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The number one way to tell if you are mom material

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Can you wipe?

No job is more humbling than motherhood. It’s the role where you find yourself wiping people and things on an hourly basis. When I think about how many cloths I’ve palmed then poised over faces, bottoms, countertops, carpets, hands, feet, toilet seats, windows, sinks, crockpot inserts, lampshades, tummies, armpits, chins and chins and chins, I gasp.

Wiping takes style and skill. It’s circular scrubbing, sacrificing manicures, it’s flipping and folding, rinsing, squeezing, unfurling, balling. Wiping becomes second-nature for the person who is faced with deluges of grime and goo.

The tools of the trade are many. A wise mama knows when to break out wet cloths, dry cloths, scented cloths, disposable, washable, and those destined for a dumpster because the stuff on the other side will be a little too microbial, even for the hot cycle.

It seems mean and more than insulting to distill motherhood down into one humbling act, but I think wiping speaks volumes for who she is and who she must be as a woman and a loving caretaker. 

Mom material means putting others first, even when the others happen to wear diapers they fill like loose slot machines. I swear, I’ve heard clang clang clang clang clang before being presented with an intestinal jackpot. Wipe.

Mom material means sensing when hearts are broken. It’s cradling the frightened preschooler, wrapping arms around the bullied 4th grader, rocking the baby with an ear infection. Tears flow like splashing streams. Wipe.

Mom material requires a sense of humor. A shirt is pulled off, revealing a colored bellybutton. A young daughter tries applying eyeshadow to every body party but her eyes. A toddler has dog food crumbs in the corner of his smiling mouth. Wipe.

Mom material displays an uncanny ability to anticipate the future. The mop is retrieved from it’s home in the corner. Mugs are filled with hot cocoa. There’s a clean towel on standby. The kids are outside, playing in the snow. Soon, the floor will be covered in leaves and dirty wet snow. And someone will slosh her cocoa because she is breathless and pink-cheeked and can’t wait to tell you about the fort she built. Wipe, wipe, wipe.

Mom material is a realist. She knows that life is beautiful and messy and that her little ones are imperfect humans, just like she is an imperfect human. She spills her cereal sometimes. She tracks in mud after a sudden storm. She dabs her own eyes when her heart overflows. She swipes her own nose when she catches the virus the kids brought home from school.

Mom material has a memory. There was a time when she was a child and someone looked upon her tenderly when she clang-clanged into her diaper or sloshed in any manner. But then there are the moms who didn’t have that tenderness and my heart goes out to them. Our small daily sacrifices mean much, much more than we can comprehend. I’ve been guilty of announcing how very much I hate that I have to wipe up this or that or oh my word, what is that!?

And then I put myself in their shoes. They need me on so many levels, but it all comes down to one small physical action in the end. I’m proud to be a Wiper.

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Comments
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  • comment avatar Susan November 8, 2011

    Gretchen what a beautifully written piece. I have realized too that motherhood involves a lot of wiping in a lot of places. My favorite is wiping away tears and cuddling until the smiles return. And I will admit my life brightened again when I didn’t have to wipe poopy bottoms every day. Although I loved the little round cheeks.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson November 8, 2011

    Before this post, I have never once been grateful for all the wiping I do. But my gosh, you made me remember just how truly wonderful it really is!

  • comment avatar Lisa Vratny-Smith November 8, 2011

    Beautifully said, Gretchen. I’m amazed at how that one action truly does permeate our entire lives as mothers. What an insight! 🙂

  • comment avatar Daria November 8, 2011

    I love it! 🙂 Very true too…

  • comment avatar Wendy November 8, 2011

    Loved this. Thanks for posting!

  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz November 8, 2011

    With this post, you did turn around The Wipe for me!

    As for those chins, Husband and I have an ongoing debate on just WHEN nerves around the mouth develop enough for a kid to know s/he’s got food there. And there and there.

  • comment avatar Amanda November 8, 2011

    Sick daughter last night, we are doing a lot of wiping right now. It is a good word to describe motherhood.

  • comment avatar Chara November 8, 2011

    Love this. This is why I get so excited about those 50 cent dish towels at Ikea. “Fifty cents! Let’s buy 100!” (I’m kind of a drag at Ikea.)

  • comment avatar Amelia November 8, 2011

    This is so true, I had never thought about being a mom like this before. I had also never really thought about all the different wipes in a day, or lifetime :), but it makes me proud to be a mom. Thank you for your post!

  • comment avatar Amy November 9, 2011

    What a beautiful post, Gretchen. It makes me incredibly proud tone a wiper too.

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  • comment avatar JoAnn November 10, 2011

    Great post, Gretchen!

  • comment avatar Rosalie June 7, 2012

    ! Having a 17 old daughter, she(we) have been deliang with this issue for a while. TV has become such a focal point our female youth and the shows that appeal to them show girls in a unflattering manner. I have gone to great measures to teach her to be gentle, kind, and loving to all those she meets. Now that said I have had to call my little angel out on some of her behavior and give her a reality check! I think it all comes down to manners and accountabilty. i am and should still be head accountable for my childs actions if they are still living with me and I am responsible for them. When Maddie starts acting up I remind her that Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior 864 page book is on the bookshelf and she will need to sit down and read a few chapters if she doesn’t straighten up!!

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