Mommy as a Role Model? Get Real

Commentator Gwen Macsai is the mother of three children. And she's finding that their standards for motherhood are higher than hers. And while she doesn't want to be a hypocrite, mothers like junk food, unmade beds and swearing too.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Commentator Gwen Macsai is the mother of three children. Their standards for motherhood are higher than hers, and while she doesn't want to be a hypocrite, a mother has needs.

GWEN MACSAI:

Sometimes, late at night, I like to eat candy. And inevitably, just as I'm relishing a beautiful, silky chocolate as it warms my mouth like a velvety blanket, my rapture is ruined by this sound.

Unidentified Child #1: Mom!

MACSAI: A drink of water, a final kiss, a monster in the closet. It doesn't matter because what happens next is always the same.

Unidentified Child #1: Mom, you were eating chocolate.

Unidentified Child #2: You were eating chocolate.

Unidentified Child #1: I can smell it on your breath.

Unidentified Child #2: I can smell it on your breath.

Unidentified Child #3: Smell it on your `bweth.'

Unidentified Child #1: You get to eat chocolate anytime you want.

Unidentified Child #2: And if you get to eat chocolate...

Unidentified Child #1: It's not fair.

Unidentified Child #2: ...anytime you want to...

Unidentified Child #3: I want some.

Unidentified Child #1: Can't I have some? Why can't I have some?

MACSAI: And I am reminded once again of something I learn almost every day on this odyssey called motherhood: Being a role model sucks.

(Soundbite of music)

MACSAI: On the one hand, motherhood can deliver you to the precipice of insanity; actual foot-stomping, hair-pulling-out, beat-your-head-against-the-wall hysteria. And yet, on the other, motherhood also calls for you to just take it, deal with it, no inappropriate responses, uncivil behavior or conduct unbecoming a mother, like eating a sheet cake or every piece of pasta in the house. `You're a mother, a role model. You can't eat a sheet cake,' to which I can only say, `What about a case of Oreos?'

(Soundbite of music)

MACSAI: Just a few examples of role model torture. I like to swear; I need to swear. But do role models swear? No. Role models use tempered language. Why? Because if they swore, their children would grow up to swear, and then they'd be just like me. And we can't have that now, can we?

At the end of 21 meals a week, I don't really feel like cooking a balanced dinner of steamed greens, spaghetti squash and oat groats. After shopping, cooking and schlepping like a Sherpa all over town, I don't really feel like walking on a treadmill every night for 40 minutes with my heart rate at 75 percent of capacity. I feel like sitting on my big butt in front of "CSI: Peoria," a TV show sure to kill my brain cells, thwart my imagination and transform me into a lifeless vidiot.

I can be honest, I can be sensitive, but do I really have to wash my hands before every meal? I mean, isn't that what white blood cells are for? I don't want to curb my temper or clean my room; I want to lie on a couch unshowered for a week.

The situation is completely untenable. I've been reduced to hiding my guilty pleasures all over the house, to be excavated only after I've stood over the children's beds with a gong to make sure they're asleep. Only then can I embrace my inner libertine. Like a determined archaeologist, I hunt for the bones of my former hedonistic experience, People magazine, with pictures of scantily clad, surgically augmented women in my file draw; containers of ice cream in the back of the freezer; suckers in my sock drawer; Sno-Caps in the glove compartment; Diet Coke behind the safflower of mayo in the fridge. I want to sleep till noon, pick my nose and never again worry that everything I do and say is going to ruin my children's future, their self-esteem, their love of life or their love life.

Everyone knows that kids need to believe in things that aren't real, like teddy bears that come to life at night, the chances of a Democrat taking the White House and Mommy being a great role model. And that's the good news because, let's face it--Mommy as a perfect role model? Nothing could be less real than that.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) 'Cause no one loves you any better than your M-O-double M, M-O-double M, M-O-double M-Y, Mommy.

SIEGEL: Gwen Macsai lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband and three children.

MELISSA BLOCK (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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