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F*cked at 40

F*cked at 40

Tova Leigh

This excerpt is reprinted by kind permission of Watkins Publishing.

Tova Leigh’s book is available now at Amazon.com.

Mommy, I want a banana. Mommy, can you peel my banana? Wash my banana. My banana is yuck. I don’t want a banana. I want a banana. But not that banana. I want another banana. Can you cut it? Not like that. Yes, like that. Hold my banana. Don’t touch my banana. I want it in a bowl. Not the pink bowl. The yellow one. No, don’t cut it! I don’t want a bowl. I want a bowl but not the yellow one. My banana is sad. My banana likes cats. My banana can dance. Look mommy, my banana can fly! My banana fell. My banana is dirty now. I don’t want this banana anymore. Mommy, can I have an apple?

I am not a perfect mother. I yell. I lose my temper. I don’t like joining in their playtime and doing arts and crafts. I suck at baking. I swear. They see me on my phone far too often. I argue with my husband Mike in front of them. I don’t come down to their level when I talk to them. I have called for time-out. I use the TV as a babysitter. When they were under five I didn’t bother getting them a birthday card and I re-gifted some birthday presents as Christmas gifts. I don’t always listen to their boring stories. I don’t believe in democracy and I use phrases like “Because I said so.” And I often wish they would f**k off.

But I also never lie to them. I have their backs, no matter what. And I tell them I love them every chance I get. I hug and kiss them, and they have a place to rest their heads when they are scared or sad. I dance with them in the kitchen and jump on the trampoline. I tell them no one is perfect and that’s okay. I let them run around naked in the garden and climb trees. I ask them how they feel when they hear us argue and I make sure they see us make up, and I make sure they know how much I love and appreciate them. I tell them its okay to be sad. I don’t try to be their best friend. And I tell them that putting their needs first is not a bad thing like people make it out to be.

I lost myself. I said it wouldn’t happen, but it did. And the thing is, I am not just talking about the obvious – about forgetting what real clothes look like and how to have a conversation with other adults that doesn’t mention children or blended vegetables.

I am talking about forgetting who I was. What my real name is – not “mom” – my actual name and what I need. And as I was in the process of losing myself I kept thinking that this was what I was supposed to be doing. “The kids are still young. There will be time to start living again when they get older,” people would say. Well, you know what? They were wrong. As moms, it’s not our job to put our lives on hold till the kids reach 18 and leave the house. Where does it say that? I found there was a secret code no one talked about – it was like a competition of who has it the worst. Who is working the hardest? Who is wearing the most hats and juggling the most plates up in the air? It is such an exhausting reality, and one that weighs down so many women, yet it’s so hard to break out of that cycle.

And then there was the “mom” label. Everywhere I looked it would pop up. One day I was out shopping trying to get a few last minute things for our holiday, and I saw these “mom jeans”. I asked the lady at the cash register what “mom jeans” meant, to which she replied, “You know – they’re loose and comfy because moms want to have it all hang out.” I was so annoyed, and I wondered if I was the only one who was sick of things being labelled “mom” – mom bag, mom car, mom bra, mom hair (what the hell is mom hair?). I couldn’t understand why just because a woman had a baby she stopped being everything else she ever was before that little bundle of joy ripped her vagina apart.

Even within the label of mom there are breakdowns – working mom, stay-at-home mom, breastfeeding mom, bottle-feeding mom, helicopter mom, baking cupcakes mom, and so on. And people need to know what group you belong to so they can form a preconception of who you are and make a million judgements about you before you even say one word.

I didn’t want to be labelled any sort of mom; I just wanted to be me. But when I was finally bestowed with the great title of Mother, it was like – that’s it, party over.

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