When my son was born, I couldn’t wait to be a full-time parent. I waited way too long to do this mother thing, and I wanted to show my little guy and myself I was a first-class Mom. Although, I did find myself nurturing him more by impulse rather than my own hands-on experience. My little guy didn’t care; he would look at me with those dreamy blue eyes and convey words that read, “Give it your best shot, mom! You got this girl”!
You see, I didn’t have much familiarity in the mothering occupation to rely on since my lineage was not well schooled by any means in the parenting department. Let me go back here. In the days my mother was pregnant, she smoked and drank the entire time, and it was accepted. So, my mother, “Jan” tells me. Some of my earliest visions and memories of my mother are of her standing in the kitchen wearing nothing more than her leopard Capri pants, a black push-up bra, hair in curlers (preparing for one of her many wig looks) an espresso coffee in hand with the smell of what I thought was a stick of black licorice – later to find out it was her daily shot of Sambuca, swaying to the music of Frank Sinatra and without missing a beat exhaling smoke signals from her lips while devouring her Lark cigarette. Yes, she did the mothering “Her Way.” Thanks, Frank!
It’s not uncharacteristic for a new mother to come down with temporary or maybe not so temporary OCD. The first six months with my son was typical, fun and kind of…lonely. I remember mentioning the loneliness, isolation and being a bit scared at times with my newborn to my mother over a telephone conversation one day. Her response was classic Jan. I could hear her inhale her ciggy deep into her lungs, hold a beat – not for the right words of encouragement – but to make sure she got the perfect “high” before she gave her advice. Together she’s barking her lyrics and exhaling nicotine through her nose responding with words in a rapid staccato manner, “What the hell are you afraid of? It’s a baby. You’re home. Watch a movie. Have a glass of wine. Stop complaining.” One phone conversation with my DNA and I thought, yup I’m on my own!
So, my days continued with my newborn and were filled with feedings, naps, and visits to the pediatrician and more visits to the pediatrician who continually told me his head was the right size. What? Head size? I just assumed the entire body grew together in unison. I read a few books on the development of my newborn, but evidently, not one that talked about head size. But he was happy, healthy and I was pleased, and his head is fine!
After six months of cultivating a bond with my son, I thought it was time for me to step it up and out and make some new mom friends. Here I go, clueless and green.
I eased into farming for these new mom friends. My internship began in the lobby of my NYC apartment building, my son as my assistant and Rubin the doorman my security. We just observed the day’s reality TV but in real-time from my new post. I watched all the new moms come and go pushing their strollers that cost as much as a month’s mortgage payment with wheels resembling Jay-Z’s Escalade. Hmm, I thought, these moms always mingled in packs like dogs but tended to keep away from me. Was I creating this drama story in my head? Could I be invisible? There was one woman who spoke to me. Well, sort of. I’d see her at the elevator and she would jester her hello to me with cocking her head up and down like a horse does when they are trying to fix that bit in their mouths, let out a little snort, and I swear her ears went back. Now I’m not one to know much about horses, but I believe ears going flat back on a horse is their signal for danger. Bewildered and a tad frightened of her I thought, was she trying to warn me about something? Was she the dangerous one? Was she trying to tell me I was in danger of my new position as a stay-at-home mother? Or the new mom friend breed?
It was day six of my self-appointed position as “greeter” in my building’s lobby. And as fate would have it a new mommy to my building pushing her shiny new stroller through the lobby, with her perfect baby, with the perfect sized head befriended me. Or felt sorry for me. But she finally asked me to join her in the park with a few other new mothers. Elated I jumped off my perch, blew off Rubin, the doorman, in a dust of baby powder and followed this new mommy as if the cool girl at school asked me to sit at her lunch table. Yes, finally, I was getting recognized!
Once in the park, sitting in a circle with all the other moms, I observed this new mommy was the alfa and took note the positioning of the other beta and omega mommy’s. I sat quietly listening to them cackle about doctor’s visits, length, weight & head sizes of their babies. Again, with the head size. Guess it really is a thing! Without warning the conversation took a crucial turn as one mother brought up the most delicate procedure of cutting her newborn’s nails. Excited, I raised my hand, (oh, I have no idea why I felt the need to get called on here) and synchronized with my inner monologue telling myself I know this one, here’s my chance to add to this conversation and get some mommy respect, I jumped in. My smiling face and enthusiastic voice with my New York inflection and the Arnold Horshack “Ooh-ooh-ooooh!” I proudly said, “I just bought the Mercedes of nail clippers, and I had such success with performing this gentle practice on my own son’s nails!” Ending with a contented big sigh stating, yep, I AM a good mother. I was diligent in the care of my son’s nails, so he didn’t cut his little face on his big head! Then…quiet. Both mothers and babies. All their eyes were opening wide growing with panic, lashes fluttering. Uh Oh, I felt my beaming cheeks get heavy as they dropped into a blank stare. I waited as I didn’t know what was coming from these mothers, but I felt a scolding on something I did or said, but didn’t know what or worse yet, I might have just gotten myself kicked out of this group I was only in for 15 minutes! Slowly the alfa mother took a deep breath, puckered her lips and in the best Blue-Collar Queen Elizabeth aristocratic dialect & as if speaking to a reckless person (that would be me), she stated, “The use of nail clippers or scissors is obsolete. The natural process is to bite the nails down on your babies’ fingers.” And without uttering another single word, she ended her thought – perfectly curling her Bobbi Brown lipstick painted top lip upward (think a la Elvis Presley) staring me her unspoken tagline, “What kind of Mummy are you?!”
Whaaat? Bite? OHHH yes, she was serious and pissed that this was a shock to me. Now shaken and sickened I found myself sitting squishing my nose and biting my own freaking nails. Did I hear this correctly? I’m supposed to be biting my babies nails off! What is this gross infectious way of cutting nails? Did this barbaric ritual come with the revised colonization of TriBeCa? Was I to swallow the nails? Spit them out on the floor of the room I was performing this hygiene routine? Or worse, save them like one would the first lock of hair? For sure my mother, Jan did not do this with me. I have never heard of such a barbaric task. At this moment I knew this group wasn’t for me. I swear I sensed and smelled my mother sitting on my shoulder her butt puffs poking at me with her words, “abort, abort”! So, I kindly excused myself. In fact, I think I said; “Hey, guess what? It’s time for my mid-day cocktail!” Just to ensure my fate knowing these breastfeeding mothers, who undoubtedly go the way of the fly pre-chewing the food for their infants and transferring it into their mouths would be appalled by this statement and never ask me to join their little wolf pack again. Jan, my mother, would have been proud of me!
Here I am now wandering my neighborhood, anesthetized by my interaction with the wildlife moms. Yikes being a mother is the hardest job. Okay, easy I had only been in this new position for six months, and my interaction with other moms so far was with Secretariat at the elevator and the Jane Goodall park group. Thinking to myself I said, “Hold steady new Mommy because this is going to be one bumping ride for the rest of my life!”
Somewhere along Duane & Reade Street, I ran into another mommy; I was introduced to her at a “meet and greet” in my building. She has a school-age son and is divorced. Don’t judge, but I liked that she failed at something. I felt I might have met my person. With my disappointed hello to her, she pulled sympathy and invited me to join her “mommy and me” stroller workout class along the Hudson River. I almost accepted her invite, but my street smarts kicked in. I had enough of the days’ introduction trying to connect with the cult of new moms, although if she invited me for a cocktail, I would have caved. I sprinted back to my building’s lobby, took one look at Rubin the doorman, who’s eyes motioned surprise only because I was out so long, but not surprised I walked in alone. Back on my lobby perch, it happened…I dialed my mother and asked her over for lunch.
Sitting with my mother and her red pack of Lark cigarettes positioned perfectly next to the fork and knife, I was astounded at how receptive she was in my angst. Sporting her “pick of the day” blonde Mrs. Partridge wig, lit cig perfectly balanced in her right hand between her index and third finger burning as fast as the words were spilling out of her mouth, her comments were so soothing illuminating my need to chill and be with my son. But what’s more mesmerizing is her ability to inhale and hold her plant toxin in her lungs for just that right amount of time and then in unison expelling her thoughtful words and her poison into Mother Earth after each phrase is just pure talent. Clearing her throat getting ready to perform her lung gymnastics, she states, “I see your future as a productive woman; achieving all your goals & dreams, and you are already an outstanding mother.” For a split second like a Xanax high kicking in (because I know this feeling well), I sighed with relaxation by her profound words. Then… the anxiety jitters struck my chest. Shaking my head side-to-side hearing the screech of the tonearm moving over the platter of a record landing me back into the moment, I waved my hand to part the cloud of her smokey treat and responded in deadpan reality, “Mom, I’m not quite sure how you can really see anything, it’s so smoky in here!” She tobacco laughed me off coughing out her last vapor and said, “Oh stop, you want friends, I got friends, come and “sit down” and hang with us!”
And that’s my time!
- I have three mom friends, and I’m done.
- I have gone the way of being a working Mom.
- My mother has quit smoking and now owns a collection of hair wigs that can outmatch any of the Kardashians.