You’ve Come a Long Way, Mom

Reconciling our pre-parenthood selves with our current lives

Last spring, during a lunch with a handful of my closest friends in Washington, something so jarring happened, so disturbing, so shocking, and yet so hilarious, that it forced me to recognize a parenthood truth: Our past selves probably wouldn’t like our current selves a whole lot. Fabulous shoe-wearing, celebrity-gossip addict Past Me would shake her head with disdain and horror at some of the kid-focused antics of Current Me.  

While we were enjoying lunch with our children in tow, the inevitable topic of celebrity gossip and summer movies came up. One friend started to say she was dying to see—wait for it . . .

“Toy Story Three!” a second friend jumped in, with such enthusiasm that the rest of us practically spit our food out across the table.

The first friend had actually been going to say Sex and the City 2. Embarrassing in its own right, to be sure, but at least geared toward adults.

The thing is, this friend who was so jazzed about the release of a family-friendly animated film isn’t just any old mom. She’s that mom—attractive, stylish, smart mom. She isn’t the mom who immediately recalls hot new children’s toys or cute kid stories when gossiping with friends. And she’s been a self-described celebrity-gossip addict for the 15 years we’ve all been friends. Back in the old K Street days of Lotus CC Mail, happy hour that began at 5 in the office, and corporate softball teams, she used to print out stacks of gossip news stories at the end of the day to take home with her. (This was long before the advent of Perez Hilton.)
And yet she was the one who blurted out the very thing none of us were even considering. She had been, in fact, the hostess of our ritual Sunday Sex and the City parties for all those years. In that moment, I was pretty sure Past Her’s head would spin around in a full circle and breath fire out of her mouth upon witnessing the response of Current Her.  

But she’s not alone. We’re all right there in the trenches with her. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve glanced over at the playground at preschool drop-off and realized that one of my kids has dried yogurt all around her mouth while the younger one has dried snot all over her face, not to mention next year’s science-fair experiment growing in the cavernous rolls of her baby neck. It’s in those moments that I think about Past Me and how sure she was that she would never be one of those good-for-nothing moms who couldn’t find the time to simply wipe off her kids’ faces before leaving the house.

If only it were so simple. If only Past Me knew how many million other things would be on Current Me’s mind when trying to get out the door with kids, making it nearly impossible to focus on a few yogurt stains.

I think about Past Me as I stare down another Mother’s Day weekend and wonder if the husbands out there will get it right this year. (Forget the flowers—what we want is anticipation and initiative: Anticipate what the kids need next and do it. Take the initiative to buy what is needed from the grocery store.) Past Me thought she wanted flowers and cards and gifts for Mother’s Day. In her wildest imagination, she wouldn’t have considered that anticipation and initiative could be the hottest gifts a mom could get.

So my friend’s shift in attitude only shows me that maybe Past Me shouldn’t have been quite so sure of herself and how she’d be as a mother. And if nothing else, I think we all can agree that Toy Story 3 was a hundred times better than Sex and the City 2.

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