Today is the first Shrove Tuesday in many years when I haven’t made pancakes.
I have lots of memories of other Tuesdays; Tuesdays in which I have berated myself for not remembering that pancakes take forever and a day to cook, and that running between stove and a table peopled with hungry, grumbling children is actually not as idyllic as the wholesome image I have in my head of presenting a stack of pancakes to universal delight.
(Pre-heat the oven, people. Pre-cook the pancakes, then bring the children in for a final, flipping flourish once you’ve got the hang of it and you know that there are plenty to share.)
Still, even against previous dismal attempts, this year I didn’t come close to owning Pancake Day. I had no eggs. No lemon. My husband had bought a pack of ready made ones, but we didn’t even need those.
The children were always going to have pancakes at school (they did), at wraparound (yup), and – in the case of No2 and No3 – at Brownies and Cubs too (barf), so I wasn’t too bothered about the fact I’d be working, and therefore swearing at a laptop, rather than at a pan.
Instead, I picked all three children up from wraparound, drove them home, ruined their lives (apparently) by feeding them a healthy, home cooked meal from the slow cooker, and then, having dashed No2 to Brownies, left the boys to their favourite pastime – the Xbox they got for Christmas.
I don’t think I worry unduly about being a bad mother, but it made me laugh and fret at the same time that my children, who’d been away from me and their home for all but about 45 minutes since waking up, were happiest blasting clones and being Princess Leia.
So, being a 21st century mother with a penchant for sarcasm and a hungry Facebook account, I shared the moment.
I love finishing work a bit early so I can spend quality time with my children
And they got it.
“Your house looks like my house”
“I recognise this scene”
“At least they’re in the same room as you!”
When my eldest was a newborn, I kept in touch with the women I’d met at antenatal class via text. We gave our babies morning scores out of 10 to record how they’d slept the night before. It’s gone on ever since, with the same friends and new ones, via Twitter and Facebook and wry eyebrows at the school gate.
It’s fashionable to say that social media has made mothers judge each other more; that it’s created a broader palette against which we can find ourselves lacking and a forum in which we can reassure ourselves by trampling those whose fingers stray nearest our heels on some impossible ladder to an unattainable perfection.
It’s probably true, to some extent, but no more so than the impeccably turned out family in every community since time began whose presentability was frantically smoothed over to hide the cracks beneath; the one you’d look at with envy in the market or at church and whisper about afterwards with your sister.
Tonight, though; feeling frankly inadequate at what on many levels could be read as a double mother-fail, the comments of my friends, all so different, all the same, made me smile.
When life doesn’t remind you to buy a lemon, friends come to your aid.