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Mom interviews reveal 'Dirty Little Secrets'

Trisha Ashworth, left, and Amy Nobile are authors and mothers.

Trisha Ashworth, left, and Amy Nobile are authors and mothers.

"My 7-year-old son walked in

on us having sex.

We told him we were doing

karate in bed.''

"I take Vicodin when the baby won't stop crying.''

"Sometimes my kids don't brush their teeth for three straight days.''

"I bit my daughter's finger while trying to steal a bite out of her cookie.''

"I signed my son up for karate because the instructor is hot.''

"I pass gas and blame it on the kids.''

Admit it: If you are a mother, you have taken a shortcut or two to ensure your sanity and to keep the trains running on time. In your kid's school lunch, you forget to wash the apple, so it gets a good rub on your shirt. You use a store-bought rotisserie chicken instead of making it fresh. You might indulge in a piece of chocolate or a glass of wine each day. • But what if your coping mechanisms were a little darker? What if you did something that others might consider in bad taste? Those are the questions behind Dirty Little Secrets From Otherwise Perfect Moms, which, as the title says, tells what moms really do to try to achieve perfection and keep their sanity. • Authors Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile said the secrets were revealed while they were interviewing moms for their first book, I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids (2007, Chronicle Books, $18.95). The women interviewed would initially answer the questions as if everything was great, the authors said. As the discussion continued, however, they would admit to feeling tired and overwhelmed. • Then the secrets began pouring out: "I forgot to pick up my boy from kindergarten because I was too involved in a VH1 ''rockumentary,'' said one mom. Another said, "My kids don't wear pj's on weeknights. They go to bed in their school clothes so I don't have to fight with them about their outfits in the morning.'' Or this: "When I can't listen to the kids screaming anymore, I pop in ear plugs. They are my savior.'' • So what do Ashworth and Nobile, mother to three and two children, respectively, do to get through their days? The authors, both in their late 30s, answered a few questions via e-mail to share some secrets, discuss what they hope women will get from this book and offer their own suggestions on coping when the walls start to close in.

Okay, how did you get these women to talk so freely?

We tried one-on-ones, in person, focus groups and e-mail until we realized that the only way to get the real, nitty-gritty truth from moms nationwide was to conduct anonymous, in-depth interviews via phone. Then, the floodgates really opened. Even then, it took about 22 minutes for us to get to the truth — at first we heard how lucky everyone felt, and how great everything was. Once they were warmed up and we asked how they achieved this happiness, then we heard a lot of stuttering, and then, finally, the real deal.

Were some secrets too dirty to put in the book? (Although this secret from the book might fit into this category: "I pass gas and blame it on the kids.'')

Sure. And too dirty for your paper!

When was the last time you did something so bad concerning your children that you just couldn't believe you did it?

Feeling guilty over things we do or don't do with our children is a daily struggle — whether it's having a really short fuse, or not feeling like we're spending enough quality time with our kids. There always seems to be a reason to feel like a "bad mom.'' And part of our message to moms is that we've got to realign our expectations with reality and make peace with our choices, so we can at least shed some of the guilt.

Are any of the secrets in the book your secrets? How about your friends'?

We really don't know 99 percent of the moms we talk to. Although we heard many of the secrets over and over again from a very wide range of women.

All of the secrets don't just pertain to the kids. Husbands get their fair share of grief here too. (A couple of examples: "My husband would be really surprised if he knew that I thought about divorce more times than I can count'' and "Some nights when my husband and I go to bed, I roll over and 'play dead.' All I can think is I just can't handle it if one more person pokes me today.'')

Oh yes, we have many, many secrets pertaining to husbands. Modern marriage — especially after kids — is a topic of great interest, confusion and mystery. In fact we're writing our third book right now on that topic.

Did you find that most of the angst in the book came from moms who work outside the home or those that are full-time stay-at-home moms?

We talked to all categories of moms — stay-at-home, full-time working and part-time working — and the common thread was overblown expectations. And the fallout from that — which is feeling guilt, judgment and angst over not being able to say no.

There also seems to be a lot of concern about being a failure. Any tips on how to wipe those thoughts from your mind? (Said one mom: "Sometimes I think my nanny does a better job than I do.'')

The first thing we need to do is realize that there's no formula for being a "good mom.'' It's all about tuning out the noise, not comparing ourselves to other moms, and truly making peace with the choices we make for our families.

A recent poll from Parenting and BabyTalk magazines and parenting.com found that 34 percent of the 1,000 moms who responded felt that for the work they do as mom, they deserve $100,000 or more annually. What do you think about that?

That sounds low!

That same poll found that 72 percent of moms say a self-cleaning home would be the ultimate Mother's Day gift. What are you hoping to get for Mother's Day this year?

Both of us agree that a self-cleaning home would be amazing — and also a Jetsons-like kitchen with meals made on demand.

Sherry Robinson can be reached at (727) 893-8305 or robinson@sptimes.com.

Quotes from ''Dirty Little Secrets From Otherwise Perfect Moms,'' by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile ($12.95, Chronicle Books)

Mom interviews reveal 'Dirty Little Secrets' 05/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2008 4:30am]
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