Red Sharpie On The White Couch

If you follow my life as founder and CEO of Cotton Babies,you know that I am married,have four young children and a healthy business. I travel frequently. Between the kids, our jobs, and my travel schedule, our family life can be chaotic. The post below was written at the height of an incredibly stressful day. I was home. The kids were home. Jimmy was home. The day literally started to unravel the moment that I got out of bed. This post started as a text to a friend and then evolved into an essay that I wasn’t originally going to share with anyone -because, honestly, who really needs to know all of this. After some consideration though, I decided to go full monty. Some people are out there trying to sell a perfect life in perfect photos with perfect design, perfect fashion, orperfectly outfitted children to the world. It seems to be my calling to throw pitches at reality. You can’t have it all and not eat it too. Or so my scale would say. So here it is. Every good mom’s real life wish list.

  1. I want my children to eat food. They all like different things and nobody has time to make five meals. And when the hungry two year old looses his ish because he has rejected all forms of all food, including his favorites… that noise is enough to make just about any parent loose their ish. Combine that with the sixyear old wanting a package of cookies and a cupcake for breakfast,and the two big kids thinking they get to play video games for twelve hours straight…really, folks… this is not the day to measure success against. I gave her the cookies. The baby ate Ramen noodles. Dry. Because he prefers them like that. And the boys are still in front of the tv. But it’s quiet.
  2. I want my children to clean up their messes. We went to bed with a clean house. Then the six year old started “crafting” on the living room floor. The noise she made after being told to clean it up is like nails on a chalkboard. Then she didn’t clean it up and the two-year-old found the bag of Sharpies. He used the back of the cream leather couch, several walls, the tv, the carpet, and the decorative table as his canvas. Red sharpie. My living room was tagged by a toddler. Then he tagged himself. Photos on Instagramfor the curious.
  3. I want my children to want to take a bath and brush their teeth. They do take baths and they do brush their teeth, but right now, none of thathappenswithout great discussionunless they can smell themselves or see the gunk on their teeth. I honestly understand their reluctance to allow hygiene to interrupt their fun, but some things really are both nice and necessary.
  4. I read books that talk about kids that lay in their bedrooms and read books for quiet time while their mom gets a chance to paint her nails and shave her legs. Please, sweet purveyor of successful quiet time, tell me all of your secrets. All words seem to be loud at my house. All of them.Quiet, even 30 seconds of quiet, doesn’t happen unless they are all finally done protesting bedtime and actually fall asleep.
  5. I would like my children to care about wearing a coat outside when it’s cold outside. They have coats. They aren’t wearing them. School doesn’t allow coats in the classroom. Rather than lug a coat around and put it in all its proper places at school, they leave it at home. There’s no recess when it’s cold. But theyreally should wear a coat. Every time they leave without one, at their own insistence, I shudder thinking about what terrible things the teacher must think about me. I tried. Really, I did.
  6. The two year old can climb out of his crib and get in bed with us in the night. This morning, I woke up to being kicked (hard!) in the nose by a horizontal child who didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t moving when his feet wanted the place that my head was occupying on the pillow.

Perhaps this is normal. I think it probably is. I know that we’re all working hard to be good, or at least adequate, mothers. Some of us certainly seem to be better than others at containing the chaos. I don’t post more often on Instagram right now because there’s nearly nothing I can take a picture of that shows what I think we might imagine success to be with motherhood.

Maybe it’s time to start picturing my failures…

You know why my kids are hollering about breakfast today? The breakfast that I tried to makewas a disaster thanks to one of those enticingly perfect recipes posted by “Tasty” on Facebook. I’m still mad at you, Tasty. That receive should have mademe a hero mom. They like cinnamon rolls and they like french toast. Making them both at the same time should equal hero mom. Nice idea. It made a good video, but in reality, it was a disaster. Egg, cinnamon roll lasagna. I can eat almost anything and even I thought that was disgusting.To make it worse, when my husband (who is actually a very good cook) saw the mess, he laughed. Now I don’t have my can of cinnamon rolls or those four eggs. The chickens haven’t laid yet today… which is why the rest of it all unraveled too.

I’m writing this while my husband, who slept in, is in the kitchen re-making everyone breakfast… now “first meal”, the toddler is eating chocolate chips, and the six-year-old is outside without her coat on in her Easter dress.

Dear Lord, there’s a serenity prayer… but this is where I crack out the “silence” prayer. I remember my dad driving through McDonald’s and buying a bag full of cheeseburgers so the car would be quiet. I had three little brothers and we grew up driving a 1976 Chevy Impala, fighting over who had to take the middle in the back seat. The seats were red. There was a hump in the middle of both the floor and the seat. The looser was almost always me… because the boys wouldn’t fight with each other over the top of their big sister. My dad’s theory was that you can’t make noise when your mouth is full of food and your sister is sitting in the middle. The middle seat is no more. But food, may food happen fast.Amen.

Truthfully, I love the chaos. I love my kids. I have to embrace the fact that we’re all learning to be better people together. And honestly, it’s not the end of the world if they grow up and eat cookies or dry ramen noodles for breakfast as adults. I like my ramen noodles cooked and preferably served with fresh herbs at my favorite Vietnamese place, but they can grow into that. And frankly, life never gets too important for cookies.



P.S. This day helped to inspire a fresh hashtag (#everygoodmom). I hope that you’ll feel inspired to include your every day, real life, real mom, beautiful experiences as part of that feed. There’s no need to be perfect. Sometimes the most beautiful things are found in the red sharpie on the white couch kind of days.

Jenn is the Founder and CEO of Cotton Babies. She holds an Executive MBA from Washington University. She was awarded Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Emerging Category for the Central Midwest Region in 2011. Among many other awards, she recently received a 2017 YWCA Leader of Distinction Award for Entrepreneurship. Jenn holds many patents on various inventions in a number of different countries and is listed as one of 50 Missourians You Should Know. She is particularly fascinated by languages, chickens, and children (she has four) when she’s not reading economics journals. Jenn offers mentorship to product developers at any stage in the journey from idea to shelf.