5:40 pm: It’s time to clock out of work for the day after a 10-hour shift, and my evening shift as “Mama” starts.
5:50 pm: I arrive at daycare to pick up my two little ones, thankful they have someone watching them until 6:00 if needed. I always feel bad for arriving so late in the day, as my kids are also some of the first to arrive at the school each morning at 7:30 am. Are they looking at each parent during pickup time and wondering why their mom isn’t there yet?
6:05 pm: Both kids are strapped in their car seats and ready to get home. The only issue is they are apparently starved, parched, and exhausted. Luckily I have learned to pack water, granola bars, and applesauce pouches to hopefully avoid any major toddler meltdowns.
6:15 pm: We pull into the neighborhood and notice our neighbors all sitting down for family dinner. Everyone is served a home-cooked meal and seemingly sits happily at their table together. Now I know this can’t always be as picture-perfect as it seems, but my mom-guilty conscience sees this image as something to strive for, and it is so far out of my reach right now.
6:20 pm: My oldest is starving again because the granola bar wasn’t enough to satiate her for long. I don’t have dinner made yet, and the baby is crying for a bottle that, unfortunately, he doesn’t get anymore. We decided to transition him to whole milk and solid foods six weeks early because of the formula shortage. I frantically search the kids’ snack cabinet for something they can eat quickly, and then I see it—the microwave pasta.
6:25 pm: Both kids are in their seats and eating prepackaged ravioli. It’s not my proudest moment, but it’s familiar, quick, and fool-proof. They both love it, and I love when they aren’t crying and screaming at me after a long day of work. I always tell myself, “tomorrow I’ll cook dinner,” “soon we will start eating together,” or “it’s just hard right now because of X, Y, Z.”
I wish it didn’t have to be this way right now. I wish I could be like the moms who seem to have it all together. But I am a microwave pasta mom, and there’s no denying that, at least in my current season of life. But I know I am not alone. There are others like me, moms who struggle to get dinner on the table at a reasonable time after a full day of work. Moms who compare themselves to others. Moms who feel we are supposed to do/have/be “it all.”
I am trying to remember that expecting too much of myself will leave me being less present for my children and my husband. I am trying to give myself grace for not looking up those Instant Pot recipes I had thought I would by now. I am showing my children what it means to work hard, provide for their families, and be a loving mom. So, for now, I’ll keep serving microwave pasta if it means that I can be more focused on enjoying our time together rather than spending my time after working cooking an elaborate meal.