Anticipating in Motherhood.

By: Jen Shoop
"Even the weatherman gets caught in the rain."

This week, I had the strangest bifurcation of experiences as a mother. In the first, I patted myself on the back for my “anticipator” ways — that is, I found myself well-prepared for multiple last-minute outings. I had wipes when needed for sticky palms, emergency snacks in good supply, a new coloring pad when my son was acting up in Church, and a bandaid when I accidentally pinched my son’s finger in the carseat. (Of course, no bandaid was actually needed; it was serving its critical ancillary role as a placebo mollifier — well known to mothers the world over.) I also perfectly timed a convoluted mom life sequence: picking up my children from a half-day at school; identifying and driving somewhere that would both serve an acceptable lunch for my children (no small task, as they are picky) and offer snacky provisions for a girl’s night I was hosting the following day; and then arrive at my son’s rescheduled speech therapy session, and all within an hour. I say this not to showboat, but to demonstrate how far I felt I’d come in my matrescence. There have been countless instances where I’ve forgotten the bandaids, or reached into the wipes bag to find it dry, or been too stressed by the logistics of a multi-stop trip with young children to even undertake it. (As recently as six months ago, I might not have attempted the lunch-and-provision-shop stop with my children.) And so I found myself pleased with my own progress. It felt this week that I’d successfully contemplated not only Plan B, but Plans C, D, E, F, G, and showed up with the needed supplies. My sister and I often talk about a scene in “One Fine Day” where George Clooney’s daughter complains she’s hungry, and he fishes in his pocket and finds an unappealing tic-tac before Michelle Pfeiffer retrieves a blueberry muffin in her Mary Poppins handbag, saying “Here you, go sweetie.” For decades, we’ve clung to the enshrined model of prepared motherhood from that scene. As I’ve learned these past seven years, though, it takes a Herculean amount of effort to live out the Michelle Pfeiffer paradigm, and sometimes those ministrations are wasted. (For example, it’s happened to me that I’ve arrived somewhere with carefully cut fruit that has gone uneaten and then rancid in the car. And what if Clooney’s daughter hadn’t pilfered for the muffin? Would it have gone stale in her bag? Even the weatherman gets caught in the rain.) Let me be real, too: sometimes those preparations are a waste of not only supplies but energy. How badly do you really need a bandaid, a water bottle, etc? These are nice to have on hand if needed, but you can usually run into a CVS, ask a stranger for help, use something else to tide yourself over, wait the ten minutes until you’re home. (These are not life or death circumstances!) Would I rather lose five or ten minutes pre-packing for every possible contingency or make do should something arise? I’m haunted by the thought that everything I do is displacing something else. Perhaps that’s an unwanted scarcity mindset view, but isn’t it true that I could either spend my precious time preparing for every possible scenario and securing all needed supplies, or I could spend that time…writing, being present with my children, taking a walk outside? Which is to say, doing the things that make me feel whole?

At the same time. I do know this about myself: I feel most confident when I’m over-prepared (learned trial by fire style from my pitching, management, and presentation days), and I’m not the biggest fan of last minute surprises. As I like to remind myself: Be as you are. In a sense, my preparations are an act of love to my future self–even a kind of self-care. I know I’ll feel better, calmer, more equipped if I have my little emergency kit ready to go. And so I was proud of myself this week — both for having what my children needed when they needed it, and for feeling “settled into” this phase of motherhood.

A day after these “hurrah!” sentiments surfaced, I took my daughter to the pediatric dentist to have a cavity filled and sealants put on her teeth. I had hardly slept the night prior. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on what was bothering me, but I tossed and turned all night. As I sat next to her little form in the dental chair, I put two and two together: I had been deeply anxious about her treatment. I found it agonizing — almost impossible to watch — as the dentist worked. I shifted in my seat, I wrung my daughter’s stuffed animal, I said a decade of the rosary — but mainly I stared at my daughter’s hands, which occasionally flexed in pain or surprise and then relaxed. Clocking her gestures made me feel in some panicked way as though I could step in if signaled.

I wrote a few years ago about how I’ve found some moments in motherhood unexpectedly hard on the heart. I wrote: “…motherhood is like that, I find: the tiniest tug might lever the most enormous lurch of the heart. Sort of like fishing, I think: a little nibble, you reel, and you might find a whale at the other end of the line.” I’d gone into the dental office expecting minnows and instead caught a big fat whale. I didn’t even know those cetacean emotions were brewing, but now I see their headwaters clearly: a string of high-stress dentist visits with mini when she was younger (I described one such recently, where my daughter began flinging implements around the room), a lot of dental work in my own childhood (much less comfortable then than it is now — I didn’t have nitrous for cavities! I also had a molar removed while I was awake and not sedated in the least and it sends a shiver of dread down my spine when I think about it); and a recent incident in which my orthodontist’s partner unexpectedly filed my teeth down while I was sitting in her chair. (This was during my Invisalign treatment — the best gift I’ve ever given myself.) It didn’t hurt, but it was unexpectedly triggering. I’d had it done many years before, when the technology was more barbaric, and had found the experience painful and the results unattractive. So that day the orthodontist unexpectedly filed down my teeth, I sweated through all my clothes (right down to my underwear), sprinted to my car, and wept at the wheel. Another whale at the end of the line.

My point, though, is that I was unprepared for the dentist office moment this week. I was shocked by my own jumpiness. Here I was, wringing a stuffed animal and white knuckling it through ten Hail Marys, and the intensity had emerged out of thin air. My post-mortem proves the opposite, of course — that there are deep roots at play that explain my reaction — but man! Just another day where motherhood took the wind out of me. Just another whale to sling over my shoulder. I spent half the week celebrating how well I’d anticipated what was needed of me as a mother, and then Tuesday’s emotional vehemence came like a bolt from the blue. Motherhood continues to humble, doesn’t it?


+Motherhood is full of permutations of love.

+“I can think of several lives worth living.”

+What does lunch look like for you?

Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+Part of my “prepared mode” as a mother: keeping the bottom shelf of my studio closet stocked with mom bag staples. This includes: 1) a mini pouch with bandaids, sanitizer, neosporin, and sunscreen (we love Supergoop); 2) a snack pouch; 3) a big plastic bin of rotating activities — I’ll pull out a few at a time for Church, travel, appointments, restaurants, car time — and I usually keep a good supply of Usborne sticker books, Melissa and Doug sketch pads and activity books, this Crayola marker set, and Plus Plus pieces (these little zippered pouches are great for storage); 4) Cutter wipes during bug season; 5) a change of clothes and often a change of shoes depending on what’s in store. The Natives see a ton of wear in summer — you just can’t beat their design! — and I like the little co-ord sets from Zara and H&M, as they require no matching/planning; 6) Wipes — I’ve been using Honest lately. When they were younger, we’d go through so many wipes, I’d buy them in those enormous bulk bags and decant into a wipes dispenser.

+I rotate between mom bags, but I often carry my Goyard, this Altuzarra (holds a surprising amount), LL Bean, or, for bigger outings, the Calpak seen above. It’s a great day trip bag, thoughtfully designed with interior slots and pockets and a separate compartment for shoes. It’s currently 15% off.

+I just updated my Magpie promo code page — a few great brands extended us codes, including Freda Salvador, RMS Beauty, and Mille! If there’s a brand you’d love a code for, let me know via email or comment and I’ll try to get one for us.

+$22 pareos in great patterns. I also like to wear these as scarves with white tee and jeans.

+Hunter Bell releases the most fabulous, fun vacation pieces — they always sell through quickly as she releases in small batches. I love this dress and this one!

+Just got on the waitlist for this popcorn seasoning. Another (even easier) way to serve up fancy popcorn: this truffle kind you pop at home. I just ordered a few boxes as I like to keep these on hand as little hostess gifts.

+Immediately ordered Emily Henry’s newest book. (I really enjoyed this one last summer.)

+Just started using this Chantecaille foundation a few days ago and am madly impressed. WOW. Really looks like skin and has a great gel texture to it.

+A fab Zara score. Also love this patterned shirtdress. Perfect with a polished brown leather sandal.

+Two trendy shoes I keep thinking about: these platform sandals and these platform espadrilles.

+Fun Gap find for $60!

+If you like Lizzie Fortunato’s chunky gumball necklaces, you might like this $50 look for less.

+These sandals for girls are so fun.

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2 thoughts on “Anticipating in Motherhood.

  1. I love One Fine Day. It is such a classic and while far from reality on many levels it also is very realistic in some ways. To just be a great looking Mom in a tshirt and blazer and have someone that good looking. Ah.

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