I hate Friday mornings. It’s one of those days where I set myself up for a fall, duty bound to deliver on all the promises of bribery that have got me through the week. This morning was no different, but it was a good reminder that real life isn’t a showreel – and there are a thousand lies behind every perfect Instagram photo.
Today, pancakes were my undoing. They’ve inadvertantly become a Friday morning tradition, waved like a carrot throughout the week as encouragement of what my kids will get if they’re good. “If you put your shoes on quickly we can have pancakes for breakfast on Friday” etc.
If you were to catch me on a good day I’d probably say pancakes were a lovely breakfast to enjoy together, and I’d take a photo for Instagram with some artfully arranged strawberries on a plate and my kids happily eating them. Catch me on a bad day though and I’ll tell you they’re messy to make, create loads of washing up, and I only do them because I’m a glutton for punishment and feel like I should because all happy mums make pancakes, don’t they?
Those sodding pancakes were the catalyst for a bad morning all round.
They meant breakfast took forever, which gave us less time to get school shoes on (takes at least fifteen minutes, apparently). The clock was ticking ever closer to 9am, the toddler was refusing to go in her buggy, and – at the last minute – the six year old remembered she had Show and Tell. Kill me now.
As we walked to school I felt myself getting ever more stressed, knowing we’d be facing an inevitable separation anxiety moment at drop-off, which happens whenever we’re late and one of the last to get in the classroom. Just as predicted, Frog cried when it was time for me to leave and I could still hear her wails as I was halfway across the playground.
Persevering with Happy Pancake Mum I let the toddler do her favourite thing and walk along beside me “helping” to push the buggy. Although that had to stop when she tried to push it off the pavement and in the path of a car. By the time I was halfway back home it was 9am and I was ready for a lie down in a dark room or a stiff G&T, neither of which were possible.
I bumped into some school mum mates on my way home. At this point I must have looked slightly crazed, hair sticking up at all angles from the attempt to put my struggling toddler in her buggy. In this situation usually I do what everyone does, plaster on a big fake smile and whip out a cheery “hello!”. But by this point Happy Pancake Mum had done one and I had no cheer left to give.
“It’s just so bloody HARD isn’t it?!” I wailed. And there began a conversation about the reality of mum life, how it’s just so flipping relentless at times, how our kids never want to put their bloody school shoes on in the morning, how we all feel like the proverbial swan floating along on the surface but madly scrabbling away underwater.
“Why don’t we talk about this stuff more?” We asked each other. And it got me thinking – I’m probably my own worst enemy. If I’m not trying to be Happy Pancake Mum (and, therefore, making life harder for myself) I’m beating myself up for thinking Happy Pancake Mum actually exists.
We all have bad days – even the mums who claim to love getting up at 6am to whip up a fresh batch of pancakes for their glowing, beautifully dressed children who never moan about putting their school shoes on. Even Happy Pancake Mum wants to faceplant a G&T at 11am on some days. Trust me.
So the next time I get an attack of the guilts for not being Happy Pancake Mum, I’m going to remind myself that, actually, admitting things aren’t always good can make someone else feel better. It can open a little window and encourage a very honest, lovely, funny conversation.
Oh, and I’m banning Friday morning pancakes.