We've all had them, those embarrassing moments at the check out counter when your shopping cart displays some intimate detail of your personal life: Tampons in front of a guy you work with. Oreos and Diet Coke in front of the girl who's still wearing her gym shorts. Dandruff shampoo in front of someone who's taller than you. The list goes on and on, but in all my embarrassing purchases never have I ever been made to feel as ashamed, embarrassed and inadequate as a mother as I was today.
If you've ever been to the baby food aisle you're familiar with the variety of products that certain manufacturers offer as ammo for parents who are time-starved and culinary challenged. I am now one of those parents. While I'd love to boil, bake, puree and chop a bounty of wholesome goodness for my child's meals, I just don't have the time, and, if I'm being honest, my kid ain't got the patience. When my son needs to eat he needs to eat NOW. Not half an hour from now. Not when the meat is tender enough to dissolve in his mouth. NOW! Which bring us to my current obsession with 30 second microwavable baby entrees.
Many reputable, healthy brands offer a wide variety of well-balanced meals. Anything from mac n' cheese with peas and carrots, to beef and barley with sautéed spinach. Definitely better than anything I would have the time to throw together in my kitchen amidst the 6:00 a.m. morning madness (see Food Confessions of a Working Mom: Part One for the morning madness recap).
We are currently obligated to provide a breakfast, lunch and snack for my son five days a week while he is still in the infant room at his daycare center. During a shopping trip I typically buy 10 trays of lunches, 5 oatmeal bowls, 1 box of cereal bars and a couple canisters of crackers along with some sticks of cheese and fruit cups.
As I approach the check out line I see her, Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast. She's wearing her yoga pants, wind breaker, running shoes and baseball cap. No make-up and flawless skin. Weighing in at 105 pounds and standing around 5 feet tall. Her children are well-behaved statues who refuse to flinch for fear of Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast's wrath. They remain still, silent and stacked one on top of the other in their state-of-the-art jogging stroller.
I begin to unload. A stack of entree trays make their way towards Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast's divider stick. A quick glance at first, then an astonished eye bulge as she sees me continue to send crunchies, cheese sticks and yes, more trays down the counter.
I avoid eye-contact. I convince myself that in not looking directly at her I will somehow maintain the mother-of-the-year status I have achieved in my head. But her next move left me no choice. Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast takes it upon herself to pick up one of my meals and inspect the nutrition info.
"Excuse me?" I respond in a timid, embarrassed voice. I've been caught. Found out. My cover is blown!
"Have you bothered to research these at all? They're terrible for kids. Full of processed food and chemicals. I only feed my kids home-cooked, organic foods. It's so much better for their health."
My mouth drops open in astonishment. I obviously had no idea that such things had been said about this bountiful harvest I was about to blow an entire paycheck on. Okay maybe I did, but I figured it was all Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast paranoia. I counter.
"I had heard that, but I don't believe any of it. These companies have been feeding babies for years, and our pediatrician actually recommended these for their low-salt and low-sugar content."
"Your pediatrician huh?" As though I had made this character up in one of my pre-packaged baby food induced hallucinations.
"Yep." That awkward silence…
"Well did your pediatrician also tell you that your child needs to have all of their shots before they're old enough to process those medications? Pediatricians make awful judgment calls on children's health." With this, Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast had loaded her recycled burlap bag of organic groceries into her cart and was simply lingering to ensure I felt like poopie before hopping into her Prius and heading off to her hemp hut.
At this point my mountain of meals has piled up at the front of the check out line and my cashier is looking at me as though I need to pay up and move on." I reach for my wallet and throw Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast a smile and in my most sickeningly sweet voice say:
"I find it hard to believe that pediatricians would still have jobs if they didn't have the childrens' best interests at heart. I was raised with a doctor as a father and I was raised on many different pre-packaged baby foods. I'm sure you probably were too. Back then our parents didn't have to worry about the political paranoia that so many people fall victim to today. Not to mention these meals have been very convenient for our family, since both my husband and I have full-time jobs and a number of other commitments (translation: we are very powerful people so don't mess with us)."
I stay on my soapbox…
"It's nice to know that companies are evolving past the sexist assumptions that women have all the time in the world to spend in the kitchen. It's quite progressive of these companies to assist working mothers with the variety of foods that they have. Aside from the convenience, I believe they are a healthy meal option thanks to our pediatrician. Plenty of children and parents follow the advice of their pediatrician and turn out just fine."
With this I grab my bags, load them into my cart and confidently wheel my way to the exit. My child however is still standing at the check out counter chewing on a magazine.
There are some battles we just can't win.
**DISCLAIMER: In no way am I criticizing people who do buy whole wheat toast and have the time and money to prepare thoughtful, wholesome meals for their children. In fact, I'm jealous. What I am criticizing with this post are nosy, busybodies who seek to criticize others for the choices they make. I'm sure we all think everyone should do it "our" way, but that's not the case. I am firm believer in "to each their own" and I really wish everyone else would think the way I do. Ironic?