This marks my first year as a preschool mom and the pressure may just be too much. Whaaa??? You may scoff. Well, scoff away, but you have no idea until you enter this world what it means to be a mom these days.
First of all, there is the actual admissions process. Thankfully we live in Ground Nowhere, so it was merely a case of getting in our application in a timely manner. However, there are other parts of the country where the application and interview process are more intense than college. I’m not really exaggerating. Parents writing essays, making crazy donations, beefing up their child’s resume—it is nutty. It takes the whole “my child is better than yours” game to a scary new level. My general thoughts on the matter are that these kids are three; you may think Jezemaine is brilliant and can already speak three languages, but she’s still eating boogers.
Thankfully we avoided most of that bag of fun. Where the pressure is getting to me is the Good Mommy Club. I think it started when I was interviewing nannies for my son. During an interview at Starbucks, it came up that I was planning to try cloth diapering with my son when he got a bit older (at the time his cute little bootie was still too small for most brands). The potential candidate, who I shall call Nanny in a McLaughlin-Kraus shout out, mentioned that she too used cloth diapers on her nine month old. Great, I thought. We’re on the same page. A week later my family and I were invited to brunch with Nanny and her family. I was nervous because my daughter, while adorable, intelligent, and fearless, can also be the spawn of Lucifer (which she was a bit on that day, but since no punches were thrown, I still consider it a success). Thankfully Nanny was only going to be watching my son, who is much more chill than his sister ever dreamed of being.
The brunch went well, but over our chicken wraps, I began to feel that nagging sense of guilt and failure that often haunts me. Nanny doesn’t let her kids have anything but water. (Lili has been known to throw back one of my Diet Cokes like she’s in Cancun and it’s tequila.) Nanny feeds her baby organic baby food or makes her own. (Lili and I had Fiber One Mini Wheats for dinner last night . . . out of the box.) Nanny has a clean, pet free home. (I got dressed out of the dryer this morning while my pit bull looked on wearing the cone of shame.) Nanny does developmentally appropriate games and songs with her baby. (Lili knows all the words to “Proud Mary,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and the Family Guy theme song. She’s learning “Burning Down the House.”)
I left brunch that day determined to be a better parent with my son (Lili, too, if I haven’t screwed her up too much already). Thus, I began seeing tests of my parenting mettle lurking in every supply list and teacher letter. The preschool newsletter said to send healthy lunch choices. Healthy? How healthy is healthy through the eyes of my daughter’s teachers? Should I be making my own bread out of organic grains bought at the farmer’s market and adding vegan zucchini jam, or does the fact that I buy the whole wheat Uncrustable frozen sandwiches suffice? Packing Lili’s lunch causes me daily turmoil.
The Pre-School Christmas party brought on an entirely new level of stress. I had managed to dodge the Mommy judgment bullet by signing up for plates and cups for her first two class parties. That was easy. But for Christmas, I got stuck with “Festive, Healthy Snack.” Crap.
I googled, paged through cook books, consulted websites—all in the pursuit of the perfect “Festive Healthy Snack.” Finally, I ended up making organic whole wheat gingerbread men. They actually tasted pretty good and Lili liked them, so I figured I was in the clear. I arrived to deliver my tray of goodies (in a recyclable container) to see I had been out maneuvered. One of the other moms had a tray of fresh veggies cut into holiday shapes with some sort of non-dairy dip. I saw her look at my tray of carbs with a slight smirk, as if her cauliflower snowmen had just kicked every one of my gingerbread men in the grapes.
FAIL! I looked at my little hippie gingerbread men sadly, wishing they could transform into some sort of brilliant superfood in the shape of animals. They didn’t.
But then I saw another mom rushing in, carrying a tray of store bought, brightly iced cupcakes. They still had the price tag on them. And I felt the smirk begin on my own face. Store bought! Refined sugar! Price tag!
Suddenly I was Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom; next thing I’d be crank calling people to whisper “Pussywillow.”
So I shoved the smirk in my back pocket and reminded myself that as moms, we are all in this together. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. (And I was only a little smug when I picked Lili up and saw a tray full of cauliflower snowmen forgotten on the table amid gingerbread crumbs and icing smears.)
I’ve got drinks for the Valentine’s Day Party and I’m proud to say I’ve only googled ‘healthy, organic drink recipes’ twice. Baby steps.