I was out of town on a business trip, and needed to get back for a Mother’s Day Tea at my 6-year-old daughter’s school. With multiple airport delays, I traveled half the night to be there. But I made it. Moms received a copy of the “Class Cookbook,” filled with each child’s favorite mom-made masterpieces. “Courtney, you win!” a fellow working mom proclaimed as a group of us thumbed through the collection.
My daughter, Lennon, reported that her favorite “specialty” of mine is French Toast Sticks, hand-made from the freezer section at Wegman’s.
I could have been mortified. But it was the best reflection of our reality as two working parents, trying to do the best we can in this crazy life.
I had a flashback to the time my own mother had won first place in a Junior League recipe competition for her now famous, Strawberry and Onion Salad with Poppyseed Dressing.
How times have changed.
Thanks to pressure from ourselves (and Pinterest), I imagine that many hardworking moms, whether full-time at home or out in the business world, have an idealized view of putting nutritious, balanced meals on the table and passing down family recipes and traditions.
I was blessed with that growing up. My mom always prepared a perfectly balanced, healthy dinner for my sisters, dad and me. We ate by candlelight every night. And talked, really talked. And laughed. And cried. It was our safe place and where we learned the importance of communication as a family.
My mother and her close friends even put together a cookbook for their daughters with all their tried and true recipes. I make a whopping two or three dishes a year from this but flip through it often. Amazing how nostalgia creates a smell right from the page.
Today’s reality is not so idyllic. My husband, Kevin, and I juggle two busy jobs outside the home. As President of an advertising agency, I travel almost weekly. But we also agree that family has to come first. That’s not always easy, and there’s always sacrifice somewhere.
So we have created our own mealtime rituals for when we are home. Sometimes that involves me dressing as a crazy chef or a gum-snapping waitress in a giant wig. We understand the importance of gathering around the table as a family, giving thanks and sharing stories. And just being together, even if I’m sipping wine while they nosh on a chicken nugget.
At our agency, we help brands leave a mark—through big moments and little ones. Did I ever think that my serving Wegman’s French Toast Sticks would make such a vivid impression on young Lennon? No. But thanks to the lessons from my parents, I know what you have on your plate is far less important than what you have around the table, and I hope she’s learning that lesson, too.
We try, really we do. But truly balanced meals just aren’t in the cards every night. However, there will be no compromising on the moments we’re creating at mealtime—and the values we’re determined to instill in our kids.
P.S. Did I mention that the French Toast Sticks are organic? And I always serve them with a side of fruit and glass of milk. That has to count for something, right?