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By Dana Tuszke

With Halloween just around the corner, I got to thinking about costumes. Dawson is dressing up as a UPS man and he anxiously awaits carrying his bright orange pumpkin bucket so he can ring our neighbors' doorbells and exclaim, "Trick or treeeaaat!" just like we practiced the last few weeks.

I haven't donned Halloween attire in several years. But I started to think about the costumes parents often wear without even realizing it. Here are a few of my latest costumes:

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to bring my family on a business trip out of town. My boss turned our semi-annual sales meeting into a planning meeting/family picnic at a beautiful resort near our company headquarters. I was excited to get away from the hum drum of my office but soon realized I would now be evaluated on my family and parenting skills, even if it was unintentional.

When we arrived I changed into my "Perfectly-Balanced-Working-Mom" costume. I was constantly smiling, and speaking in a delightful mom voice. I never raised my voice at Dawson, even when he crumbled Pringles in his hands and sprinkled them all over the carpet in the banquet room.

In my head I was screaming "Noooo!" at the top of my lungs, but because people were looking in our direction I cheerfully exclaimed, "Dawson, sweetie, we don't throw chips on the floor! Please don't do that!" It was the most foreign voice I have ever heard. And it came out of my mouth. I didn't even feel like me!

Early last week my son was sick with a nasty flu/cold thing. He was coughing and whining and clinging to me, his mother, begging me to stay home and take care of him. My husband and I played Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who would call in and deal with the virus, and the toddler. My husband won. I dressed myself in my "I- don't- feel- guilty- for- leaving- my- sick- child- home- with- his- father" business suit and drove to work.

Later that week, my co-workers decided to do Happy Hour and I was invited to join them. After having a baby I haven't had to the urge to hang out at cocktail hour in several years. But my company is very much a "boys club" and inviting a woman out for an after work martini is a big thing, especially if that woman is a mother. I reluctantly grabbed my "Yes!-I'd-love-a-Margarita" sombrero and walked over to the neighborhood bar. It wouldn't have looked good to decline, I thought.

It doesn't stop with work. The costumes I wear at home are numerous. When the house is a mess, toys scattered from room to room and dishes in the sink, I dress up as Lucille Ball in my gingham dress, with scarves wrapped around my head, feather duster in hand just to tackle the chores.

When the dog needs to be walked I dress up as an adorable but exhausted aerobics instructor and jog around the block with my canine pal.

And let's not forget the Jenna Jameson costume I have hidden in the closet just for my husband. It's tough to go from career mom to cleaning mom to hot mom in the matter of a day, but by golly I do it. If only for my own sanity's sake. (I was going to dress up as the Mominatrix this Halloween but I can't find my handcuffs.)

I like to think I'm not the only parent who pretends to wear someone else's shoes to get through the chaos of each busy day.

Sure, it looks like I'm hiding behind false identities, but I look at it as motivation. A little burst of inspiration to tackle the ringing telephone at the office, or to get through the last awful joke the boss told at the bar, or to accomplish the house cleaning just in case my mother-in-law surprises me with an unexpected visit.

Halloween costumes are worn once a year for only a few hours, so that kids can score sugary, sweet candy that makes a dentist's pupils turn into dollar signs.

If only I had a dental hygienist's costume to fix those cavities on my own.

Dana began her motherhood career with the birth of her son in 2004. When she isn't fulfilling toddler demands or watching episodes of Bob the Builder against her will, she enjoys writing about her crazy life at The Dana Files. Dana is also a contributing editor at, where she writes about politics from a conservative viewpoint. Monday through Friday Dana works as a Patient Care Coordinator in the field of Audiology, and she loves her job because she gets paid to repeat herself.

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