The Secret Life of Mothers

Last Thursday I was seated, legs crossed in black leggings, on my comfortable yet hideous office chair. The door - closed.

For those of you that have seen pictures of my home office, you now know that I’ve been lying to you. For that, I do not apologize. I insist on maintaining the visual illusion that is sometimes required in such places as Instagram.

I was sitting there, waiting to write, waiting for an idea to just float effortlessly into my mind - and when no such inspiration hit, I did the forbidden and exited full screen mode.

I have some go-tos reserved for this exact purpose. Reading the Modern Love column, visiting CNN, and my real vice - A Cup of Jo.  After a series of click throughs and satisfying eyeliner tutorials, I found myself back on the New York Times site, reading an essay by David Sedaris. It was called Let It Snow.

David's humorous recollection of this particular snow day, had me both longing for our cold Ottawa winter, and nodding in unanimous agreement to the insanity that is sometimes motherhood.

In David's essay, his mother’s day is sidelined - by snow. With the school closed, she tolerates her children for only a short while before exiling them from the home. At first they think she must be bluffing, but later things grow quite serious when one child is talked into laying across the street. He realized that day, that his mother harboured a secret life while they were at school.

The secret life of mothers. I thought.  I have one of those.


On the same day of this discovery, I happened to have two extra warm bodies at home with me. Isla woke up with a cold, so naturally Alice stayed home too. Twins are like that, they need each other - or at least that was my justification that morning at six fifteen.

By four o’clock, I’d poured myself a glass of riesling and desperately paced the hardwood floors of our kitchen. One free hour to sequester myself in my office and be productive is all I needed.

It was not that the day was particularly hard. They dreamed up stories I wrote down in big sweeping black pen - so they could copy the letters onto their stapled book pages using two full refills of staples...

I remained calm.

Alice was the doting sister.

I’ll get that for you Isla, she'd say, before sliding her sister's empty plate on top of her own.

There was not one disagreement, and at one point I heard Alice say, So nice to have a day at home with you Mama.

I melted like a puddle of warm pudding, onto the kitchen floor and from that position I softly responded.  I know sweetie, I love having an Alice and Isla day too.

But my words were half lies. I would love to be that photo on Instagram with caption: at home with my boo today. #allthesnugglesintheworld . 

I could be that photo for five minutes, maybe even ten. Hell, at pick up time, I am that photo.

Just not then. That variety of all day unplanned commitment, simply required too much of me. I can hardly be called flexible, and relish the routine that includes several hours of freedom Monday through Friday. 


Could I just go outside and rake, turn the television on for two hours, would they let me?


They are flexible, kind and secure - superior beings, capable of soaking up every moment and I know how silly (and obnoxious) that sounds. 

They do not race to what is next - they know only what is now. 

I can reason with them using long detailed explanations and they sit there, eating up every word. If only I could do that too.

I love my daughters, and I love being a mother. But I have a secret - I race through mornings with a silent mantra - hot coffee, good music, ordered house. If only I can get this smoothie made, this probiotic into their yogurt, this lunch made, this dishwasher unloaded, these beds made, Alice’s hair brushed, Isla’s face washed. If only I can get all of this done, there will be a reward.

I realize that I have conditioned myself in a manner not dissimilar to a border collie.

But at eight thirty in the morning, when the house is all mine, I close the office door and turn up the latest Lumineers album and begin my secret day.

It’s carved out in rough parameters - writing, exercising, dinner, weaving, sourcing bathroom faucets.

But really it’s being creative and chanting Sa Ta Na Ma one hundred times during kundalini yoga.  It’s following a recipe to a T because I have zero confidence in cooking, it’s researching the hell out of pretty faucets, pinning only the best and then photoshopping the chosen one into the design plan.

Damn my inflexibility, but if that list goes unfulfilled or interrupted, I don’t take it well. 


Maybe you think there is something indulgent about this secret life of mine.

Perhaps as our children grow, there's a certain freedom that comes along with it. One that we, as mothers, fill with things we deem important even though we aren't necessarily bringing in major bucks (obviously not speaking for all here)...


I realize what I am doing. Right now, as I type this essay. I am setting myself up.

You do realize if we have another baby, this is all going to go away?  My husband noted, while I remained half curled into my pillow, last Saturday morning.

The girls can help out. I muttered, joking.

Oh are they going to feed the baby nutella and cereal for breakfast?

No. Maybe?


Do you share this secret life of mine? I'd love to know.

and P.S. In case you missed it - past essays: done, not done and doing it


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