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VICKIE IOVINE / Girlfriends' Guide to Family

A Job in Which the Rewards Always Outweigh the Woes

May 09, 1999|Vicki Iovine | Every Sunday, author and columnist Vicki Iovine will use her patented "Girlfriends' Guide" approach to chat about family, parenting and relationships

Here it is, girlfriends, the big day celebrating that profound, relentless and exquisitely vulnerable condition known as motherhood. To all of you who have known the maternal instinct, intellectual challenge and occasional glimpse of sheer magic that define mommydom, I wish you a happy Mother's Day.

I don't care how your children found their way to you; you might have birthed them, adopted them, inherited them or received them by Federal Express. Once a child has put his or her lovelock on you and you have succumbed, you are a dues-paying member of our clan and deserving of all rights and privileges--as well as the heartbreak, insecurity and utter lack of sleep that define the International Sisterhood of Mothers.

After years of membership, I can tell you with authority that no one really gets used to this gig. I may feel 17 inside, but when I wrap my 5-year-old into a koala hug and run to the mirror to giggle with her, it's nothing short of miraculous. In fact, it's downright staggering how glowing and full of life her flawless face looks next to this "mature gal."

And if that's not shocking enough, I find myself in charge of such tasks as teaching racial tolerance, kindness to siblings and animals (often lumped into the same category) and the value of hard work.

We moms also face the small matters of holding a marriage together, trying to blend a new marriage with old kids or facing the entire parenting challenge on our own. Add a job or two to the mix, and throw in that time spent volunteering in the schools or caring for aging parents (yours and his) and you have all the ingredients of a crazy mommy salad.

So what, you must be asking, is the payoff? What makes this machine called maternity worthwhile? Well, not what you've been holding your breath for, that's for sure.

The biggest bangs for our bucks usually come in those moments when we're so bleary-eyed we almost miss them. They are not about watching your kid win a spelling bee or hit a triple (although those aren't half bad). They're also not about how amply we are rewarded by the father of those kids (although a little trinket doesn't hurt).

Nope, it's about us, mommies. Our enrichment, our fulfillment and our front-row seats on their blossoming lives. That's right, we're not really doing any favors here. Being a mommy is its own reward.

Even when the house feels about to spontaneously combust and the kids are playing doctor in the basement, if you can't rise above the fracas for at least 30 seconds to acknowledge that your life is richer and finer for knowing this mayhem, then you're not getting your money's worth out of motherhood.

If you haven't discovered that all children on the planet smell most intoxicating when they exude a combination of a bedtime bath and two hours of sleep, you've missed a tasty morsel.

And if you don't rediscover the exquisite pain of first love through the eyes of your 13- (OK, 12-year-old), then your heart has become too lazy and cynical.

It is our babies who bless us with second chances, fresh perspectives and the conviction that the heart must always lead the mind. If that's not a fair trade for a few extra gray hairs, stretch marks--heck, even hemorrhoids--then nothing is.

Don't wait for your kids to validate your mothering by becoming cardiologists, Steven Spielberg or Bishop Tutu, and coming to visit you every Sunday. Look inside your own life and ask, "If I could choose again, would I skip the parenting part?"

If you couldn't imagine any other life endeavor that would transform you from mortal woman into Supermom, Mother Teresa, Martha Stewart and Peg Bundy all rolled into one, then get down on your knees beside the rest of us and thank heaven for the one job that you are completely sure is essential, that Mother Nature intended and that is guaranteed to make your heart swell to breaking at least once a day.

Celebrate now, moms, and celebrate every single time you can come up for a breath. Life's value is measured in diaper changes, not in dollars. The payoff is today--capture it.

Vicki Iovine is the harried author of the "Girlfriends' Guide," a columnist for Child magazine, and mother of four. Write to her at Girlfriends, Southern California Living, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053; e-mail GrlfrndsVI@aol.com. Please include your name and phone number.

Parental Guidance

How do you deal with or talk about tragic or grim news events with your children? Write to Parental Guidance or e-mail socalliving@latimes.com. On Mondays in Southern California Living.

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