In the fall of my son's kindergarten year, I received an email notice about a staff appreciation breakfast at his elementary school. Many parent volunteers were needed to feed the teachers and staff: some to help at the weekday morning event, some to prepare food, and others to purchase various items. As a mom working full-time outside the home, I couldn't help at the event, nor did I feel I could manage to whip up something hot, fresh and delicious at 6:00AM to drop off before work. However, I figured I could surely buy bagels and deliver them to the home of the event chair the night before the breakfast.
So, on a Wednesday evening, I battled rush hour traffic from downtown to Edina, picked up my son at KIDS Club at the usual 6:01PM, and took him with me to the local bagel shop to buy 4-5 dozen bagels. I followed directions to a neighborhood in a part of town I'd never known existed. With my son in one arm and a huge bag of bagels in the other, I guess I must have rung the doorbell with my nose. My suit was rumpled and I had runs in my panty-hose.
At almost 7:00PM, I was greeted by the unfamiliar aroma of a home-cooked meal - one that I suspect actually included a vegetable - and a darling mom. In an apron. An apron? Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a dining room table set for five. I was horrified. We were more than 15 minutes away from home, and a good 30 minutes away from a "meal" likely to come out of a box. As for table settings, we were far more likely to eat standing up with a paper plate.
I stood on the doorstep wondering what cute-mom-in-apron must be thinking of me, and then a full-blown "mommy war" began raging in my head. Were the 1950s back? I didn't get the memo. I was superior with my graduate degree, full time employment AND a child. Wasn't I? Similar thoughts nagged at me as I drove home with a sort of homesickness for a life I didn't have...not to mention hunger pangs induced by the aroma of that meal.
What feels like 100 years later, during a hiatus from full-time work, having become friends with dozens of moms involved in our schools in various capacities, after having volunteered at carnivals, school parties, and countless other tasks, and after having planned, cooked and executed several staff appreciation meals at my son's middle school, I've come to realize that it really does take all kinds of moms contributing what they can, when they can. There was one year in which my only contribution to a meal was the disposable coffee cups. All are needed to make our schools great places for the teachers, staff, and most of all, for our kids.
A few years after we first met, cute-mom-in-apron went back to work outside the home. Turns out she is smart and talented and also able to produce meals for five at a fully-set dining table. I'm not sure if she still wears that apron. I should not have judged her. I am grateful to her and the many moms like her who do all they can for our schools - when they can. Instead of judging her, I should have thanked her. I thought of her warmly on Mother's Day, but she doesn't even know it.
A friend recently gave me a floral apron as a gift. I think I'll wear it. Soon.