The Mom Metamorphosis
While having lunch with my friend the other day, she was complaining to me that she just got off an irritating call with her mother. Her mom, it seems, checks in with her every day to grill her about the details of her life. Let me translate this: a grown woman with a full- time job and kids of her own still has to report back to her mother about the brand of laundry detergent she is using and whether she is properly feeding her children. I was having a chuckle about this with another friend but the look on her face told me that her mom situation isn’t much better. It seems her mother leaves dozens of messages on her machine making sure that she wears sweaters when it’s cold, that she doesn’t forget to change the filters in her Brita and that she is aware of the best way to cook pasta.
I hadn’t laughed this much over crazy mom stories since stumbling on the website of comedian Amy Borkowsky (sendamy.com) who not only recorded answering machine messages from her obsessive and controlling mother, but offered to share them with the world by releasing them on CD. Some of my favorite messages:
“I just heard on the weather there’s a big storm headed for New York. On the weather map, they have snowflakes the size of bagels. So if you have to go out, wrap a scarf around your face to protect it because you know there’s that man who climbed Mt. Everest and lost his entire nose.”
“I’m having second thoughts about that little palm-size computer that you bought. You could swallow it and, God forbid, choke… I just read an article about a fellow who lost a tiny cell phone and when he dialed his own number to try and locate it, he heard a ringing sound coming from his dog.”
My mother is not an overprotective type. As a flower child of the ‘60s, she has a sense of free-wheeling adventure that caused me a lot of anxiety growing up. To this day, I go into full panic mode when I get lost driving someplace because it brings back memories of my mother’s road trips where getting lost was considered an adventure. “Wow, I’ve never been here before!” my mom would say with glee. What I heard was “we are totally lost and will probably be murdered on the side of this road after we run out of gas.” So despite having a mother who preferred to raise her children ‘free-range’ style, I managed to develop from a moderately neurotic child to a terribly neurotic mother the instant after I gave birth to my first child. And it has not gotten much better. Case in point, my 12-year-old recently told me I don’t need to give her tips about avoiding potential kidnappers every time she leaves the house.
But as amusing as crazy mother stories may be, we are aware of their universal sad ending: the part where we turn into the crazy mother. I don’t know if it’s the waning levels of estrogen as we age, the stress of spending our ”good years” corralling our children and pleasing our husbands, or a symptom of aging like graying hair and arthritis, but the mom metamorphosis is inevitable.
We will all end up crazy mothers and, in fact, I can already see it happening. Or rather, I can see the look in my daughter’s eyes when the crazy makes its appearance. When I beg her to put on her coat so she doesn’t freeze to death, she rolls her eyes. When I warn her that licking raw cake batter can cause salmonella, she moans that I suck all the fun out of life. When I beg her not to stay up too late at sleepovers because she will be exhausted the next day, she decides to actively ignore me. For me, the metamorphosis has already started and it’s only a matter of time before my kids get together with their friends to share stories about their crazy moms.
When your children are still in your house, it’s easy to convince yourself that you aren’t crazy, you are just a good, protective mother who wants her children to survive into adulthood. The problem is letting go of that desire to protect them once they leave the nest. While being a mother is thankfully the one job I cannot be fired from, once they leave my home I probably should update my resume from “Overprotective Mom, 1999-present” to “‘Mom: available by request.”
Luckily, I have a few more years to be overprotective before that translates into “crazy” so I am going to cherish every minute of it.