’s not. Because ours is way cuter. image

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More Than the Sum of Our Lady Parts

A friend posted an article recently about talking to girls about, ahem, menstruation. The author described how she imagined the conversation might go. She hoped it would be empowering, maybe even magical. And featured prominently in the article was a picture of a uterus-shaped pillow, in fleshy pink, embroidered and embellished to represent the ovaries and Fallopian tubes and I don’t know what else. Polyps, perhaps? I shuddered.

It wasn’t just the pillow. (Incidentally, you can also buy penis pillows complete with testicles – but the pictures are censored by the vendor site as “mature.” That’s worth another blog post.) And it wasn’t just that the author opened by describing the young lady with whom she would soon be sharing this mystical moment as “the girl in my life,” either. (Another shudder.)

It was because the message seemed to me to be, “This – your magical menstrual cycle – is what makes you a woman.” And, you know what? I call bullshit.

I wasn’t the first or the last to get my period – but there was a lot of nail-biting going on in my junior high as we waited for that magical day when we would become women. Before it became the hot topic of conversation, a girl whose mother had not told her about her cycle started. She spent a few days thinking she was dying before sobbing out the story to a friend. Another friend got hers on the first day of seventh grade! And her mother had to bring her a change of pants!!! Oh, the agony! One of my closest friends also started before I did and I was so ugly with jealousy that the day ended with her smashing a Twinkie on the end of my nose. One friend listened in dismay as reports came in of other newly-minted women among us. “Don’t worry. It will happen…someday,” I said gently, patting her on the back. And when I finally got my period? Oh, the joy! The rapture! The delight! I was…still in junior high and not a woman at all. Bummer, that.

There’s a reason they sell Motrin and heat patches. And there’s a reason there are PMS jokes – and herbs and vitamins and diets promising to end PMS.  And there’s a reason they sell forty-seven varieties of feminine napkins and sixty-four of tampons. Marketers of feminine hygiene products know we will keep trying new products, searching in vain for something that doesn’t bunch, leak or adhere to our lady parts, all the way until that brief break called menopause when we switch to adult diapers.

Yes, I  know, I know. The menstrual cycle can have beautiful results. I have had two breathtakingly gorgeous children because of menstruation – and I conceived them exactly when I wanted to because I knew all about my stupendous cycle.

But, I also have beloved friends whose parts don’t function as nature intended. Their uterus and ovaries and Fallopian tubes seem to be on the fritz – so their lady parts aren’t doing all of those magical, mystical, womanly things.

And I have other friends who have chosen to let their lady parts live a life of leisure. These are the women who joyfully hold my children – and then hand them back just as joyfully when playtime is over.

And both of these groups – childless by choice or circumstance – are women just like me. They are. Complete and magical and mystical in every way.

So, I get it. I do. Menstruation is a rite of passage and it should be handled with sensitivity and respect. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her to be that little girl crying in the bathroom because she thought she was dying or the little girl who felt left behind because hers hadn’t happened yet. And I certainly wouldn’t want her to be the little girl with the Twinkie on her schnoz. We are amazing – the potential power to create and nurture life inside us is awesome – and girls should know how to care for and listen to their bodies.

But, I also think putting so much emphasis on the menstrual cycle sends a harmful and unintended message. We are more than our ability to conceive. We are more than our ability to birth. And isn’t that what we’ve been struggling for through millennia? To be seen as something other than vessels? We are so much more than the sum of our lady parts – more than a pillow can ever convey.