I’ve always been a working mom. I went back to work full-time 10 weeks after my first son was born. I never expected to do anything differently. I grew up in a house with two working parents and always assumed I would be the same.
It’s always a juggle. And there is always pressure to be better in every area of your life — to do it all. Whatever that means.
I tried doing it all once and it was an epic fail. It was around the holidays and we were living in London at the time. I felt mom guilt enough that I volunteered to help have a Christmas celebration at my 3-year old son’s nursery. I felt bad because I wasn’t volunteering much and felt like my son would be sad if they didn’t have a special party.
So I said ‘I’ll organize a Secret Santa for the kids and will bring an activity for them to do in the afternoon.’ I decided we would decorate cookies and took a half-day at work so that I would have time to dedicate to this.
Rundown of The Day
8am: School drop-off. All parents have brought a gift wrapped for another child in the class. It worked! I am amazing super mom.
8:45am: Get into the office, straight onto calls and meetings back to back until 11:45. Whoops. Was double booked so one meeting was pushed to 1:00pm. My heart starts to beat, but it’s no problem. I can definitely get to the store, get home, start baking, do the conference call and then get out the door in time for the 3:30pm party.
11:45am: Close laptop. Run out of the office to the train.
12:15pm: At the grocery store. Because we live in London and because I never bake I have to constantly translate every measurement and ingredient in my phone for my American self. Did you know that powdered sugar is called icing sugar? That took longer than it should have.
12:55pm: Home in time to start baking and also get on conference call. Gosh, I am amazing. I really can do it all.
1:00pm: Conference call with one ear bud in and looking up sugar cookie recipe. Maybe I should have looked this up last night or printed it out, or maybe even made the dough last night. Too late for that but now my heart is racing and my shoulders are tensing and I’m using all of my energy to make each second count.
1:30pm: Wow, still on this call. Flour is now all over the kitchen and all over me. In a full sweat because of the anxiety I have of making it perfect and not being late. I hate being late. But cookies are in the oven.
2:00pm: Call over.
2:01pm: UGH. These cookies are not right. Why are they all sticking together? Melting into one loose pile semi resembling a cookie. I start my own meltdown. I have no other option but to just keep on.
2:30pm: I pile still warm and melting cookies into a Tupperware and grab the decorations. I call my husband as I hail a cab to cry and tell him to remind me never ever to volunteer plan a children’s holiday party and pretend I am mom of the year. He calms me down a bit and says ‘Ok. I will. Next time just bring store-bought cookies. The kids don’t care.’ UGH. Thanks for that super helpful comment this late in the game. Blood is boiling again.
3:00pm: I make it on time. The kids sat down at the table and I cut the cookies apart like they were a brownie loaf. Just a thick butter and sugar stick, feeling so defeated inside that I can’t even make a sugar cookie so my son can have fun with his friends.
3:30pm The kids decorated the melted cookies and my husband was right. No one cared. They got to play with frosting and put sprinkles everywhere, then pile sugar and butter into their mouths. We laughed and it was fun and no one even noticed the cookies crumbling.
I laugh at that image now of me in my messy kitchen, with flour all over the floor, and one ear bud in. I remind myself of that day and how there is the pressure to do it all. The biggest lesson I learned was one I already knew — and we all already know… the most important part of that day was that I showed up, spent time with and laughed with these precious kids.
I will never be the mom who makes a beautiful homemade cake or hosts decorating parties. And that’s ok. And please call me out on it if you see me trying to do it all. For my own safety.