I didn't realize I was different than most moms I know, until my son and his classmates started eating real "lunch foods" and I started hearing about what the other children were having packed into their lunches at preschool. The other moms boasted about how much their kids loved their hard-boiled eggs, edamame, kale chips, and nut butters, all arranged artfully in bento lunch boxes. It all made me want to barf. I have a lot of internal reactions when people start talking about how healthy their kids eat, and most of them are not, "Wow, I am so impressed. You are killing this mom game!"
Now, "lunch" for my 2.5 year old usually consists of some Kraft shredded cheese (which we call "Ernie's cheese" in our house, because this is also the cheese we put in our dog's dry food to make him eat his food) in a bowl. In other words, I basically feed my preschooler the same wholesome food as my dog. (I attempted to feed my kids organic cheese for a while, but they got a taste of the Kraft and there's no convincing them to go back to the organic stuff.)
There's little I can do now that we've reached this point, except maybe wait for my toddler to become an adult who realizes eating Kraft cheese from a bowl at business lunches probably isn't "professional." I'm sure he won't be this picky forever, but until then, I'm just going to look like I'm super proud of your expert mom skills when you tell me how much your child loves the taste of gluten-free bread. Internally, however, I'm having some other thoughts and feelings.
Feelings Of Extreme Inadequacy
My first response when a mom starts talking about how her 2 year old just can't wait to start her day with a delicious acai bowl, is to feel like I have just flunked this whole motherhood thing and am doing it all wrong. I must have made a wrong turn somewhere when all the decent mothers were home making their own purees of different organic vegetable varieties depending on what was in season at the green market from scratch.
The Desire To Say, "Yeah, You Totally Win Motherhood"
There are moms who go about being awesome without looking for a medal. Then, of course, there are the moms who are waiting for the reality TV cameras to show themselves and producers to come out of the shadows to exclaim, "We have been following you all along and just want to say a hearty congratulations because you win! We've never seen anyone do motherhood so well before and we've been documenting it for all the world to see!"
I have friends who are complete healthy living diehards and whose kids have naturally followed suit, and they do so without any fanfare and without looking for any comment or approval. Then there are those who absolutely must post about every healthy meal their child eats on social media as reminders of how amazing and loving they are as mothers (and, don't forget, what a sophisticated palate their above-average child has).
But is your kid really eating this healthy food? Or did you just prepare it and take a picture of it so we, the consumers of social media and your "friends" on Facebook, think you're suddenly living that #PlantBasedLife? Unless I'm actually in the room, watching a preschooler eat the "super yummy no sugar, all quinoa cookies with coconut butter" I'm going to remain skeptical.
Heaps Of Shame For All Of The Processed Food I Feed My Own Kids
When I do see the children in my son's class happily gobbling down roasted veggie stir-fry for lunch, while my son whines for his post-school brownie, I can't help but feel a weight of shame for this all-carb sugar train we're on that I can't seem to be able to get off.
Once a day, I can get my son to eat a vegetable like peas, which feels great, but his diet resembles that of a child of the '80s: pizza, brownies, mac and cheese, cookies, cheese sticks, and various snack foods. Sometimes he will have a scrambled egg, which is a major victory in our house. If I choose to focus on it, I can really indulge and feel like any future health problems he may have will all stem from the bad eating choices I have made for him, or rather, the habits I have let him form.
A Sudden Impulse To Run To The Health Food Store...
When the nighttime scaries about my own children's unhealthy eating habits get to me the worst, I feel the impulse to run to the nearest health food store and stock up on lentils, quinoa, nut butters, and various vegetables I can make into healthy versions of "chips." I make a promise to myself to do it first thing after the kids get dropped off at school.
...Followed By A Feeling Of Pure Dread
Then I picture myself face to face with that bulk aisle, which, in our local health food store, is in a part of the store that is kept at arctic temperatures. Other people seem to have a real sense of purpose in that bulk aisle, knowing exactly what to scoop into their bags and how much. I am completely lost. I wouldn't even know what to buy, and I would be too cold to stand there and figure it out. I get overwhelmed at the prospect and decide to just buy organic apple juice boxes. It's a start, right?
An Instantaneous Commencement Of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" Playing In My Head
When my brain really doesn't want to process something another person is saying — namely any time there is serious boasting involved and anything having to do with a kale shake — I resort to my go-to zone-out method: singing the lyrics to "We Didn't Start The Fire" by Billy Joel. Even though my knowledge of the lyrics is basically the chorus and something about "James Dean" and "Britain needs a new queen," I remain satisfied with simply repeating the word "watermelon" over and over to myself to the tune of the song.
Reaffirmation That You Can Do You, And I Can Do Me
After I've gone through my usual series of emotions that start with shame, anger, and disappointment at myself, then move toward feelings of annoyance at the other person, then a complete shutdown of taking in anything the other person is saying, I come to a place of peace. This other mom can do her thing, with the acai bowls, and the spinach cakes and the banana "ice cream," and I can do things like Ellio's Pizza and Haagen Daz and we probably will both do a hell of a lot of other stuff wrong and a bunch of stuff right. Neither of us is better than the other.
Though, to her credit, she is probably way more skilled in the kitchen than I am.