O’s second birthday is coming up. We decided to forego the traditional birthday party this year. I know soon he will have many opinions about it, so I’m not in a hurry to go overboard about birthday parties. And let’s be honest, O would be just as happy if I gave him a bowl of prunes, sang “All The Single Ladies” to him, and let him watch the Cars movie. So this year, family only, a cake with a car or a truck on it, and we’re done. I felt at peace with my decision, barely gave it much thought.
Then we went to a birthday party for a 2 year old a few weekends ago. The mom held it at the neighborhood pool and reserved the picnic tables under the trees. The kids swam and then headed over for snacks and cupcakes. I talked to the mom for a few minutes and she said in passing that she hadn’t gone all out this year. The place looked like it could be on the cover of Pottery Barn Kids. She had huge orange and pink and yellow balloons tied together in groups of 3 so that they floated above and looked almost like lanterns. In between the balloons were vintage flags cut into triangles, in perfect pastel colors, that exactly matched the 3 page fold out invitations. The tables had adorable pink and green polka-dotted table cloths. She had sandwiches and healthy snacks arranged perfectly, plus kid sized waters and colorful Izze fruit drinks in cans. The water bottles had labels with her daughter’s name on them. Lined up around the perimeter of the party sat dozens of pale blue, green, yellow and pink sand buckets filled with a few treats and personalized with each child’s name. There were large buckets filled with trucks and trains and bubbles and toys. She made the cupcakes herself- and they were delicious. I don’t like cupcakes and I ate two. Did I mention that this Wonder Mom is also 9 months pregnant and due in the next few weeks?
This is not a post about the ridiculousness of the party or a judgment on the mom. She’s lovely and a great mom and the party was a blast. She also designs stationary for a living, so this is her thing. This post is about my utter deflation in the face of such super mom-dom. Even if I had the time and energy to try and have such a cute party, I know it wouldn’t turn out as cute. I don’t have that knack for decorating. I don’t bake. But I want to be that mom. I want to be able to throw things together so it looks like I should work at a magazine. I want other people to oooh and aaah over my efforts. But more than that, I feel bad for O that I don’t have that Wonder Mom knack. I don’t know why, but I think that a woman who can wrangle a toddler and work part time and be nine months pregnant and still put together an effortlessly chic birthday party for her kid must be a great mom, the kind of mom I secretly want to be.
The thing is, of course this stuff has nothing to do with raising a child. I also am pretty sure that every single mom, even the Wonder Moms out there, at times feel insufficient and hopeless at being a mom. I know that I am good at many other things that count in O’s world, and he could care less if his birthday party was properly decorated. But still.
What is it about us that thinks that these things signal being a Wonder Mom? Why do we all stress about the perfect cupcakes, or the perfect outfit that will get destroyed the minute the toddler walks out of his own room? It seems to start with decorating the perfect nursery in a way that will set little Aidan or Abigail in the right direction. Then comes the pressure to kill ourselves to exclusively breast-feed until the kid is a year old and not a day longer. Heaven forbid you keep nursing your toddler- then you are that weird mom who can’t let go. And if you get your kid to sleep through the night, then you move to the head of the Wonder Mom pack. After that, it’s cooking and pureeing and preserving organic only food to ensure that your toddler becomes a foodie later in life. Now it’s preschools and birthday parties and whose kid is going to read first.
I’m not Wonder Mom. Honestly, just typing out all of the above makes me exhausted. I work. I make time for my husband. I write. I play with my kid and read to him, and marvel at every little thing he does. I feed him and bathe him and clean up his poop and monitor his poop and help him poop if he can’t. I hold his hand when he lets me. I let him walk in front of me when he needs me to. I also scoop him up and carry him home when he’s screaming his head off because I dared to say “no”. I adore everything about him, and my heart hurts watching him grow into this little amazing creature. I let him figure things out on his own, but help him when he turns to me and asks. He is bright and funny and curious and dirty and thinks “toot” is hysterical, and adores his dad and all things car related. Basically he is exactly what he should be, a little boy who is loved too much.
So really, if I added “and I make him the perfect cupcakes and throw him the perfect birthday parties” to that list you’d think I was insane. I know this does not make me or anyone a Wonder Mom. So why do we think that if we look perfect and we make our kids childhood’s look perfect, then they will be? Why do we feel that tug that whispers “you’re not good enough” when confronted with a Wonder Mom, even though we know better?
Well. clearly, I don’t know. If I did, my name would be Oprah and I’d be a billionaire and I would be too busy spending my money and saving humanity to bother writing this post. But as mothers, let’s all agree to give ourselves a break. Let’s stop comparing ourselves and thinking that irrelevant things like perfect birthday parties actually make a statement about what kind of mothers we are.
Because we are ALL Wonder Moms. Because we are doing it all, and surviving. Because our kids are healthy and thriving and messy and complicated and growing up happy.
And if your thing is throwing perfect birthday parties, then keep on doing it. And keep inviting me and O so we can eat your perfect cupcakes.