I don’t know if this happens to other moms, but every once in a while I find myself thinking, “Maybe I could do something better. Maybe I could be kinder, more patient. Prettier.”

Yes, prettier.

You always want the best for your kids: from the laudable- best learning tools, wickedly expensive organic foods and a warm, safe house, to the slightly more superficial- cute shoes, adorable jeans, a kick ass iTunes library, and great bath toys.

But there is also the desire to have you, yourself, be the best and brightest parent you can be. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to be the mom with the frizzy hair, sallow skin and frumpy clothes.

In my dreams I am a polished mom. I take the time in the morning (before anyone has woken up of course, so that I don’t steal time from my family for the frivolity of blow drying) to style my hair, apply a bit of moisturizer (of course it has an spf of at least 20 to protect my skin from fine lines produced by sun damage) , brush a pearly shade of eye shadow along my brow (nothing too bold, this is just to enhance, you see), dust a bit of peachy blush along the apples of my cheeks (mimicking that youthful rosiness of rest and activity) and then maybe passing a mascara wand along my lashes.

I am always well turned out, with jeans that don’t lose their shape from sitting on the floor playing, a cute top that reflects my still trim figure and fun kicky shoes that look clean and stylish.

Unfortunately what is usually more realistic is asking Sean to watch Briar and closing myself in the bathroom with Avery propped up on a stack of towels, using my left hand to swing a pair of slacks that are hanging over the dryer back and forth in front of Avery like a psuedo-mobile, my left hip jutting out to press against her feet, lest she start to fall, my right foot bracing the door shut as I try to use my right hand to hold the curling iron over clumps of hair, dragging it hard and slow to try and curl-dry my hair. I set the curling iron down, turn to check on Avery and then quickly swipe mascara on the lashes of each eye, before grabbing the iron to do a little more curl-drying damage to my hair.

Inevitably Briar pushes the door open saying, “Mommy, help. Mommy, open. UGH. MOMMY HELP. OPEN. DOOR. MOMMY.” Avery squeals and wiggles at the sound of Briar, I shift to keep her from falling, hoist the curling iron and its cord up over head to protect Briar as I twist to my left avoiding the toilet, to allow for the door to open so that Briar can come in. The curling iron is branding my forearm and the counter has soaked me from waist to crotch. Briar slams the door, startling Avery and causing me to flinch, shutting my eyes and plastering my eyeballs and eyelids with deepest brown mascara.

I take a deep breath and look in the mirror. My hair is shaped like a bell, tight and damp against my scalp, then belling out in atrocious Nellie Olson sausage curls along my jaw line. My eyes are bloodshot, and my breasts have leaked milk onto the last, clean, non t-shirt, work suitable top I have. The wet line on my pants has passed below my crotch only on the right side, giving me the distinct look of a fairgrounds cafeteria worker. Avery is teetering precariously along the edge of the dryer, gleefully clutching the pants her daddy asked me to watch last night, a shiny glob of baby snot stamped across the placket of the zipper. Briar looks up at me and says, “Mommy, take you?” with her arms stretched out, ready for me to take her.

Utterly hopeless, I think to myself. Somehow I set the curling iron down, scoop Briar into my right arm and Avery into my left as I grab a towel and wipe the worst of the mascara smudges from my face. I take the girls into the living room and ask Sean to watch them. I sneak back to the bathroom and clean the snot from the slacks, grab a fleece vest from the laundry effectively covering my leaky chest and taking my outfit from business casual, to Adirondack functional and return to the living room to hand Sean the pants.

“Did you enjoy getting to do your hair?” my sweet, innocent husband asks. I smile and decide that instead of weeping and explaining that I just spent the last five minutes fixing his pants and disguising the breast milk stains I’ll be wearing for the rest of the day, that I’ll thank the universe that I have this man who thinks that this walking mess of mismanaged hair and smeared make up is attractive and by design.
Later, much later, I’m back at home. Dinner is on the stove and Sean has the girls by the fire. Briar is reaching for a book.

“Did you hear that?” Sean asks me.

“No, what?” I respond, tired and distracted.

“Listen,” he says.

“N’dat. The book. Mommy ‘cess. Mommy ‘cess. Mommy p’cess.” Briar is saying with her head down.

Exhausted and slightly annoyed I look at Sean with a “What is she saying?” plea on my face.

“Mommy princess. Honey, she wants to look at our wedding album, at her ‘Mommy Princess’.”

It is almost more than I can bear as she turns and lift her head, her big blue eyes seeking me out from beneath a later of honey colored curls. She pats her chubby little hand on the cushion beside her and says, “Mommy, gen’in? Mommy sit? Mommy Princess book.”

Sean beams at me as I cross the room to sit with my daughter. I am feeling like the luckiest, prettiest Mommy Princess ever to be.