The Mom From ‘The Cat in the Hat’ Finally Speaks

The Mom From ‘The Cat in the Hat’ Finally Speaks


What is Motherhood? is a Brain, Child blog series, with original posts from our writers, and reposts from some of our most favorite websites and blogs, all answering the universal question—what does motherhood mean to you?

This post is republished with permission from our friends at the New York Times Motherlode blog:


www.seussville.comEvery mother feels societal pressures, but few have experienced as much parenting scrutiny as the mother from “The Cat in the Hat.” In this interview, she tries to set things straight.

Let’s just start with the obvious question: Where were you?

I know what you’re getting at, and let me just say for the record that my kids were not that little. They were 10 and 12. That’s the No. 1 thing I’m always criticized about, leaving young kids unattended.

What else do you get flak for?

Are you kidding? That I didn’t teach my kids how to entertain themselves properly. That I have terrible fashion sense, thanks to my polka-dot dress/kite. That I leave dangerous yard tools and birthday cakes with burning candles strewn around my house. That my son, you know, doesn’t have a name. And of course that I allowed my kids to catch other children with nets and lock them in a box.

Things One and Two?

They looked a lot like the Davis twins from across the street.

But didn’t you feel responsible when you found out what happened that day?

As if I could have predicted that a giant talking cat would pop by and destroy my house! Listen, it must say something about my parenting style that the mere sight of my feet would get everyone scrambling around, shaking with fear.

Still, you left your kids alone all day in your unlocked house, and they didn’t seem to have much awareness of “stranger danger.”

O.K., a), that cat was benign compared to my in-laws, who were always arriving unannounced. And b), we did have a baby sitter.

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My Mother’s Glasses

My Mother’s Glasses

By Daisy Alpert Florin

What is Motherhood?I look in the mirror and see my mother’s face staring back at me, the same sharp jawline, deep set eyes, high forehead, sloping nose. She’s been dead for fourteen years, so seeing her is both eerie and comforting, a kind of visitation. I never thought I looked much like her when I was growing up but now, at 41, as the softness drops away and age takes hold, what’s left behind is my mother’s face.

My new glasses, thick, brown tortoiseshell frames, add to the illusion. My mother always wore glasses. For a brief period in her forties, around the same time she got braces (don’t ask), she wore contact lenses, but the consensus was that she should go back to glasses. Glasses suited her; without them, she looked naked, her eyes slightly too large, her nose a touch too long.  I rarely saw her without them. Severely nearsighted, she put them on as soon as she woke up and took them off only to go to bed. She even went swimming with them. I can still see her bespectacled face bobbing above the waves as she cut through the water with her dainty breaststroke, her curly red hair pinned on top of her head.

And she always had a stylish pair. My father would shudder at how much she would spend on a pair of glasses. “They’re the one thing you wear all the time,” she would tell me. “And right in the middle of your face!” She traveled to Europe several times a year for her work in the fashion business, and would often return home with a new pair, one that no one else stateside would have, which pleased her. The styles and shapes swung wildly, from chunky to wiry, square to round, retro to modern. As a child, it always took me a few days to get used to a new pair.  When she died, suddenly, from cancer at the age of 56, a young resident returned her glasses to my brother and me in a plastic bag along with unfinished bottles of medications and the lip gloss she kept by her bedside. Seeing her glasses lying there, a brown oval-shaped pair so new I’d barely had time to get used to them, I burst into tears in the middle of the hospital lobby.

I was born when my mother was thirty and remember her best when she was in her forties, around the age I am now. I never saw her as anything less than magical, but perhaps she saw something different when she looked into her sleek compact mirror. Her red hair was going gray at the roots and fine lines were beginning to lay tracks across her face. Did she see a diminished version of herself? Did she wonder where the time had gone? “When people say you look tired, Daisy, what they really mean is you look old,” she told me once while powdering her nose.

I would stare at her as she got ready for work in the morning, watching her familiar routine: moisturizing, concealing, plucking. I soaked in every part of her, her long fingers and sharp collarbone, her straight teeth. “I know what you’re thinking,” she said one day when she caught me staring. “I used to look at my mother the same way, always thinking how old and ugly she was and I couldn’t imagine I would ever look like that.” I wasn’t thinking that at all, I wanted to say but didn’t.

As I move through life without her, I remember things I thought I had forgotten. How she curled her eyelashes so they wouldn’t hit the lenses of her glasses. The way she smoothed out her forehead with her fingers in an effort to iron out the vertical indentation between her brows. I see myself doing them too as my features shift and morph into a version of hers. I wear my new glasses on busy days as a way to camouflage the dark circles beneath my eyes. I realize now that she did the same, and imagine that was the reason people preferred her with her glasses. I understand many things now that I didn’t then.

When my children were born, children she never had a chance to meet, I searched their features for a sign of her. Did Sam have her nose? Oliver, her hair? And what about Ellie, her namesake, who, at 8, already sports her own pair of stylish purple frames? She’s in them all, for sure. But when I look in the mirror, I see that she lives on most strongly in me, not just in appearance, but in the steady way she moved through life and in the gentle way she guided her children, nurturing our independence and, yes, our style. I put on my glasses and see the world she missed.

Daisy Alpert Florin is a Staff Editor at Brain, Child. 

Thoughts on Motherhood

Thoughts on Motherhood


branch of a blossoming tree“What is Motherhood?” is a Brain, Child blog series, with original posts from our writers, and reposts from some of our most favorite websites and blogs, all answering the universal question—what does motherhood mean to you?

Literary Mama editors and columnists respond to our question “What is Motherhood?”:

Motherhood: guaranteed to make a solo trip to the grocery store feel like a tropical vacation.—Kate Haas, Creative Nonfiction Editor

Motherhood is being sick in bed with a stomach virus, and making it outside to meet the school bus anyway.—Amanda Jaros, Blog Editor

Motherhood closed a window, but opened a door.—Caroline M. Grant, Editor-in-Chief

Motherhood is a beautiful mess of contradictions and juxtapositions: it can make you feel both broken, and mended; free yet bound; it is bitter, and almost unbearably sweet.                                                                                                                                           —Alissa McElreath, Columns Editor

Motherhood is a living expression of hope for our future world.                                                                                                                 —Kristina Riggle, Fiction Editor

When you live in the Midwest, you mark time by wind chill and heat index and in inches of rain and snow. You consider road conditions before heading out to the basketball games, and you watch for lightning from the bleachers that surround the baseball diamonds and swimming pools.  You respect each of the four seasons, and you’re prepared—the trunk of your car is filled with boots, shovels, blankets, gloves, and umbrellas—because you know how quickly a calm evening can turn dangerous.

You weather the hailstorm, tornado, or blizzard and then you pick up the debris and rebuild what was destroyed. You begin a new day, but now, you appreciate the pinks and reds and oranges of the sunset, the brilliant blue of the noontime sky, and the sparkles of a clear night just a little bit more -and you remind yourself to make the most of each moment.Karna Converse, Blog Editor

I’ve learned that to float through the ebbs and flows of motherhood I must remember to honor self-care.—Kelly Sage, Ezine Editor

Motherhood has felt like an awakening and a call to action. Inherent to the idea of the maternal, I think, is the desire for fairness, equity, justice, and opportunities for our children; for me, this has translated from the particular to the general, from my own family situation to activist work on a larger scale.—Rachel Epp Buller, Profiles Editor

Motherhood: the delicate opportunity to see life reflected.—Christina Speed, Literary Reflections Editor

To me, Motherhood can be both grounding and disorienting, as exemplified in this untitled poem I wrote that originally appeared in Thunderclap! Magazine (2010):

Driving on a certain stretch                                                                                                      
of Victoria Park                                                                                                                      
right after Sheppard
and before York Mills
that bridge around the 401
my fingers tighten
around the wheel
although I’ve been this way
more than a dozen times
I don’t remember what comes next
and am grateful for the chatter
from the back seat
the proclamation, “Mommy, I’m done,”
as she tries to hand me
the granola bar wrapper.
I am home in that noisesteering towards the intersection.Maria Scala, senior editor

Motherhood: It is

It is a single giggle
that breaks up the monotony of eternal days,
when coffee and a ten-minute nap
are best friends of mine.
The one, I see too often,
the other not enough.
But quickly, too quickly really,
everything about those days changes.
And then, it becomes
the pain that radiates up the back of my leg
as I step on building blocks and Legos and Lincoln logs
and all of the imitation fruit that spills out of the play kitchen;
the one I spend hours putting together
on a dark, cold, Christmas night,
two years after they are born,
but before the next baby comes along.
That kitchen now sits in the cobwebbed corner of the basement,
forlorn and lonely, longing
for the day that future grandkids will bestow on it some love.
Because again, everything changes.
And now, today,
I move the pretend cash register to the side of the play space
since the kids, there are four in all,
have mercilessly moved on.
I’m surrounded
by American Girls and Barbies and Harry Potter and Minecraft;
the children reach for non-existent IPods and IPads and Furbies,
those material goods that I won’t allow—yet.
They ask for computer time and Doctor Who, YouTube, and Scratch.
But it’s not the things.
I’ve gotten past the things that have littered and defined my motherhood.
All of the toys and books and gadgets we bring into our lives when we
welcome these children—they are left behind me.
Instead, it is the sight,
the sounds, the scents;
the immense feelings of love and gratefulness that envelop me
each time the tiny, wiry arms wind around my no-longer-taut middle.
It is the sweetness of the smiles they send to me as they walk out the door,
the thoughtful look that passes across their faces
as they pause, once, to blow me the last kiss of the morning.
I catch those kisses, those smiles,
and place them inside the recesses of my heart,
hoping to store them for later;
for when they leave the nest I have built for them.
And when the time is right,
I will pull them out, along with the memories, good and bad,
and the joy of knowing what motherhood is.

Christina Consolino, Profiles editor


A mother’s journey to get her child to preschool when they are late:

“Look, Mama, a rock.”

“Yes, a rock.” I nod.

“I tro it?”

“OK, you can throw it.”

“Look, Mama, ‘nother rock. I tro it?”

One step.

“Oh, Mama! Look at dat one! I tro it!”

–Heather Cori, Columnist


Motherhood is Holding…

Motherhood is holding

a finger-long hand

a bum against your hip

a sandy rock from the beach and then another and another

a vigil

a single thought

your breath

your tongue

your belly in

a party for preschoolers

a bowl beside the bed

a bicycle seat

the car keys

out for something more

on to your ambition

worry enough for two, three, four

this fleeting incessant moment

that notion of letting go

and still holding.

Katherine Barrett, Managing Editor and Columnist


Literary Mama publishes literary writing about the many faces of motherhood. Since 2003, they have featured poetry, fiction, columns, and creative non-fiction that may be too raw, too irreverent, too ironic, or too body-conscious for traditional or commercial motherhood publications.

Literary Mama is for writers as well as mothers. They function as a collective of volunteer editors and columnists. The magazine was launched in California, but their staff is now located across the United States as well as in Canada, Thailand, and Japan. Their writers hail from all corners of the world.

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The Perfect Mother

The Perfect Mother

What is Motherhood? is a Brain, Child blog series, with original posts from our writers, and reposts from some of our most favorite websites and blogs, all answering the universal question—what does motherhood mean to you?

This post is republished with permission from our friends at Scary Mommy.

By Jill Smokler

scarymommyThere’s this mom at the pre-school where Evan goes who, I used to think, was the perfect mother.

She’s one of the few stay-at-home-moms who shows up at school every day wearing something other than a uniform of yoga pants, a t-shirt and comfy shoes. She’s always well groomed and not wearing remnants of her children’s breakfast or runny noses all over her shirt. She volunteers in the classroom multiple times a week and spends the moments before school starts gently reading to her child. When there’s a bake sale, her brownies look mouthwateringly delicious, unlike my tray which gets avoided like the plague. Nothing seems to phase her, and from the moment I spotted her, an imaginary halo seemed to dance atop her head.

Last spring, one of the other school moms generously held a book launch party at her home for me. I read a chapter from my book out loud and held a Q&A, followed by some snacks and chatting. I gratefully smiled at the people I knew and got introduced to some faces I recognized from drop-off and pick-up but had never met. It was a wonderful evening and I was grateful to be surrounded by so many real life Scary Mommies. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, I saw her—The Perfect Mother—coming towards me. What on earth was she doing here, I wondered. Like she could relate to anything I wrote, little Mrs. I Do Everything Right.

“I have to tell you how much I loved your book,” she greeted me with. “I could have written almost every word myself. It was so me.”

Huh? Say what?!

What on earth in my book could she relate to? She was the one I referenced when talking about the foreign perfection I’d never in my life hope to achieve. She was the one who looked like a million bucks all the time and who always seemed to handle everything that came at her with grace. While everything I did was merely good enough, everything she touched was perfect with a capital P. Had she picked up the wrong book? What author had she mistaken me with?

Unfortunately, those were not thoughts in my head. Unable to contain my shock and awe, that’s exactly how I responded to her, sounding certifiably insane, since we’d never officially met and she had no idea she’d made such an impression on me. She burst out laughing.

“Me? Perfect?” She laughed until she snorted—LOUDLY—the imaginary halo slowly tumbling off of her head.

She went on to explain that the only reason she showered in the morning was to wake herself up, because without that jolt of cold water at 7AM, she’d never peel herself out of bed. She wears Spanx under her jeans and steers clear of yoga pants because the cellulite on her thighs shows through them so clearly that she can’t stomach it. She reads to her kid in the morning because she’s too spent at the end of the day to do it and he falls asleep watching a DVD most nights. And those brownies I’ve drooled over? Her mother makes them because she can’t cook to save her life.

Hello, nice to meet you, my new favorite person on earth! I think I love you.

Sadly, her son went off to kindergarten last fall, so I stopped seeing her in the lobby and at school events, but I think of her often, this not so perfect mom. Every time I make a snap judgment or feel inferior to some other mother I bear witness to, I envision that halo falling down and the sound of her unglamorously snorting echoes in my head. That interaction was one of the single greatest parenting lessons I’ve learned.

Turns out there is no perfect mother. Really; there’s not. So how about we stop striving to be one, and instead settle for something much more realistic?

Jill Smokler is the owner of the popular parenting website, Scary Mommy, geared towards imperfect parents like herself. She’s also the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of A Scary Mommy (April 2012) and Motherhood Comes Naturally (And Other Vicious Lies) (April 2013).

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Welcome to the Club

Welcome to the Club

What is Motherhood? is a Brain, Child blog series, with original posts from our writers, and reposts from some of our most favorite websites and blogs, all answering the universal question—what does motherhood mean to you?

06_Eileen_6403 copyI unlatched the bucket baby carrier and heaved it out of the stroller. It was only three weeks since my C-section, and I swore under my breath as I felt a pinch. But the stroller wouldn’t fit into the community center’s tiny bathroom and I didn’t have much choice.

“Oh look at him! How old?” a voice exclaimed over Brennan, and then, “I can take him for you.”

A blonde-haired woman with chic glasses smiled at me. She looked … not crazy. Looked, in fact, much saner than I must have in the moment as I stood there sweating with the adrenaline, exhilaration and exhaustion of brand-new motherhood. She had with her a baby of her own, a girl of about six months old. I left Brennan with her and darted into the bathroom. And I thought about how impossible it seemed that I had just handed my newborn over to someone whose name I didn’t even know.

Days before, my mom had climbed out of my car at the airport terminal for her flight back home, both of us weeping. I had no family nearby, or even close friends with children, and my husband’s two weeks of paternity leave were up. I was looking at a week of ten-hour days, all on my own.

A coworker had given me information on a new moms group months before and I had tucked it away. I’d never thought of myself as the support group type, whatever that means. But when I faced down those first long days alone with Brennan, I looked up the meeting location and set the goal of getting us there.

The blonde woman, Kathleen, led me through a door to where the meeting had already started. Moms and babies were spread out across a sun-lit room with wide windows. Some were cooing, others crying (babies but also, probably, a mom or two.) The smaller babies lay on their backs kicking while others crawled across the rug or even practiced standing; compared to tiny Brennan, the older ones looked like giants. Many of the moms looked more or less like I felt, as though they were seeing the world through the fuzzy veil of sleep-deprivation. But they also looked relaxed.

The group facilitator welcomed me and then said, pointedly, “We usually start at ten,” — it was a few minutes past — and I wanted to punch her in the face, or just leave. But I found a spot and sat down (I was too tired to leave again, anyway). Following the lead of the moms around me, I unfolded a flannel blanket and set Brennan down on the floor.

In the meeting, we simply went around the room and said how things were going for each of us. If someone had a question, the facilitator (who was actually great, despite her initial brusqueness) would respond, and then others might chime in. People had a whole range of ideas and approaches, ways of parenting that worked for them. But we shared a lot of the same worries, big and small. We were on the same learning curve. And we were kind to one other.

You could ask paranoid-seeming questions about eczema or poop frequency or cradle cap or how many layers for sleeping, and no one would roll her eyes and think, First-time mom. You could say, “Will I ever freakin’ sleep again?” “Does yours cry this much?” or, “I think I am losing my mind.” And people would nod sympathetically. No one would judge.

It’s hard for me to describe how these simple discussions and interactions impacted me. If the world opened up when I had a baby, so did my fears, self-doubts and insecurities. That day, the nagging feeling that I wouldn’t get it right — that there was a “right” way to be, as a parent — began to quiet, both during the course of the meeting, and after.

As I was packing my bag up, Kathleen came over.

“Hey,” she said. “We usually go to lunch afterward. You should come.” I hesitated. This was already a big outing for me. Up to then, my boldest destinations were the coffee shop and the CVS near my house.

“Really, it’s the best part,” Kathleen said, convincing me.

At the restaurant a few doors down, the staff exclaimed over us as we came in. “They’re so great here,” someone said. “They’ll even play with your baby while you eat.”

People began to put their baby carriers on the floor or onto chairs wedged solidly between the wall and table. I watched, enthralled. Fidgety babies were nursed or given a bottle or a toy. Menus appeared. Favorite dishes were discussed. And then —then — a couple of moms ordered Diet Cokes. It was like we were regular people.

That day that I had dreaded was the beginning of knowing that I would figure it out. And that I wasn’t, in fact, alone. Those women would go on to be my first real mom friends, and their babies would become Brennan’s first playmates. Most importantly, I realized that we could play both roles — caring, thoughtful, attentive parents, and women who just needed to set their babies down for a while and laugh over a Diet Coke.

Photo by Megan Dempsey