Meanest Mom in the Land

by Cara Essick Ontiveros

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When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter Olivia, I romanticized what motherhood would be like. I was fairly naïve. I imagine that when most women are expecting their first bundle of joy, they share similar thoughts and beliefs. I dreamed the joys of parenthood would be unlike anything I would ever experience.  I imagined many days of laughter, endless smiles, walks in the park, ice cream cones, ballet lessons, tutus, hair-bows, cuddles, nighttime stories and on and on. If I had to describe my pre-parenting fantasy in one word it would be “perfection.” It was simple and sweet with no room for fighting, crying, disobeying or screaming.

When you venture down the road to parenthood (or for that matter even before you start having your own children) you can’t imagine the “hard” or “rough” or “pull-my-hair-out” frustrating side that comes along with motherhood. Maybe it’s not so much that you can’t imagine it, but the thought that being a parent is simply the most difficult and exhausting thing that you will ever do in your life never crosses your mind. At least that is how it was in my case. I think that we can all agree and chalk up our pre-parenting thoughts in one simple phrase: you don’t know what you don’t know.

After nearly seven years of being a parent to two daughters, what do I know? Well, let me be completely transparent and tell you what I have learned.

I KNOW… sometimes I am embarrassed to walk out my front door to get my mail out of my mailbox or to mow the lawn because I am sure that my neighbors (Bob and Traci on one side and Gary and Laurie on the other) think that all I ever do is yell. I bet that during the summer months they wish that I would turn on my air conditioning and keep the windows closed! “Olivia & Brooklyn,
I said no,” are the sounds ringing from house on a daily basis. In fact, I am certain my neighbors have wondered from time to time if I have a “normal” or “inside” speaking voice. But in all fairness, it’s not always my voice you hear from a mile away. Sure, I will admit that sometimes I will yell at the kids, but they sometimes yell at me and most often they are yelling at one another.
I find myself wondering when I became one of those people who yell with a booming voice. I am not a “yeller.” I can’t stand when I see people yelling at their kids and yet I find myself doing it more than I would like to admit. Bill Cosby said it best: “Parents are people who yell and they yell and they yell and they yell. And you already have the point, and they’re still yelling.”

I KNOW… I am beyond sick and tired of hearing myself on constant repeat.
“I said no.”
“Take a shower.”
“Stop hitting your sister.”
“No, there is no ice cream before dinner.”
“Clean up your room.”
“No, I am not buying you that toy.”
“Don’t stand on the furniture.”
“Brush your teeth.”
“Flush the toilet.”
“Because, I said so!”
“Stop fighting.”
“Go to bed!”
“Stay in bed!”
“Get back in bed!”

I KNOW… the sound of my kids fighting and screaming with one another will instantly put me over the edge. The yelling, hitting and crying makes me go from zero to sixty in a split second. More often than not the only way to break up the fight or get them to hear me is for my voice to top their high-pitched screams. I swear my brother and I never fought like this when we were kids. My mother often likes to remind me of that.

I KNOW… teaching your kids valuable lessons about doing the right thing is exhausting. Recently, we took the girls to church on Saturday evening and my youngest daughter was so awful during mass that I almost cried. She wouldn’t sit still, wouldn’t stop talking, wouldn’t stop touching her sister, wouldn’t sit when she was supposed to sit and wouldn’t stand when she was supposed to stand.

I think you get the picture. After mass, my husband and I made the decision to take her back to church the following morning. We felt that she needed to learn how to behave in church, and trust me, it’s not like she never goes to church. We frequently go and she goes to a Catholic school. We sat her down and told her how disappointed we were with her behavior and that she would be going back to church the next day and if she was naughty again she would go back to the mass after that. Needless to say, she did much better the second time around.

I KNOW… many days I feel like I am failing, that I am the only mom in the world who was born without patience. I also know that I pray more about patience (finding some or accepting my lack-of) more than I pray about anything else.

I KNOW… despite my long-reign title and being frequently called “The Meanest Mom in the Land,” that someday they will thank me for having rules, schedules and structure.

I KNOW… I am not alone and sometimes I need to give myself more credit than I do.

I KNOW… I will cry the first day the kids go back to school.

I KNOW… I have never loved someone so much and been so frustrated with them at the same time.

I KNOW… I have never tried so hard to be so good at something in all of my life.

I KNOW… being a parent is hard, frustrating, exhausting and some days unbearable.

I KNOW… with every pound they gain, every inch they grow and every tooth they lose it is a daily reminder that children grow so fast. This is a good reminder for me to slow it down and enjoy these days.

I KNOW…that yes, I yell. Yes, I punish. Yes, I make sure they clean their rooms and brush their teeth. Yes, I will make them go to church again if they are horrible the first time around. Yes, they will do their homework before they go outside to play. Yes, I will make them eat fruit before they can have Doritos. Yes, I will make sure they say please and thank-you. Yes, I will turn off the TV and put in book in their lap. Yes, I will make sure they apologize when they fight with one another.

While I will disagree that I am the “Meanest Mom in the Land,” I think that I can finally admit that I am just like you, and maybe that makes us the “Best-Extraordinary-Normal-Moms- in-the-Land.”

Photography of Cara Essick Ontiveros

Cara Essick Ontiveros is a busy modern-day mom.  Cara is a business owner, culinary arts student, and mom to two very active girls.  She is a theater lover, dog lover, shopaholic and vino drinker.