SUPERMOM OR SUPER-LIAR?
So there my daughter sits, sprawled out on a leather chair, eyes glazed over, fingers running OCD style over her purple blanket, watching her fourth episode of Wonderpets. I glace her way wondering silently if I’m the worst mother on the planet for needing to get my bills paid (and read the latest on Paris Hilton) while not having my daughter interfere. Just a half hour I tell myself which inevitably turns into “One more episode mommy! Please!”
“No. I’m sorry, sweetie, but it’s time to turn the television off and play outside for awhile.”
“I just want to watch a little more TV,” she answers simply, quietly.
And I just want to read the Internet a little bit longer. It seems like a win-win situation, except for those pesky warnings about too much TV giving her ADD and liquefying her little still forming brain. I imagine all the other moms who are at this moment coming up with some great project to do with their child or children, a project that involves gluing and glitter, cutting shapes out of construction paper, tracing the outline of a leaf or even worse, cavorting with nature.
Maybe I should just stick a huge pile of cookies in front of her and a gallon of chocolate milk to wash down the Happy Meal she just ate I silently berate myself, while switching the TiVo to Wonderpets: Save the Pandas. I glance back at my comatose toddler; is that drool coming off her chin? I want to slit my wrists out of guilt right now. But I don’t. I finish paying my bills and try to find out why the latest celebrity coupling just broke up. Never far from my mind though is my daughter, who although happier than a gay man at a Cher concert, is obviously not getting the best of her mother.
This self loathing moment has been brought to you by your local Smug-mamma; those moms who will look you straight in the eye and say, “Oh, my child doesn’t watch TV.” We’re surrounded by them –moms who are busy trying to outdo each others’ parenting on every level. Obviously not every woman is like this. Most are mere mortals. But when faced with a self proclaimed Supermom, you may not be able to help feeling like your parenting style is more on par with Andrea Yates when reflected in their glow. But the thing to remember, the thing that will save you, is these women lie often. At the very least their insecurities make them prone to major exaggeration.
When a man has the nerve to ask a woman how many sexual partners she’s had, no matter what the woman says, the man tacks on at least five more, right? I actually think men are onto something. Hey, who among us hasn’t shaved a one-night stand or four from our spotty sexual past? Guess what, women can utilize this trick in a different arena: the competitive, cutthroat mom sport of “I do everything better than you.” I call this New Mommy Math and you don’t have to have passed algebra to master it; it’s all about easy addition.
When Smug-mamma tells you straight to your face that she absolutely allows only one hour of mind-enriching, educational TV a day, just go ahead and add two hours. If she tells you ‘no TV ever!’ – add six. It’s that simple.
With this trick up your sleeve, you can decipher devious lying about: Sugar consumption, discipline, how much “household help” they utilize, cleaning, yelling, sex (not) having…and more! If you think you don’t need my help, think again. Smug-mamas are everywhere and they can strike at any time. You’ll be at the park having a perfectly great conversation with a real mom about breakfast cereal.
“God, remember Count Chocula? I used to live on that stuff.”
“Oh yeah, but what ever happened to Boo Berry? The one with the ghost on the cover and the blue marshmallows? I haven’t seen it since I was a kid!”
Suddenly, Smug-mama will burst out from behind a see-saw and blurt out, Tourettes style, “Oh we would never let Dakota-Ryder eat sugary cereal. We’re a sugar-free household. Dakota-Ryder-Banjo only eats All Bran No-Trace-Of-Anything-That-Tastes-Remotely-Edible Flakes from Whole Foods. It’s only eighty-five dollars a box.” Sounds good. Really. Gee, you got a coupon for that?
Your first reaction will possibly be to recall with horror that your son ate a fruit roll-up and half a muffin (FINE cupcake) for breakfast and you’ll feel terrible and less-than. But wait – stop – use your New Mommy Math. Bran Flakes my ass. Sure, Smug-mama may have offered that up, but no toddler who has working gums would let that soggy crap past his lips. She’s lying. Go ahead and switch Bran Flakes to Corn Pops and you may be getting closer to the truth. Now, add a few tablespoons of sugar sprinkled liberally on top and you’re probably somewhere in the actual vicinity. Feeling better?
Similarly if Smug-mama tells you her child is only allowed two small cookies after dinner, feel safe adding five more. If she tells you no cookies, only fruit, go with eight. See? Now you’re starting to get it. The formula is using the inverse – the more super the mom, the more super the liar.
My husband and I once went out of obligation to a function at a pseudo friend’s house for “adults” only. The host, a woman I never liked that much, was the mom of three rambunctious boys. There was expensive wine served and delightful canapés. It wasn’t all bad. But the first thing I noticed was that the house was immaculate – not a Hot Wheel in sight. Of course, you know me; I couldn’t keep my trap shut for a second.
“How do you do it? How can your house be this clean with three boys around? You actually have clean guest towels and no hair in your sink. I don’t think my sink’s been hairless since the early 90’s. What’s your secret?”
“I actually love cleaning. I clean everyday anyway so when a party comes up I’m already halfway there,” Smug momma responded with a fake smile.
I practically had an aneurism on the spot. By the way, I should also tell you this woman actually claims to enjoy making soups from scratch and loves to email recipes and humorous chain mail with subject lines like Why I Love My Girlfriends! “I normally wouldn’t send this kind of email but this one’s really funny you guys!!” She’s the reason spam blocking was invented.
Out of necessity, I turned heel and headed for the bar to procure a much needed flavored Martini. Once the alcohol helped cleared my head, I was ready to do some slightly more advanced Mommy Math. Loves to clean? Either she’s been pilfering her son’s Ritalin or she has a worse relationship with the truth than Dick Cheney. I mentally added a housekeeper two days a week minimum, decided that the word “cleaning” could loosely be translated to getting out of the way to a day spa for a mani/pedi/seaweed wrap so the housekeeper can do her job and tacked on some round the clock daycare. I felt so much better I celebrated with a couple more martinis.
Sometimes the only remedy for an overdose of smug is to get yourself in the company of some real moms for a reality check. Real moms will let you in on the fact that they are sometimes inconsistent with their discipline –that they have at times totally lost it over a minor infraction, like their toddler’s totally normal refusal to take a bath when asked very nicely and promised “no washing of hair.” Real moms will call you in tears because their kid hasn’t stopped barfing since she stupidly let him have three huge pieces of cake at a three-year-old’s birthday party. Real moms know that trying to limit TV watching to a half hour a day is about as realistic as Kelly Pickler trying to maintain that she didn’t get a boob job. Real moms will tell you that their four and a half-year-old is only 80% potty trained. Real moms know that when it comes to being a parent, there is no perfect score card. No matter how many hours you spend sitting on the floor coloring, reading stories, kissing boo-boos and singing songs, there will be times you fall short. And most of us just try to accept that as best we can.
But even real moms aren’t immune to the urge to keep up with the Smug-mama joneses. Sometimes you’ll find yourself shaving the actual hours you have a sitter to your close friends or feigning surprise that your Little Miss Loves To Read knows all the words to every Backyardigan’s song. It’s natural. We live in a competitive world. Like men never lie to other men about their salary, dick size or Lifetime membership to Hair Club for Men?
So okay, fine, my daughter regularly eats cookies, never eats vegetables and watches two full hours of TV a day. There I said it. Whatever, go ahead and judge… and… okay, add two more hours of TV while you’re at it.