Once upon a time, I hosted playdates featuring three different types of banana bread to accommodate every dietary preference: gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free, of course. I labored over Halloween party appetizers, drawing faces on mandarin oranges to resemble jack-o’-lanterns and turning string cheese into ghosts. When the winter holiday party came around, I brought in trays of homemade (non-GMO, thankyouverymuch) popcorn balls wrapped in cellophane and tied with a jaunty red bow.
Those days, like my youth, are over.
I’m not sure when I first began to suspect that I was wasting my time and money on a bunch of stupid food. But last year, all of a sudden, I decided to quit. No more perfect Pinterest food on my dinner table or for class parties. When the next class party came around, I ran to the grocery store on my way to the school party and threw a few bags of mandarins and popcorn into my cart. There wasn’t a single jack-o’-lantern face in sight. But when I set down my gauche offerings among a sea of homemade, festive treats, instead of feeling guilty, I felt surprisingly… free.
I wasn’t the mom who stayed up until 3 a.m. making dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free cupcakes frosted to look like animals. I was the mom who went to bed at the ripe hour of 9 p.m. and hit snooze at least three times. I was the mom who DGAF.
I was a goddamn genius.
I’ll admit that my first few forays into crappy class party snacks were still organic and purchased at the local food co-op. I couldn’t go from crunchy to crappy all in one fell swoop. But one day, as I eyed the $8 bag of organic apples, I snapped. Those kids aren’t even my kids, so why the heck was I blowing my budget to feed them organic? Even my own kids get pesticide-laden death foods when my budget is tight! I threw the apples into my cart with relish, and then I ventured into the most hated aisle of all: the juice aisle.
Many a battle has been waged by moms over those tiny little boxes of kid crack. They are empty calories and full of sugar and carbs, even the supposedly “natural” ones. No decent mom gives her kid juice, am I right? Capri Suns were on sale, so into my cart they went. They probably don’t even contain juice among all those chemicals. Bad-mom achievement unlocked.
Now, I know that healthy foods are important. Believe it or not, I actually ran a Paleo blog for a few years, and I feed my family a mostly healthy diet. But over time, food has become something of a religion, and I’m just not interested in obsessing over every bite of food my kids or I consume. Health is about balance, and that includes mental health too. There’s nothing healthy about essentially turning food into a cult, and I’m sick and tired of everything about motherhood being so damn serious.
Class parties are supposed to be parties. That means they are supposed to be fun, and part of having fun is eating delicious and completely bad-for-you food. Class parties are about sugary cupcakes and laughing about the mustaches left behind by unnaturally red punch. Food brings people together, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our kids bonding over their shared love of potato chips and juice boxes. In fact, that’s pretty much what being a kid is all about.
I tried really hard to be the perfect mother, until I finally realized there’s no such thing as a perfect mother. The more sanctimonious you are, the more you’re probably convinced you’re failing at motherhood — and that’s OK, I get it. Every single one of us has been there. But all this competitive motherhood has made it harder for us to actually enjoy being mothers.
I, for one, am done trying to be the perfect mother. If that means my kids eat a Happy Meal once in a while or I bring Capri Suns to a class party, then so be it. No one has ever died from enjoying junk food once in a while, and I hope that watching me relax and enjoy life a little more will help them learn that it’s OK to not be perfect too.
So when this year’s class parties roll around, I’ll be happy to sign up to bring snacks. Gluten-laden, sugary, delicious snacks that all of our kids will enjoy.