My Motherhood Ideal: From Mary Poppins to Ms. Hannigan

Stuck home alone one night with a 9-year-old, a 5-year-old and toddler twins, I desperately turned on a movie for the older kids so I could take care of my babies. Once they were asleep, I sat down to watch Annie again for the first time in years. In the middle of the movie, my son had a meltdown (he now wanted to watch a train show instead) and my daughter started crying because she still wanted to watch Annie. I put him in time out while he screamed and kicked, and then the twins woke up and started crying again, and I realized something.

This meme I think is the most perfect one I’ve ever seen about being a mama.

I could be Ms. Hannigan. (With four kids, I might as well be running an orphanage.)

Now, this is not how I planned motherhood. I honestly thought, especially when I was a babysitting teenager, that I would be Mary Poppins as a mom one day. I would be fun and clever — “kind, but extremely firm” — and in control and everyone would go to sleep on time with a lullaby sung by the fire after tea while I smocked a pinafore. But.

Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

I haven’t touched a needle in years (I simply stop wearing things missing buttons). We can’t figure out how to turn on our gas fireplace in our new (two years at this address) house, so there is no fire I can sew in front of. And even the smallest spoonful of sugar would send my 5-year-old into spinning circles of tantrum hell. Instead of quiet dinners in a spic-and-span nursery, my kids eat microwaved mac and cheese and “cold mush” while I order my groceries online (there are no trips to the fish monger’s). They never sleep. Ever. (Good thing they’re cute). And there’s no hot tea. I mean, even my coffee is never sipped while hot — it’s generally microwaved three times. There’s soap and water all over the floor — not because I’ve made them scrub our home until it shines like the Chrysler building, but because the twins are gleefully dumping water out of the bathtub with plastic cups that read “May your only pain be CHAMPAGNE” on them. I don’t doubt for a hot second our toys can magically move themselves, though, because two seconds after I pick them up, they’re back out on the floor for me to trip over.

Now, Mary Poppins isn’t all order and march, though her stern self-control comes through while Jane and Michael are rolling on the ceiling laughing during tea with Uncle Albert. (My husband is the Uncle Albert in our house.) I do break down and dance with my kids sometimes (though not on rooftops), just like she does. And my kids are normally about as dirty as Jane and Michael after dancing with the chimney sweeps. But birds don’t sing in my hand and when, at 10 p.m. I tried to sing my son to sleep, he told me to “Be quiet, Mama.” No, my home tends to be more like the orphanage, with a wet dog running around, children spinning from the ceiling, trying to escape out the windows, jumping off furniture and breaking dishes. Plus, like Ms. Hannigan, I have been known to wander about, yelling, in my pajamas at odd hours (yes, sometimes with a glass in my hand).

Maybe one day we’ll get to the going out with Mary Poppins phase – nicely dressed, headed on a responsible errand – but right now I feel more like when we go out, we cause riots, like Jane and Michael did at the bank with their father. For the most part, I feel as though I have a split personality — I am as loving as Mary Poppins (with bursts of fun here and there); but, with the chaos that is life with multiple young children running in different directions, I also yell a lot and sometimes dislike my children, much like Ms. Hannigan. Until then, until we can leave the house in an orderly line, kite in hand, ready for a pleasant outing at the park — well, at least there’s bathtub gin. And spoonfuls of sugar (in chocolate form). Because I am not a mother who is “practically perfect in every way,” in any way.

Meg Sacks
Meg is a working mom of four and an avid community volunteer. She has worked in corporate communications and media relations for more than 18 years, for a Fortune 500 company as well as a non-profit. She took some time off to enjoy life as a stay at home mom after the birth of her first child in 2008. Her sweet, introverted daughter, was excited to welcome her baby brother in 2013, and then boy/girl twins joined the family in 2016. Meg finds being an “office mama” a constant balancing act and never-ending challenge but enjoys the opportunities it offers her for personal growth. A Virginia girl at heart, she loves Florida’s warm weather, the great quality of life Jacksonville offers her family.


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