Monday, February 25, 2013

(Secret?) Identity

Last week at work I noticed one of my younger co-workers (she's in her early 20s) anxiously looking at a bottle of salad dressing, wondering just how long it had sat in the refrigerator and whether she could safely put it on her lunch. I asked to take a look at it and reassured her it hadn't gone bad and that she could safely use it. She replied, "Thanks, I just needed a mom to tell me it was OK to eat."

That struck me and gave me a huge smile. Of course, I'm still trying on this mantle of motherhood and feel like a complete newbie at least half the time. I haven't done it with my own child for too long, although I've always tended to mother my former students, my friends and my younger sisters (in both loving and hectoring ways, truthfully). Yet this marked a first, probably because this co-worker has only ever known me as somebody's mother. She didn't know me before I had J; to her, my identity has always included that of a mom. And because of that, I have the power to accurately and safely gauge condiment edibility. I could have told her that the dressing was safe, had I known her two years ago, but this whole motherhood gig gives me added cache.

I thought about it, and I believe, to some extent, that rings true with me. For example: I need to get my engagement ring fixed. Who will I ask about the best place to take it? My mother and my mother-in-law. Whom do I call when I get sick (aside from dear T, of course)? Mom. When my sister M had her daughter five months before I had J, I tended to call her first with my newborn questions--after all, she knew what to do. And she probably felt about two steps ahead of me in her own Mom Knowledge, if that.

I'm not saying in any way that women without children don't have authority. Some of the most motherly women I know don't children of their own and give excellent advice, and I know some mothers I wouldn't trust to tell me water is wet. But for good or ill, me having J has apparently imbued me with an invisible badge of Experience and Knowledge. I'll do my best to earn it.

Now, wear your hat--it's cold outside. Yes, I can fix that; I just need some string. And don't worry--a little baking soda and vinegar should get that stain right out.

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