Every mother secretly desires to be more loving than her own mother, more attentive, more creative, more hands-on. In our ludicrous quest to be Alpha Mum, we crave approval, from our children and from the world at large.
But really, what’s the point of selflessness martyrdom if no one notices? Alpha Mum ensures ‘extreme acts of mothering’ have high visibility, it’s part of the ‘good mothering’ display: some crochet natural-fibre socks, others attend school functions – I pack awesome lunch.
Every morning when I face those three stinky receptacles I remind myself that I don’t just pack a lunch, I pack my love. (Ok, maybe occasionally I put in a bit of resentment.) I make sure my packed ‘love’ is a few notches above the rest. It’s how I compensate for being a working mother, for missing sporting events, assemblies where the kids got their academic achievement awards, never volunteering on canteen and occasionally forgetting to pick them up from the bus stop. The lunchbox is where I remind my kids of what a stupendous mother I am, hoping that in years to come, when they recline on the therapist’s chair, they will forget my absence and remember my lunch.
Listen to Mandy explain the levels she goes to on This Glorious Mess with Andrew Daddo and Holly Wainwright:
I don’t care if my kids are as pretty, smart or as sporty as my friends’ kids, I just want my lunches to be better.
It’s shallow, but it’s the competitive edge that gets my feet on the floor at 6am. I have been making lunches for 18 years. As a mother of five with the eldest 20 and the youngest just six, I calculated that I will end up spending 30 years packing the box. You get less than that for murder.
I wasn’t always a lunchbox Lama. In the early years I packed some pretty ordinary plastic. Like my own mother, I was rocking the Vegemite sandwich, brown banana and a few stale arrowroots. If I put in a popper then I thought I was cranking some serious ‘mother of the year’ action.
My middle daughter Sophia is extremely clever. For years the children asked for better lunches. Nothing happened. One day Sophia said, “You should see Rosie’s lunch. Her mum makes mini spinach pies and carrot cake. And nori rolls.”
I hated Rosie’s Mum. I couldn’t stop thinking about Rosie’s lunch. Every day when Sophia came home from school I’d say ‘what did Rosie have today?’ I felt like such a failure. How dare Rosie’s mum raise the bar on boxed lunches!
You don’t just fluke exceptional lunches. You have to plan them. I cook extra quantities of chicken schnitzel so they can be sliced up for a schnitz, swiss cheese and lettuce sandwich. With pesto and aioli optional. I buy focaccia bread and make salami and cheese toasties.