When I was growing up, everyone wanted to be a Cosby kid. Clair Huxtable was the perfect mother. How did she do it? Her house was always so clean without the help of a maid, her marriage was perfect and loving, and her relationship with her in-laws (and also her husband’s relationship with her family) seemed to be the stuff of a modern-day “Leave It To Beaver.” I remember looking at my own mother and wondering why SHE couldn’t be like Clair. I would tell myself that my family would be just like the Huxtables. We would be happy and have fun all the time and when we did have the occasional problem, we would quickly solve it and have a group hug in celebration.
Then I grew up. Work, cooking, cleaning, church, quality time with the husband and all the stuff that comes with kids. Somewhere in there I had to find time to bathe, brush my teeth, sleep, comb my hair, get my eyebrows waxed, and remain somewhat stylish. No calendar in the world seemed to have enough hours for me to get all of those things done to perfection. What’s more, there were tons of editorials and news shows that talked about how women were taking anti-depressant medication in order to cope with their inability to live up to the impossible standards projected by Clair, Carol and June. Just the idea of depression made me depressed.
If you can identify with any of the things I’ve said, let me give you a different way to look at things. Clair, June and Carol were perfect….for thirty minutes a week! The other six days, twenty-three and a half hours, they were probably running around like mad women cleaning the house and threatening their children within an inch of their lives if they embarrassed them while everyone was watching. Heck, we do that all the time! Think about getting ready for church every week, going to the store, or preparing for visitors to your home. After cleaning frantically in an old t-shirt and my husband’s over-sized basketball shorts, I sit all of my children on the sofa. I point my fingers at them saying something like, “Act like you don’t have home training when these people come over here! Please! Please act up! I’m begging you! Do you hear me? I’m begging you to!” Wide-eyed, they stare above my head, nod in understanding, and disappear to their rooms as I continue to yell a laundry list of all of the things they “better not” do.
After I’m done yelling, I go in the bathroom and get a glance of myself in the mirror. My hair is standing on end. That’s probably what the kids were staring at and I can imagine them upstairs laughing at me and calling me crazy because I look a complete mess! June Cleaver never looked like that when she was cleaning in her high heels and perfectly ironed apron. Fail. I rush into the shower and about forty-five minutes later, I look like new money. I slip on my heels just as the door bells rings and welcome my guests as if I had been lounging on the sofa waiting for their arrival. I respond, “This old thing?!” when I’m complimented on the dress that I just bitten the tag off of and glance lovingly at my children as if I hadn’t threatened to put them up for adoption hours earlier.
The moral of the story: The next time you are moving frantically and haphazardly through motherhood feeling like a failure because you couldn’t pull your life off like Clair, remember that you only saw her life for thirty minutes a week. If you can manage to pull it together for at least thirty-one minutes a week, you have Clair beat. It’s all about perspective.