Reviewing the Treasures Of My 'Mom Collection'

One good thing about being a mother is that you get to have children, even if they're not always your own. Other than that, it may not be so great a career choice: long hours, lousy pay, no privacy, not much respect. A friend of mine says motherhood often feels like being wallpaper. I know what she means, having felt that way myself a little more than often. (Does anyone listen to wallpaper? I don't think so.)

But there's a lot to be said for wallpaper. Furniture may move, people may change, but wallpaper remains. You can count on it. It's a constant in a world of flux. That's what mothers are, or should be. The wallpaper we count on, the background of our lives.

I used to be in the forefront, the star of my own life. Now I'm a background, too. It's cool. The labor-intensive part of being wallpaper - I mean, a moth- er - doesn't last long. Stage 1 is pre-preschool: diapers, feedings, diapers, getting up in the middle of the night, diapers, strollers. Did I mention diapers?

Stage 2 is preschool. Still diapers, sometimes, but sipper cups replace bottles, and playdates begin (kids these days need a Filofax more than their moms do). Then there's library story hour, naps (maybe), still not much sleep - for you, that is.

Finally, Stage 3: school! More time for you ... to volunteer for the PTA, to become chauffeur-mom (cap not required), to help with homework, and, yes, get a little more sleep, at last. But if you have more children, it's dj vu all over again. And again.

I love the phrase "full-time mother." Like there's such a thing as a part-time mom? Folks, this ain't no hobby, and it's not getting any easier. You make it up as you go along, trying to keep your cool, your perspective, your car keys, and your sense of humor.

I'VE known some great moms. You could say I'm a mom collector. They've all been role models for me. From their examples I've cobbled together my best impression of what a mom should be. Most of the time I don't feel that I fill the bill. Fortunately, my kids haven't caught on yet.

Some of the best moms I've known didn't have kids of their own. It was simply their nature to nurture. I call them ber-moms. Marque was one. She was a Sunday School teacher and a friend to anyone in need of mothering. She raised a lot of kids with her love. Some of them, like me, even had more-than-adequate moms to begin with. But I've always believed you can never have too many mothers.

Carlie's another ber-mom. She loves dogs, horses, and my kids, in no particular order. She likes other kids, too, but she makes me feel like mine are a cut above. Clever woman. She is patient and undemanding. My kids and my dogs are blessed to have her, in no particular order. She's a constant source of common sense and good advice.

Then there are Denise and Jan, my two in-town pals. We spend a lot of time together watching our kids after school at the playground. Fortunately for us, our kids like each other. Which is a good thing, because they're stuck with each other as long as we, their mothers, are friends. Which I hope is forever.

Jan and Denise will gainsay me on this, but they are both garden-variety good moms. They provide me with the daily sanity check we front-line moms need to give each other. Such as, I'm not the only person on the planet (besides my husband) who thinks a seven-year-old should not see the movie "Titanic" or stay up until 10 on a school night. Or own his or her own Nintendo. Or Giga-pet.

OK, OK, I lose points on the issue of Beanie Baby excess, but those things are cute and cuddly. And at $4.99 a beanie, kinda hard to resist. Besides, if my kids ever outgrow them I can sew them all together and make a large beanbag couch. Ouch. Once I learn how to sew, that is.

Last but not least, there's my mom. You don't think I could leave her out, now, do you? Do you think I want to give up free baby-sitting? Free dinners? Free advice? Are you nuts? Come to think of it, that's what makes her such an extraordinary person, and mom. She does all this giving with no strings attached. She says she likes to do it. She's always been like this (at least as long as I've known her), so I've given up trying to figure it out. I'm just grateful to be on the receiving end.

For me, the best thing about being a mom is the bird's-eye view I get of what being a dad is all about. But that's another story.

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