At first, I didn’t like you. There, I’ll admit it. I didn’t like you because you made me feel like a failure. The first time my oldest child came home and asked, “Mommy why aren’t YOU the class parent” I didn’t have a great response (and it wouldn’t be the first time this question was asked of me). At the time I had a baby at home, but maybe you did too? I worked from home, but maybe you also did that? I bet you also made gluten-free non-diary cupcakes with fondant leaves on them for the “Harvest Party” and organized your children’s book library (because of course you would have a children’s book “library”) according to color just like I saw on Pinterest and pinned to a board labeled “Home Stuff” but never actually attempted.
I was jealous. I’ll admit that too. I was jealous of the time and attention that you had to pay to this important job. I was jealous of the fact that your kid was probably really proud that it was HIS mom that was the class parent. I was jealous that you knew all the other parents (including their actual names) and I had a hard time remembering what kids were in my son’s class let alone which ones their parents were. I was jealous that you probably never missed a back to school night or a book fair and always knew when show and tell was and what letter it was that week. You probably never shouted “I don’t know just grab a truck!” down the stairs, shoving said truck into a backpack while the school bus idled outside the house, waiting, the bus driver clearly annoyed.
When the class mom is introduced each year, I do size her up, and I size myself up at the same time. Thoughts in my head include: Well, she probably doesn’t work, she probably doesn’t have any younger kids at home, maybe she used to be a teacher, or she really loves doing this sort of stuff, that’s why she does it and I don’t. All these thoughts are designed to make me feel better about the job I’m doing as a parent. Because I, on the other hand, am the mom who always tries to snap up the “easy” class party items like paper plates (paper plates are my specialty) or water bottles (the easiest, especially since you don’t need to find them in any sort of “theme”). I will be honest and admit that I have secretly felt the smallest triumph when I have successfully secured the paper plates spot first, actually bought the plates AND sent them in on the correct day. I will also admit that I have loathed the times I dropped the ball and got stuck making Halloween pumpkin faces on the tops of twenty five mandarin orange fruit cups with a Sharpie in one hand and a glass of wine in the other at 10:45pm the night before the party.
You see, I always wanted to be the class mom, the one who remembered all the stuff and had time and desire to make the cute snacks and volunteer to be the special reader and could help out getting the new kindergartners off the bus. I guess I just assumed I would do it, but one (sort of unexpected) career and a couple more kids later and my oldest two school age kids are out of luck on that front. Sometimes they are lucky I actually get their lunches packed, let alone pull my act together enough (aka get out of my sweatpants/shower) to make it over to school to volunteer.
So, I stopped comparing. And not just the class mom, I stopped comparing myself to any and all other moms. The saying “Comparison is the thief of joy” rings so true for me nowadays, by comparing myself to other moms to see if I measured up, I was only seeing things that I perceived as lacking in myself. I didn’t spend enough time helping out at my child’s school like the class moms did, I didn’t spend as much effort on the snacks as the other moms did, I didn’t play enough, sing the alphabet song in the car enough, put down my phone enough, I didn’t do ENOUGH. Not as much as other moms did, or at least, what I thought they were doing. And somehow, these little holes and spaces in my perception of Motherhood and What It Should Look Like made it feel less whole than it should be, less whole than it actually is.
I started focusing on what was great about the parenting job I was doing, and at the same time, the Class Mom, perched on her pretty pedestal of perfectly prepared preschool snacks and organized mud rooms that I put her on became a friend, not a foe. I actually realized how glad I was that there were moms out there that chose to volunteer, that these moms were also helping my child have a better school experience, not just her own. It reminded me of the whole “it takes a village” idea again, and rather than feeling bad about not doing class mom stuff, I was grateful to have an ally that could help out with things on the school front.
So, thank you Class Mom. Thank you for giving your time to help out at school, for dealing with moms like me who email you back in March about an email you sent in October, for those of us that still don’t know which day library day is even in June, thank you for helping us all feel like we are contributing something, even if it is just a pack of plates.