Maybe my kids should find a new hero….

by Janelle Hanchett

You know what I find infinitely unfair about motherhood?

My kids idolize me but they lack the judgment to determine who, in fact, is idol material, which means they’ve stuck my sorry ass up on a pedestal, expecting greatness all the time, but all they get is me, and I’m fucking crazy, but they can’t see that because I’m their mom and they have poor judgment.

Okay FINE. I know. They “love me as I am” and shit. They don’t have “expectations.” I get that.

But they don’t see reality. They only see some shell of reality, some air-brushed vision of motherly loveliness. Oh yeah, they hate me sometimes, particularly the 11-year-old female, but in the end, they adore me.

I am Mama.


My reputation precedes me. My title is so impressive it overshadows my deficiencies.

I know this will change someday, and, just like the rest of us, my kids will one day glance at me and realize, much to their shock, awe and dismay, that mother is a flawed, slightly pathetic human. JUST LIKE THE REST OF THE LOSERS.

But for now, they worship the ground I walk on. They gaze at me adoringly, crave my approval, attention, interest.

If they had any sense whatsoever in their little pin heads, they’d recognize that of all the people on this planet, the particular broad who birthed them is not exactly hero material.

She’s weird, and kinda funny sometimes, but heroic? yeahNO.

And so here I am put on this pedestal by these tiny delusional humans and I’m watching them watch me like the sun sets over my ass (wait, that’s not the cliché, is it?) and I’m also watching myself do insane things on a daily basis and I’m yelling and screaming when I shouldn’t and not doing anything heroic whatsoever and while it’s happening – I mean at the very same moment – I’m like “You know Janelle these kids idolize you. You really should knock this shit off.”

But I can’t.

Every day at least once I do something entirely irrational if not wholly ridiculous and ineffective, and I know it, but I can’t stop.

For example, if I call or text my husband more than three times and he doesn’t answer, I generally lose my mind and send him all kinds of exciting messages such as “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?” or “Could you please for once in your goddamn life answer your fucking cell phone???”

This is irrational because he quite often answers his cell phone. I’d say he usually answers it. But if I call three times and he doesn’t answer, particularly when he just called me or I know he’s at home, I forget that he often answers his phone. Then I he’s a conspiratory asshole purposely avoiding me. Obviously.

Or sometimes I scream at cars that have wronged me (“Are you fucking serious!?”) as if their windows and mine aren’t rolled up and my kids aren’t in the car.

I also eat crap when I’m fat and stressed and feeling sorry for myself, even though I know eating crap makes me feel fat, stressed and feel sorry for myself.

I stay up until 1am because people are not talking to me and I like it.

I stay up until 1am even though Georgia has never in her life slept past 6:30am. Ever. And every morning when her naked self comes bounding into my room squealing, “Mama! Ya gotta get up!” I curse myself and moan and swear tonight I’m going to bed at a reasonable fucking hour, damn it.

It’s currently 12am.

I often read comment threads in mainstream electronic publications discussing breastfeeding in public, gay people and racism, even though I know it’s soul-sucking and would most likely be named the 10th ring of hell, were Dante alive to experience it.

I yell at my kids though it has not lasting benefit and never has.

I always feel better when I meditate routinely, but as soon as I realize I’m feeling better I stop meditating, since I no longer need it, you know, because I feel better.

And so I’m going through life as these kids’ mother and I’ve failed so desperately in ways that really aren’t funny at all, but I’m back and I don’t beat myself up for that shit, because it’s over. And I’m here now. And I’m alright now, and I even have this gorgeous thread of confidence that goes something like this: “Well shit, Janelle, you sure are better than you used to be.”

And it’s always true.

But I’m often not that great at life. I feel a lot of fear sometimes, so much it’s debilitating. Or I’m obsessive. Other times I feel like I just couldn’t possibly care less. Sometimes I’m “ normal.”

Other times I stare at a menu and feel like I might actually die if I have to make a decision, and when I feel the server’s eyes boring into my forehead “Choose motherfucker, CHOOSE!” I have an anxiety that threatens to take my breath away. Then I remember it’s just food, at a restaurant, and it’s gonna be alright.

But that shouldn’t happen to a human being’s idol, right?

I mean if two or three untainted gorgeous children are going to worship somebody, shouldn’t she be able to choose cheeseburger or cobb salad without enduring existential pain?

Shouldn’t she have arrived at some place where professionals and grown-ups hang out?

Sometimes my kids run up to me all proud of whatever it is they’ve made or done or found and I’m impatient because I’m trying to do something else, and there are three kids running up to me announcing “Mama, look!” and let’s be honest, I’m not infinitely interested. I’m just not.

And that, perhaps, is the most insane behavior of all, since one of those kids is walking away, you know. Almost 12 years old. I already miss her desperately.

But sometimes they look at me with a yearning and a confidence and a sweetness of desire that makes me want to run. Go away, kid, I’m not that good. Don’t put me on shit, kid. I’m just a fucked-up human who happens to be your mother.

But I won’t run from that job, I can’t. I won’t. The fact is I am their mother. This is the hand they were dealt. I am the hand they were dealt.

And I’m not that bad. I’m way better than I used to be.

Hey but I’m serious now. Let’s think about this. We’re born, we grow up, we do whatever. One day we birth this child and he or she becomes the air we breathe and an unabashed obsessive fan. The kind of fan who throws himself at the feet of their obsession.

Tacks posters up everywhere. Gets a tattoo of her face. Never misses a show. Reads all her biographies.

But we know the truth of ourselves. We know the dark and fear and grit. We know how we’ve failed and the dark thoughts we’ve thought and we’re a fake and a fraud.

Someday, kid, you’ll figure that out.

But for now, my god for now, you look at me with this longing in your eyes to gain my approval and have me adore you with words and smiles and my whole body. And I want to, all the time. I want to pour it on you like a hero would and tell you everything valuable you’ve ever needed to thrive and live a life of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Or at least happy people.

And I guess sometimes I do.

Mostly I don’t.

I lay my head down at night thinking of you, kid, my biggest fan, and I wonder if you’ll ever know how hard I worked to be that good, for you. Finally realizing I’m not that good, but I’m still your mama, and someday I’ll ask you to see me as that person, and stick around anyway.

When your judgment is better, and you have a choice, and it’s all in the open then.

  • Jessica

    crap, you have me crying first thing this morning. Thanks.
    Just keep thinking about my girls and how little and giggly they are and how I am their favorite person. One day they will be big and like you said….it happened to all of us.

  • erika

    oh man, that line “…and I wonder if you’ll ever know how hard I worked to be that good, for you…” killed me, started crying right away. so true. we work so hard for them.

    i’m 43 with a 3 year old and now finally able to understand my own mothers’ flaws and love her anyway.
    xoxo, thanks j!!!

  • Marisa


  • Axelle the french reader.

    This is a Wonderful Wonderful post ! Between laugh and tears. And thanks to what you wrote, I realized I’M NORMAL !!! … Or we’re two crazy mothers, it depends…

  • Renee'

    Amazing – truly amazing! You are right; when they get older they realize who you really are. However, they will still need you for your wisdom (if that is what you want to call it). When you have a 35 and a 33 year old kid, it is still nice to be needed!

  • Jennifer

    So feeling this right now.

  • Michael Ann

    Here I am again, that old lady who always throws water on the topic… but man oh man, Janelle. Wait til they are 16 and don’t have even ONE minute in their whole day for you. Won’t even give you a hug unless you beg for it. They think everything you think and do is idiotic. You will wish you were their hero again 🙂 Luckily it comes back around when they are like 25!

    • renegademama

      I’m not sure if it ever really changes. They may act like it, but underneath, if they’re anything like me, the adoration is intact. My point was that it’s a heavy heavy burden to be somebody’s hero, whether it’s on the surface or down deep.

      • Meghen

        I was a very difficult tween and teen and I can tell you you’re right. The adoration was still there. It still is. The time in-between is fake. My only child (so far) is just an 18 month old little girl. It’s definitely staggering to think about how much I’ll impact how she becomes. How on earth am I qualified for that job?!

        • Meghen

          who not how. stupid fingers.

  • Kateri Von Steal


    Nail on the head….

  • Erika B.

    It may be because my 4 kids are older and beyond that adoration stage that I have a different perspective. Enjoy the pedestal stage. It doesn’t last long enough. It won’t be long before your 11 year old doesn’t just suspect you are a moron, she’ll know it. It’s amazing how quickly it occurs. One minute you’ve hung the moon and the stars, and the next minute she’ll be glaring at you with accusing eyes listing all your faults as a parent. It’s not pleasant and unfortunately lasts until they have kids of their own and realize that we weren’t quite as stupid as they’ve thought. We all fuck up our kids. Period. Parents are real people who fuck up in big ways and little ways every single day so we are going to make mistakes in raising our children. The question becomes then when your kids toss you off the pedestal, can you forgive yourself for being imperfect? And the answer should be yes. You are allowed to be imperfect no matter what the little crumb cruncher or the cantankerous teenager expects you to be. This parenting gig is not easy. If your forgive yourself for your missteps then moving forward becomes a hell of a lot easier.

    • renegademama

      Yep, she’s already there, but it doesn’t change the fact that underneath her tough tween demeanor I’m her mom.

      And I feel the weight of that role all the time.

  • C Smith

    I used to get annoyed that my kids acted like I made the sun rise or at least had a magic wand that made everything just right, sometimes I would say to them, “I’m just a PERSON, ya know!” But, guess what? Now they know, they’re old enough to know that I’m a screwup, they get annoyed with me, they don’t always trust my judgement, and IT SUCKS. I miss when they followed me around like little ducks, waiting to see what I would do next. Everything I did was great and perfect and just the way it should be done. Now they notice my fuck ups and they call me on it. Enjoy the adoration while you have it, all too soon they’ll be rolling their eyes and begging you not to talk in public or in front of their friends.

  • carolyn

    If this was talking about fashion-Crazy is the new black! This is honest, truthful and sincere! And all mothers experience this -at different parts of their lives…..Just be there and love them. Never walk away- breath-relax -smile it does get better!

  • Danie'

    Another great post. Though, I think it’s the odd ball moms who make the best kids. Kids who are often lacking in the need to follow others like sheep and that is a good thing. Why follow Wonder Woman when you can be your own super hero, lol.

  • Elaine

    Give it a couple of years and you’ll be an idiot, lol.

  • Louise

    It ain’t easy being an idol, that’s for damn sure. But I am constantly amazed/surprised/gobsmacked at how much it has made me grow.

  • Heather

    Well….here I am crying…again….because of the beautiful words you write that speak EXACTLY what is in my heart, and for some reason you have this gift of putting the words together and saying what I am feeling EVERY time. You NEED to write a book! I would BUY that book for myself and every damn person I know! You have the gift of words. I really needed to read this right now. I have older kids and younger kids, and no matter what age they are or what stage they are in, it is tough living up to the “super hero” mom expectation. I literally beat myself up in my head more than anyone on this planet ever could about how I should have done that differently or said that nicer. It is a never ending thought in my head that every move I make they are watching and learning. When I am screwing up…they are watching. When I am making bad choices, they are watching. On the rare occasion when I actually feel like I am getting it right…they are watching.

  • Alyson

    Janelle, you dag, you’re on the pedestal precisely because of all that. They don’t realise that bit yet – but no-one wants a perfect princess mum. I’m still ranting and irrational and my 3 teens roll their eyes at me, hug me till I shut up – even stroke my hair when I choke on the food I’m eating while I rant irrationally and throw up (true story). You got their back kiddo-whether you like it or not 🙂

  • Kathy G

    You are too hard on yourself. This is the time to enjoy being a demi-goddess, exploit the heck out of it, revel in it, find your throne woman! Because before you know it the eyeroll will be the answer to everything you say to them. Take lots of pictures. You can get them to dress up now, so do it. I look at it this way, nature has made it so young immature people are gorgeous and get knocked up easily. Boom! your a momma. The children don’t remember anything before the age of 4 sometimes 5 because their brains are growing so fast and they are learning spatial kinesiology and verbal language which gives you a grace period to get your shit together. Relax and just have some fun. Oh, and I routinely don’t take a phone around with me all the time and miss calls and texts. That is what voicemail is for.

  • Kate

    Awesome. I think the parents that have the best relationships with their kids are the ones who are most genuine. The parents who are real, and honest, and readily admit that they constantly fail. Parents who think they are so amazing, and pretend that everything is perfect when it is clearly not, they are the ones with the biggest, darkest, problems. So stay as honest as you can be, and I bet your kids will respect that someday. I’m betting on it, because that’s what I’m doing too.

  • Jen

    Beautiful! I love that you are brave enough to put your flaws, and your mistakes, and your passion, and your love out here on display for all of us to share!

  • Tanya

    The last two paragraphs made me cry. “…how hard I worked to be that good, for you”

  • Kate

    oh my dear Janelle, your kids are fucking LUCKY to have you, a real and honest mom. it will make the rest of their journey in this life real and honest, and maybe even easier. hugz.

  • emily

    just amazing and i know so many moms, like myself, relate.

  • Tejas

    Wow…Thank you for sharing this. As someone pointed out regarding your other post, many moms experience this but do not say it out loud.
    so many of us can relate to this….some of us who are stressed out or fat or feeling sorry for themselves or all of the above….
    Our expression may be different …Our reasons to go insane may be different….
    I completely get the soul sucking habit of staying late (I did during election frenzy, thank god now this is reduced to once in two weeks.)
    And when kids come to me with “Look the great thing I did/Discover” and I am trying to handle 72 things at the same time, My expression is totally opposite of what is expected of me….
    As kids are getting older, I have started telling them, “Pleas leave me alone, I cannot handle so many things at the same time”…sometimes they will listen and it is best, but most of the time, they behave like kids their age and deal with crazy…

    In last one year, I have started to see light at the end of tunnel…Kids are getting older. Mediation has been helpful…If I can avoid one outburst a day, I consider it personal victory….