Motherhood tends to get a gauzy filter in our art and folklore. Mothers use their instincts and sensible haircuts to become superhumanly patient, staid, wise, and—above all—model citizens. Who better to run the local charities, school fundraisers, and safety rallies than a mother?
Well, I’m calling it on my own transformation into the suburban example of good citizenship. Before having kids, I was polite, on time, put together, and generally even-keeled. Now I feel lucky if I’ve had enough sleep to remember the socially acceptable responses to “how are you today?” Here are the ways motherhood has made me a worse citizen.
1. Sometimes I litter
I saw a Snapchat rant the other day about how someone found a dirty diaper on the floor in the changing station stall of a public bathroom. My initial thought was immediate sympathy for the mom who likely dragged one or more screaming children out of a public bathroom after performing an operation roughly equivalent to wrestling a ball gown off of and then back onto a chimpanzee—while keeping said chimpanzee from touching any surfaces. If a diaper rolls and gets left behind in the process, there's a decent chance I might also leave it in the name of my mental health. (Also, I get it. I would have been all over that rant pre-kids. Because ewwww diapers.)
2. I don't always return my cart
I used to be a model citizen when it came to returning my shopping cart—only lazy people don't make that walk back to the cart return, right? These days, it doesn't take much to convince me to leave it. No parking spot near the cart return? Given the choice, I’ll put that cart discreetly to the side before hauling my 30-pound, late-for-her-nap toddler across the length of the Costco parking lot while dodging angry fellow shoppers. This has become especially true as I enter my third trimester of pregnancy with baby number two. It just isn’t going to happen.
3. I now speak fluent “no”
There was a time that I had a fairly high discomfort level with declining requests and invitations. Whether it was volunteering for an event, putting in a few extra hours at work, or attending a fundraiser, I was generally your gal for an obligatory "yes" and a begrudging extra mile or two. These days, I reserve that yes for myself and my family first—and everything else comes in a distant second or third.
4. I’m chronically late
It's a well-documented phenomenon that science has yet to explain, but young children and babies have an uncanny ability to sense when you're in a hurry and time their most impressive bowel movements, tantrums, and existential crises accordingly. For the first year of my daughter's life, I felt genuinely stressed and ashamed of my unfashionably-late arrival times, but now I warn people beforehand to expect my tardiness—especially to morning functions.
5. I'm more outspoken
You can decide whether this makes me a worse or a better citizen in the long run, but I've found I have a tougher time keeping quiet about injustice, unfairness, and cruelty in the world now that I'm a parent. I used to stay silent when acquaintances and strangers and even friends put down other individuals, groups, or ethnicities, but now I feel an obligation to leave this world better for my kids (I hope). My sense of justice got a major shot in the arm the day I became a mother.
I know someday I'll be out of the topsy-turvy years of babies and toddlers and drool and spit-up and diapers. I'll probably get a little bit of that old politeness back when I have more brain power, more sleep, and fewer spaghetti-o stained shirts. In the meantime, I'll count my duty to society admirably fulfilled by doing my damndest to raise kind, respectful, hard-working kids to be a part of the next generation.