Let Them Eat Cake…From A Box
“Let Them Eat Cake!”
“Mom, remember?! I need cupcakes for my bake sale tomorrow!!”
A cold sweat broke out all over my body and visions of cake-making late into the night entered my head. I was tired. I was beat. I didn’t want to do it. But, like so many of us, I felt that pressure to “not be that mom,” you know - the one who never does anything for their kid’s school events. Truth be told, I was already nearly “that mom,” because my level of school engagement with my kids’ activities is woefully low. But I digress.
On my way home, I dashed into the nearest convenience store and bought some Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake Mix along with a jar of “frosting” (yes, the term for this chemical concoction is questionable). Yup. I was going to take the easy route with the boxed cake mix. The shame.
My feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mother were only superseded by my sense of relief that I didn’t have to make a real cake - you know, the kind that you painstakingly and lovingly make from scratch. To do it well, we all know that the right measurements, the right ingredients (real baker’s chocolate, no less) and the right amount of mixing will result in that perfect dessert.
After dinner, after the boys’ baths and well before I could hit the hay for the evening, I cracked open the box. Water? Check. Eggs? Of course. Vegetable oil? Got it. This was going to be a breeze.
The final product didn’t disappoint and, I figured, the kids at school would be none the wiser.
My guilt, however, hadn’t abated.
“What kind of mom am I, really?!,” I asked myself. “I mean, c’mon! I shouldn’t be making cake from a box for my kid’s bake sale!” Somewhere in the not-too-far regions of my psyche, making cupcakes from a cake mix equates somewhere along the lines of serving SPAM as part of a balanced meal.
Like I often do, I posted a picture of the cake box on my Facebook Fan Page with the following caption:
The post hit a nerve. Apparently I’ve been wrong all along. Cake mix is apparently part of the secret arsenal of moms and dads in the know. Contrary to popular belief, parents are not lovingly baking cakes from scratch, à la Martha Stewart. No, they are taking the easy (and possibly smarter) way out by cracking open a box and calling it a day. Guilt was nowhere in the equation as people gleefully responded about how this is the only way that they make cake for their kids, bake sale or not.
What a revelation. What a relief.
After being sold a bill of goods how “scratch cakes” were the obvious choice for “good” parents, it was heartening to learn that most of us have been faking it all along. We’re baking via the help of Betty Crocker, and doing so happily.
By guiltily admitting my “failure” as a parent on my Facebook page, I was relieved to learn that I’m not alone in my parenting strategies. After all, for those of us who have been parents for some time, we all know that “faking it” is a big part of the gig.
I’ve written before about the myth of the perfect parent, as well as about the guilt we often feel, trying to be all things to all people, especially our kids. Our collective fear of not doing right by our children, by taking the “easy way out” and the fact that we are often not meeting our own expectations of what it means to be a good mom or dad adds to our feelings of parental inadequacy. Yet, it appears that our self-criticism is not based in reality. We’re our own worse enemies, apparently. The reality is that other parents are doing what they need to do to get things done. Sometimes that means dinner at McDonalds. Other times, it’s cake from a box.
And so what?
Usually, it’s not others who are passing judgement on ourselves, it’s us. We are more critical of ourselves than any “perfect” parent could ever be. And if I may go out on a limb here, women - moms in particular - are even more hyper-critical of their abilities to do things right by their kids, their families and their jobs.
We’re furtively making boxed cake late into the evening and then, many of us are passing it off as “homemade” because we can’t bear to admit that we took the easy way out. Why? Why should we care about others’ expectations of us, especially as it relates to our parenting abilities? The kids are happy, they have their baked goodies and we’ve made life easier for ourselves, not having to stress about the perfect measurements and techniques required to make that baked masterpiece. Betty Crocker has done it for us and put it into a box, no less. Let’s be thankful for that.
And so, the takeaway lesson from this whole experience is a simple one: the next time you have to deliver for your child’s bake sale, school event or birthday party, throw caution to the wind and unashamedly crack open a box of cake mix. Leave the guilt behind and save yourself from the stress.
Let them eat cake!