As soon as the school year is on the horizon, I turn to Pinterest and imagine all the amazingly innovative ways I am going to stay organized. I convince myself that this year will be the year I start getting up early in the morning and making well-balanced lunches. I tell myself that everyone will be ready at least a half hour before we have to leave: clothes on, hair and teeth brushed, bags packed and ready. I act like I’m going to make snacks that are shaped like different animals for after -school treats. Nevermind the fact that currently my idea of a “fancy” morning treat is making Jiffy muffins. I am going to be ready for school this year. This year, I am going to be on top of it. This year, I'll be the mom who has it all together.
So I buy a new planner and decide to start bullet journaling. I plan out our meals meticulously and with great care, including lunches, and feel like I’ve done a pretty great job. I’ve always considered myself an organized person in my head, even if real-world evidence is otherwise damning. And the school year brings out my highest organizing aspirations. It always feels like a fresh start, like this year will be the year I finally get it right, but then reality very quickly sets in. It's not.
After all my careful meal planning, we have somehow run out of food three days into the first week of school. I have already forgotten to put sunscreen on my kindergartner in the morning many times (in fact, I only remembered the first day). I can’t find the email that says what time back-to-school night is. I already know I am going to miss the first PTO meeting, and probably every other PTO meeting, just like I did last year. Despite my best intentions, I’m starting to realize I’m never going to be the kind of mom I am in my head.
The mom I actually am does approximately two crafts per year, three if it’s a particularly ambitious year, and I Instagram these crafts like a madwoman.
The mom in my head has a clean house. The mom I actually am has a cleaning list posted on the wall in clear view, and most of it never gets done. It basically serves as a reminder of all the things I am definitely not doing, but could be if I were better organized. Sometimes my family will comment on these clearly posted cleaning guidelines and ask if I actually do all of it. Honestly, I don’t even do the daily tasks I have on that list, let alone the weekly/monthly/biannual nonsense I apparently thought I’d do once upon a time. The mom in my head makes a lot of really great healthy and fun food, packs bento boxes like a boss, and never veers from the meal plan. The mom I actually am feels accomplished making french toast in the morning, but is usually overwhelmed by the thought of plating chicken nuggets and canned corn by the time dinner rolls around. Even though I always plan our meals, I opt for spaghetti or takeout at least once a week, and my produce drawer is where many good intention go to (literally) rot. Somewhere on my Pinterest board are instructions for making hippopotamuses out of bread to float around in bowls of soup. The reality is that I have absolutely no time for that.
The mom in my head plans activities and crafts for after school, and never misses an event for school or otherwise. The mom I actually am does approximately two crafts per year, three if it’s a particularly ambitious year, and I Instagram these crafts like a madwoman, as if having photographic evidence and acknowledgement will make me do it more often. It doesn’t. I also write every PTO meeting and fundraiser in my planner as if I’m going to attend each and every one. So far, I’m zero for however many have passed by me in the last year. I ordered some chocolate bars out of a school catalog last Christmas. That counts, right?
The truth is, my dream version of myself will probably never align with my reality. I’m sure I’ll get slightly better with time and experience, but mostly, I think I’ll become more clear about my real priorities. Maybe one day I’ll learn to pack a truly beautiful bento box, or maybe I won’t, and maybe that’s OK too. Maybe the mom I actually am is good enough, and I just need to see it for myself.