“What’s Katelyn’s mom making for dinner?”
I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask.
I wince at the answer. “Homemade meatballs and pasta.”
I add insult to injury and probe further. “Homemade pasta, too?”
My daughter nods as I spoon soup from a can into her bowl.
I inwardly slap myself and let the guilt wash over me like a rainstorm. True, usually I make something fresh and passably wholesome for meals, but it’s always easy and decidedly not run through a pasta machine.
For the past several years, it’s been harder for me to be “that mom” of the perfect meals and well behaved kids since I began working from home more than full time. I compare myself to other moms who are moms the way I imagine I should be and and not because of time constraints and packed work schedules and deadlines. “Real moms” take their kids to piano lessons, soccer, gymnastics, and dance every day. “Real moms” make all meals from scratch. “Real moms” play board game after board game with their kids and don’t stop until the kids grow tired.
Still, I thought I’d overcome most of the guilt. That is, until the Johnsons moved in last summer. Katelyn and her two sisters live a few houses away and play at our house often. They never fight or say an ill word to each other or eat soup from a can for dinner. I’ve taken to measuring myself against the mother down the street because she seems so perfect and mom-esque and most unlike me, a parent who raised kids who don’t brush their hair everyday and fight about who gets the iPad next.
One day I thought maybe I’d come close to better momhood when I found a break in my work day and made chocolate chip cookies with my oldest daughter. There was bonding and a sense of familial productivity and a general sense of wellbeing as we baked. Because I borrowed vanilla from Katelyn’s mom (of course I did; her pantry is obviously well stocked), I sent a small tin of cookies over as thanks.
Less than 30 minutes later, a tray of cookies arrived at my door, wrapped in cellophane and a bow. And these weren’t your run-of-the-mill cookies either. The tray held several varieties of every kind of cookie known to man, and were clearly handmade and well decorated.
That one hurt.
In my darkest days, I envision my daughters wishing they lived at Katelyn’s house. It’s probably always clean over there. It’s most likely filled with laughter and kind words. And of course, it always smells good.
So I’ve taken to asking for inside information. What did Katelyn’s mom bake today? What American Girl doll did she order for Katelyn? How long did it take her to make that gourmet sandwich for the girls’ lunchboxes? The answers always dig at me because I’m not doing those things myself. Comparison is a many-armed beast.
The truth is, I spend a lot of days working. Hours I wish I could be with the kids baking every variety of cookie known to man. That’s not my reality, though, and I only hope my love shines through the soup cans for dinner and store-bought pasta.
I think this as an urgent knock sounds at my door. It’s pouring rain outside so I hurry to answer because whoever is out there is surely drenched.
Katelyn stands on my threshold, barefoot and soaked.
She’s crying and tells me that she ran away from home because her mom hadn’t baked bread for dinner like she’d promised.
“I told her I hated my life,” she said defiantly.
So Katelyn had then ran outside and when she tried to get back in the house, found the door locked by an impish little sister.
Now here she was.
I immediately texted her mom to let her know Katelyn was sitting on my couch and then allowed myself the barest, tiniest hint of a smile: Momhood ain’t easy for anyone.
And nobody’s perfect.