“Self Portrait as a Stay-at-Home Mother (with Llama Llama Red Pajama)” – by Annie Marhefka

August 24, 2022

I am just a mother,

holding this household together, 

unpaid.

I am tucker-in of children with monogrammed blankets, 

snug as a bug, stuffed unicorns with matted fur, 

chicka chicka boom boom,

and all of that rhyming jazz.

I am reading the same book aloud night after night. 

Tuck, read, hug, kiss, lights out.

I suggest others: Goodnight Moon, Pete the Cat, Are You My Mother

I am met with: NO NO NO, feet kicking, toys hurled across the room.

It is always Llama Llama, what a tizzy, 

sometimes Mama’s very busy.

I am stomping and shouting, no more of this llama drama. 

I am begging: please.

I am Llama Llama Red Pajama’s Mama, 

doing dishes in the bathroom sink.

I am motherless, 

calling out to Mama Llama for a drink.

I am snap-off nursing bra and button-down shirt, 

smothered by regurgitated milk. 

It sounds cute when we call it: spit ups. 

But it is sour, acrid, and rank. 

I am desperate for space. Space between me and them, 

space for breathing, space for remembering who-I-used-to-be; 

space not entangled by toddler limbs and baby wails

and Mommy, I need you, and Mommy Mommy Mommy.

I am imperfect perfectionist,

mopping and sweeping and scooping up crumbs.

I wonder if anyone notices the diapers never run out, 

or the wipes, or the teething crackers, or the patience, or the…

I am a mother sitting in her car in the driveway, exhaling,

just one more moment to herself before she goes in, 

before them-before-her.

I am Mama Llama, running running in the night.

I am flat tire on the way home from the dentist on a Monday. 

I am cradling the baby in the wind as he gasps for air,

but the mechanic is chatty and needy, so I stay there in the cold with him. 

I am listening.

He tells me rent is due, the bank’s holding his check, 

what’s a guy to do? 

I tip him, too much probably. 

But he is standing in the wind gasping, too.

I am worn and tattered leaf clinging to the branch at winter’s end, 

threatening to drop. One more tantrum, one more pee accident in the bed, 

one more virus running through this house, I dare you; 

watch me fall.


Annie Marhefka is a writer in Baltimore, Maryland, where she spends her time writing, boating on the Chesapeake Bay, and hiking with her kiddos. Her creative nonfiction and poetry have been featured in Versification, Coffee + Crumbs, Sledgehammer Lit, Capsule Stories, Remington Review, and The South Florida Poetry Journal, among others. Annie is the Executive DirectorAnnie Marhefka is a writer in Baltimore, Maryland, where she spends her time writing, boating on the Chesapeake Bay, and hiking with her kiddos. Her creative nonfiction and poetry have been featured in Versification, Coffee + Crumbs, Sledgehammer Lit, Capsule Stories, Remington Review, and The South Florida Poetry Journal, among others. Annie is the Executive Director at Yellow Arrow Publishing, a Baltimore-based nonprofit supporting and empowering women writers, and is working on a memoir about mother/daughter relationships.

You can find Annie’s writing on Instagram @anniemarhefka, Twitter @charmcityannie, and anniemarhefka.com.

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