HUGS AND KISSES

HUGS AND KISSES

From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

Hugs and Kisses

I have to confess that most days I like being a working mom. I like contributing to my family’s financial stability, my company’s success, and perhaps most important, to my own sanity. I like that my work conversations don’t include knock-knock jokes and that disagreements usually end without the statement, “You’re a poopy head.”

At least most of the time.

But there are days when I don’t like working. There aren’t many working moms in my suburban neighborhood, and even fewer single working moms like me. Some mornings I drive by the stay-at-home mothers waiting at the bus stops with their children. They laugh at one another’s jokes and their children’s antics and sip steaming coffee from mugs. They look content, as if they could wait there forever. I know this isn’t true, but some days I feel frazzled and envious as I drive past them.

This year, February 14 started as one of those days.

I had volunteered to help plan my daughter’s Valentine’s Day party. It would be my first experience helping in the classroom, a more visible role than my usual job of cutting and stapling papers for the teacher late at night or on my lunch break. As a member of the Valentine party team, my job was to entertain and delight twenty kindergartners with crafts, snacks, and fun.

First step: the planning.

“Hi, Susan,” my answering machine chirped one evening. “This is Party Mom Number One. We’re meeting at the school cafeteria next Tuesday at nine thirty to make our plans. I know you work, but I hope you can make it.”

Great. By 9:30 most mornings, I was typically well into an inbox of e-mails and my third cup of cheap coffee. But darned if I was going to miss this meeting.

The next Tuesday, I was greeted in the cafeteria by the three other moms on the party team. This won’t be so hard, I thought, climbing awkwardly over the bench in my tailored skirt. Party Mom Number Two surveyed my suit, pantyhose, and heels. “Oh, right. You’re our working mom,” she said with a smile.

Right.

It was clear that the Party Moms had planned elaborate, kid-friendly gatherings before, complete with decadent treats, exciting games, and homespun crafts and décor that would make Martha Stewart proud.

My form of entertaining, on the other hand, was more like Lucille Ball in a lost episode of I Love Lucy.

I listened to the Party Moms rattle off their ideas, while I kept my craft and game suggestions, printed off the Internet the night before, tucked inside my briefcase.

For the most part, I kept quiet.

When the meeting was almost over and the others had selected what they would bring, I spoke up. “Let me bring the candy!” I blurted out. The Party Moms turned and stared at me. “For the game prizes,” I added hesitantly.

“Perfect,” Party Mom Number Three said. “We can always use candy. And we know you work.”

The evening before the big day, I stopped at the store on my way home, tired and grouchy. I scrounged through the picked-over shelves and placed my two small bags of candy in front of the cashier. I tried not to think of Party Mom Number One rigging up her karaoke machine and burning a custom CD. Or Party Mom Number Two stocking her wheeled cart of craft supplies.

Never mind that Party Mom Number Three was baking a tower of heart cookies from scratch at that very moment.

The next morning, my daughter and I drove past the moms and children at the bus stops. I felt frazzled and envious and inadequate all the way to school. I prayed the hours would go by quickly—that is, until I heard my daughter as she skipped into the classroom.

“This is my mom!” she exclaimed. “She’s here for our party.” My daughter pointed excitedly to the bags in my hands. “And we have candy!”

I realized then, although I hadn’t brought the heart-shaped boxes to decorate or the songs to play, I was a Party Mom, too, dressed in jeans and a red sweater like the others. Together, we moms laughed and muddled through the next two hours of helping little fingers to paint and little feet to dance. I felt as if I could stay there forever.

And I must confess that there was one advantage to being the working mom on Valentine’s Day: I was the one who got to bring the Hugs and Kisses.

Susan Courtad

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