How to Find a Decent Mother

Fiction by Gloria Frym
untitled, by Ceylon Baginski. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist.

Go to the and scroll through the profiles carefully. Note the photographs, but this is one of many occasions when looks don’t matter. Make sure you read what others have written about the mothers you pick as candidates. Remember, these used mothers have been thoroughly vetted by psychotherapists and psychiatrists. Through cognitive behavior strategies, some of their psyches have been reconditioned. However, every used mother is a complicated person capable of many more behaviors and attitudes than she exhibited before she raised children. Don’t imagine that typecasts mothers into categories like Psychology Today.

You may inadvertently choose to interview an altruistic mother with deep compassion for the homeless and the starving only to discover that this compassion is reserved for strangers, not her own children. To her own children she believes in complete self-reliance, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-shoelaces, etc. Conversely, you may interview a kind and generous used mother who has absolutely no politics and always asks her husband or friends who to vote for.

Remind yourself that you are an adult who had an unsatisfactory, self-centered, vindictive, selfish, overbearing, emotionally out of control, even dangerous mother and are looking for another mother who will help love and guide you through the rest of your life. Do you want a kind, concerned, non-judgmental, available, thoughtful new mother? Every one of us wants a different combination of ingredients. You have been vetted by your therapist and a psychiatrist to qualify for this search. No, astrological charts have nothing to do with your eligibility—you are not looking for a mate but a mother. From the profiles that are visible to you, pick three candidates. We have found three the best number to start with. Three is a solid number. Pythagoreans thought that three was the perfect number. Three is the number of bids you get if you need to do some expensive repair on your house. If none of your candidates work out, you can return to the website, login with your specially encrypted password, and pick three more. Don’t imagine you are too hard to mother if a candidate rejects you or if you reject all of the first three. We have some clients who went through fifty mothers before they found the one they liked best! Ostensibly, there was nothing special about her from our perspective, but perhaps that is what the badly mothered individual sought—a mother who would yes dear, easily fade into the background after monthly telephone calls, and die leaving her substantial financial resources.

Your initial interchange with your first used mother may make you anxious, but you and she are probably in a similar boat! We suggest that you make a short list of questions and conversation topics ahead of time but not stick to them religiously. (Don’t worry. If you didn’t vote for Trump, you will probably not be paired with someone who did.) Most of our clients use Zoom to break the ice. We also provide a semi-monthly Meet and Greet of used mothers and people looking for decent mothers in your general geographical area. Some individuals like to plunge right in by calling their candidates and inviting them to the Meet and Greet; others will prefer to move more slowly. Still others may not like how they look on Zoom. Remember, this is not a beauty contest! You saw your first mother at her worst especially if she abused drugs or underwent multiple facelifts. Your previously ineffective mother doubtless saw you at your worst, especially during childhood diseases. No one looks their best with chickenpox. We do however discourage you from meeting on Zoom if either of you has facial herpes or shingles. You should take the shingles shots immediately.

After the usual small talk, there are many ways of determining right away whether or not your candidate is potentially suitable. Announce to your first used mother that you have breast cancer. Assure her that your oncologist is excellent and predicts a good outcome because they caught it early and it is very small. If a used mother responds with Oh, I’m sorry. I guess you’ll manage, and then proceeds to change the subject to herself or the unusual weather we’re having, reject her immediately. Tell her that you have a work call on your cell phone you must answer. Also politely leave Zoom if a used mother responds with Oh my god, I’m sure you take good care of yourself, you said you exercise regularly, your husband is a gourmet cook, it must be genetic, it’s because your former mother didn’t breastfeed you, used mother bursts into tears, how could you get cancer? Does that mean one of my grandchildren might get breast cancer? Oh you poor dear, oh, oh.

Not that you’ll necessarily find yourself in a Goldilocks situation, but the third used mother candidate might respond more appropriately—not too hard and not too soft, not indifferently and not narcissistically introjected. Just right.

Speaking of narcissistic introjection, if you decide to go on a shopping trip with one of your candidates, and you were raised by an insufficient mother who discouraged the whole family from purchasing anything she considered frivolous, immediately stop at a flower stand and get yourself and your used mother a gardenia. But be on the lookout for phony rich or stingy rich used mothers, the ones that think of themselves first. You can test this with a simple trial—a candidate mother buys a piece of jewelry claiming it’s for her daughter-in-law. When you say you’d love one like it but couldn’t afford it, and she says, but you’re a lawyer, beware. Used mothers have been broken in by life and know many ways of manipulating you into believing you could be doing better.

When you meet your used mother in person and talk further over lunch or dinner a few times, you may discover that she has neuroses she managed to hide from her psychiatric evaluators. There are several conditions to be on the lookout for: such as a used mother who runs hot and cold. She has great people skills and empathy and seems like she would offer exemplary emotional support, but she always gets excessively angry and anxious with the restaurant personnel. She may be perfectly fine; she may not get that way with you, but you never know. Watch out for used mothers who want to be your best friend and rather than listen to what you say, interrupt with like, oh, I know exactly what you’re going through, I had the same kind of boyfriend, I like brussel sprouts too, I have acne and wrinkles too, we’re so alike, etc. If your used mother is extremely critical of her son, her husband, or her friends, be careful. She may be a perfectionist who only pays attention to the 2% imperfections of a person she loves instead of 98% of the rest of them. Sometimes someone who seems like the best candidate for you will order a bottle of wine at lunch after downing a cocktail and returning from the restroom sniffling. This does not usually indicate allergies. Make sure she picks up the check, call her an Uber, and change your email address.

Often used mothers are simply lonely, which is no crime because as we age, we lose friends by the truckload. However, you don’t want a used mother who uses you as a substitute for her losses. If you want to test this after you’ve met a used mother candidate, tell her that she will not have grandchildren by you. Don’t tell her why.

If she responds, all the better to indulge you, my dear, take her, or at least consider her seriously.

Finally after you both decide on each other, all used mothers come with a guaranteed trial period of six months. Remember, these women are volunteers and they’ve read your profiles too. Many of them have been abused or abandoned by one or more of their children, so they are anxious and excited to bestow their decent mothering skills on the right, once-indecently mothered person. We can’t tell you what makes a good-enough mother, but we can say that it’s never too late to adopt one.

Gloria Frym

Gloria Frym is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, short fiction, and essays. Her most recent book is How Proust Ruined My Life & Other Essays (BlazeVOX, 2020). The True Patriot, a collection of proses, was published by Spuyten Duyvil. She has written two short story collections--Distance No Object (City Lights Books), and How I Learned (Coffee House Press). She is professor of writing and literature at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She lives in Berkeley, California.

Ceylon Baginski

Ceylon Baginski is a multidisciplinary artist based in Northern California. It is in the poetry of this world that she seeks to find the threads hidden in plain sight, casting the faint silver that shivers when we dream.