The everyday pressures of parenting are a fluid and plentiful topic. These kids leave us with no shortage of subject material, and we have our complaints, balanced with our worthy parenting brags, there are both heartwarming tales and nightmarish stories, all because parenthood is every emotion you’ve ever felt all rolled into one. And no one understands this better than your fellow parents. But thanks to Facebook and Instagram and Pintrest and everything social media, we are on full display. It’s now easier than ever to compare yourself to those around you to see how you are measuring up. Social media will misguide you this way. For every four self-deprecating (and honest) “Boy am I sucking at this parenting thing today” posts or pictures, there is one Pintrest-worthy-pic that will undo it all and drag you into a place where suddenly you feel like you are failing at life. 

Facebook and Pintrest really knows how to kick you when you are down.

Now that we are full swing into back-to-school, the latest threat for a parenting-fail? Lunches.  I will tell you, when I was in the throes of babies and toddlers and had a list a mile long of things I was worrying about (yes I threw away all of my daughter’s plastic bottles and bought glass ones, because BPA) that I didn’t see this one coming. With our school aged kids, not only do we have to worry about the worthiness and extent of our PTA involvement, getting our kids to school on time, sports practices, music lessons (we need these kids well-rounded!), checking homework and stressing whether we are able to be a Room Parent (because we may not be able to attend a meeting at 10AM on a Wednesday), now we are judged by the lunches that we send in with them. Food is a basic necessity, it should be simple, right? Sandwich, snack, fruit, easy-peasy? 

Nope. 
Thanks for nothing Bento boxes! Lunch expectations now are that they are to be culinary works of art. Compartments that must be filled with elaborate creations, all the colors of the rainbow, no less. No longer are cute baby carrots going to make the cut (besides the fact that we’ve learned that they are not actual carrots and are compressed and soaked in potentially carcinogenic fluid), these veggies need to be shaved and shaped, in rosettes if you please, hummus isn’t edible without a smiley face. And make their sandwich into a butterfly or a truck or don’t-even-freaken-bother.

How did we get here? Is there no limit to what us parent will do to make our to-do lists longer, our lives more complicated? Do we not already have enough going on that we now have to design our kids lunches? Why do we place insurmountable pressure on ourselves when we already have enough to manage? Now we have to worry about filling these lunch-box compartments with creative snacks in shapes and colors? Are parents masochists? Could that be it? I find myself wondering.

The real problem? I’m right there with them. My daughter, my creative and artsy-craftsy daughter, my visionary where our trash is her treasure, who will make something out of nothing and is the reason that empty Amazon boxes (her muse!) have to be snuck out of the house into the recycle bin, loves herself a butterfly sandwich. And I admit, I indulge her…I put hummus and cucumbers in her compartments for lunch, and use cranberries as eyes in her yogurt, because she loves it. We cut bananas this morning and used mini chocolate chips to make a face, and it absolutely delighted her. For me, it meant that I left for work this AM without time to put on my make up (thank goodness I’m one of the first ones to the office) and throwing something for breakfast in my bag and taking it to-go. Because banana faces. And thank goodness I have my son who is on the other end of the spectrum and couldn’t careless for a shaped sandwich. It would confuse him, I can almost hear him now “Mom, where did the rest of my sandwich go? Why does my yogurt have cranberries in it?’. Not that we have time in the morning for double sets of banana faces, so his desire for simplicity works for all of us. So for him, my sweet boy, lunches are indeed simpler.

I think he is on to something….that sometimes we need to simplify. Stop adding to the to-list, stop letting Pinterest evoke a visceral “UGH” reaction and automatic feelings of failure (is it just me?), and stop letting a Facebook posts of other parents that are having a good day, or a good moment, make us feel like we are not getting it right. Because maybe their Tuesday looked stellar, but I bet you that their Thursday sucked big time. We all know the deal. Our successes ebb and flow. That’s the reality, and that’s OK. We are hard enough on ourselves…we hold ourselves to impossible standards that we let social media define standards for which it has no claim, and little reality, and we need to restructure that a bit. Let your feelings about how the day went be defined by how hard your kiddo hugged you goodnight (we like tight squeezes in my house), and that the kids went to bed clean (this is subjective, of course) and fed and being told that they are loved. That’s success! And that none of those things have anything to do with how fancy or how plain or how simple their lunches looked. Their lunches and those little compartments are not a measure of our love.

So, fellow parents, don’t let the bento boxes get the best of you. A child’s lunch should feed them, fill them, get them through their day so that they can focus on learning…And come home to you in time to complain wildly about what you’ve made them for dinner.

But, at least this meal can go on a plate.    

Photo credit: anotherlunch.com via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

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Lori E. Angiel

Lori resides in the suburbia of Western New York with her husband, their 2 children and sweet rescue pup, George Bailey (because, it’s a wonderful life, after all). When not working, she is doing the soccer mom thing on the sidelines of a soccer field, running the local trails and streets (year round in the most obnoxious reflective gear available) with her running (a/k/a support) group while they train for what is always known as the "last race we are ever doing", or shopping at TJ Maxx or Target.  Her favorite things include her training runs, skiing with her family and yoga.  She is also very devoted to drinking wine and spending as much time as possible with her friends and family.  Whenever the opportunity presents itself, you will find her sitting on a beach (applying copious amounts of sunscreen on her kiddos)....all the while writing about the little things in life that occur to her along the way.

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