Day Three Dirty Hair

197 Flares Twitter 21 Facebook 174 Buffer 0 Google+ 2 197 Flares ×

For the first time in too long, I’m linking up with today’s prompt. I know I can count on you to rip me to pieces!

Jon Acuff recently urged a room of writers, photographers, and entrepreneurs: “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

This week we’d like you to write about a time you compared yourself, unfavorably, with someone else.  Focus on how the comparison affected you, negatively or positively.

Word limit is 400 words.


I stare absently at a woman wearing dark jeans, a crisp button-down shirt and ballet flats in the check-out line at the grocery. Her shiny hair hangs down her back and every few minutes she tucks some behind each ear. Her toddler, who’s eating a banana, sits in the front of the cart snuggled inside one of those protective covers that keeps germs at bay. She babbles and smiles at her mom, who stops unloading the organic items from her cart to give her a loud kiss on her pink cheek.

Mommy, can I ride the horsie, please?” asks the older girl standing next to her.

Sure, as long as you’re ready to go when I’m done here,” the mom says.

Yay!” she squeals, skipping off towards the mechanical horse with bits of paint peeling off in places.

I look down at my yoga pants with dried baby barf on them. I scrape off bits of orange crust with a jagged fingernail. Sweet potatoes, I think to myself, recalling her dinner last night. My ratty tennis shoes, laces about to go. Day three dirty hair in a bun. I can smell myself–salty, sweaty, and sour, like sleep. Which is ironic because I’m not getting enough of it.

I look at my twins, each clutching a pack of M & M’s, arguing loudly over what kind of gum to get and yanking things off the sugar shelves conveniently located by the checkout.

Mooooooooommy,” comes Abby’s familiar tattling tone.

I didn’t DO anything!” insists Izzy, followed by another, more insistent “Mooooooooooomy!”

Clenching my fists, I squish my eyes closed, and press a thumb and forefinger to the bridge of my nose. I breathe in slowly. Don’t, I think to myself. Don’t lose your shit in the grocery store.

But the fighting doesn’t stop. It grows louder, grating against me until I snap. Kneeling down, I grab their two hands tightly and hiss, “Stop it NOW or no candy.”

I stand up just in time to see the mom leaving the store. Her older daugher rides on her hip as she pushes the cart. The toddler is still working on the same banana.

Maniacal laughter bubbles up inside me. I snort quietly. I’ll never be that mom. There will always be bribes and candy and fighting and tattling. Crisply ironed blouses and clean hair are reserved for date nights, not trips to the grocery store.

As we head to the parking lot, I blink back tears behind my sunglasses.

197 Flares Twitter 21 Facebook 174 Buffer 0 Google+ 2 197 Flares ×
This entry was posted in Favorite Posts, My Non-Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Jana A (@jana0926)

    Since I’m writing my first Write on Edge post tonight, I don’t know what to compare it to or where the bar is set, but I can say I totally identify with this. TOTALLY. 

    • Erin margolin


      I really hoped you wrote and linked up. Too tired to go to site to see. Will do it tomorrow unless you tell me otherwise. xoxox

  • Allison Nazarian

    Your ability to capture fine details within a larger story is amazing. I could see you, I could see the other woman. I could remember what it was all like. 

    • Erin margolin


      I’m always humbled when you comment on my blog. And I suppose I should also be really excited since my comment system gives you fits. RIght?


  • Frelle

    I know. I’ve never been that mom either, but I see her and others like her all the time.  And it’s so hard not to let it get to me.  I dont have words of wisdom about how to be her, or how to be more at peace with you..just that this was well written, relatable, and painfully familiar. *HUG*

    • Erin margolin


      It is SUPER hard not to let it get to me. In fact, I fail at it most of the time. I just don’t know how they have the time to get themselves together and how she wasn’t worried about getting squashed banana all over her crisp clean shirt!

  • IASoupMama

    I refuse to even buy clothing that requires ironing. I was just talking to a friend today and said, “I’m not going to take the time ti run a flat iron through my hair.  I don’t have the time and wouldn’t use it for my hair, anyway.”  My kids are eating Doritos as I type this.  Yep, they’re likely to spoil their dinner, but if they’re not as hungry, that means more salmon for me!

    • Erin margolin


      Ironic b/c I refuse to iron, and we have a giant bag of Doritos on our pantry right now. LOL! xoxoxoxo

  • Julia

    I am totally the mom like you, with dirty hair and yucky clothes. The perfect mom is never something I will achieve. But I think that if we can just find moments of perfection, instead of all-the-time perfection, then that’s still something to be proud of. 

    • Erin margolin


      Moments of perfection. What a novel idea. I like that. And sounds infinitely easier than trying to find hours or even a whole day of perfection!! xoxo

  • Donna

    Love it!

    • Erin margolin



  • Kristian

    Oh my goodness. You’ve written something beautiful in its brutal honesty. I compare myself to those moms all the time and I wonder if I had more money? More time? More help? I don’t know what it is that sets me apart from them. BUT. I also know my kids are happy and healthy and that’s really all that matters.

    • Erin margolin


      YES YES YES! Your last line, babe. That’s all that matters. And I’m so relieved I’m not the only one playing the comparison game. I’m so sorry for the late reply–as usual, I don’t have my $hi% together!

  • Victoria KP

    Oh, I can so identify with this. I do so little primping these days that my kids asked me, “What IS that?” the last time I took out the hairdryer.

    • Erin margolin

      Victoria KP,

      LOL! My girls know what a hairdryer is only because they use one to dry their hair….they definitely use theirs more often than I use mine!

  • From Tracie

    You pulled me right in and caught the thoughts I’ve had more than once standing in the grocery store line.  “Don’t lose your shit in the grocery store.” 
    Sometimes it works to tell myself that, and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know how those other moms do it. I really don’t. 

    • Erin margolin


      I don’t either. Sigh.

      I love you. And thanks for reading and commenting!


  • Anonymous

    Been there. Thought much the same thing many times!

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks so much for reading! ;-)

  • Ace1028

    Well written, mama. Thanks for commenting on mine today, too. I think we all have those moments. I just read a non-fiction book with so many similar to what you’ve shared here and laughed and wanted to cry in relation. I so get it. I’ll never be that put-together mom, either, but you know what? That’s tOTALLY OK!!! xox

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks so much for reading and relating. Can I ask what book it was that you were referring to?


  • Elaine A.

    Oh gah, I’ll NEVER be that mom either.  I mean do they really exist?  Surely she was just having a “good” day. Or they were all on Xanax.  One or the other… ;) 

    But I could totally see the scene with the way you described it.  Love the title too… xoxo

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you, sweets! Please pass the Xanax?!?!

  • MommyMeg

    Sh!t, Erin – you know me & I know you. At least you get dressed up for date night! Crisply ironed shirts???? Not in my Costco, Target & sale rack Old Navy closet. My oldest is 8 1/2, my youngest is 5 1/2 – with a 6 year old in the middle… I would die to look, act and be like you EVERY second of the day – even when you think they are your worst. PS – so would my kids. Your “hiss” is NOTHING to my “roar!” I love you & your 3 day old, unwashed hair & your sweet potato pants – hell, we match – except, I don’t have a baby, and I will never be 1/2 the amazing woman, writer, wife, cook & mother you are…. EVER! Crap – I don’t even know when I went to the grocery store last :). Give yourself a break. I love you – forever & always! Your friend, cheerleader & soon to be roommate! Xoxo.

    • Erin margolin


      I love you and hate that you are out of town. Come back soon.
      p.s. I roar, too. I just chose a different word for this post. ;-)

  • Angela Amman

    You know what?  You ARE that mom.  One day, one time, you were that mom.  A day when everything fell into place, the planets aligned, and you even had time in the shower to condition.  Remember that you saw that lady on one shopping trip.  I’m sure she has issues, too, even if you can’t see them on the outside.

    I DO know this feeling, though, so I understand the unbidden parking lot tears.

    And I’m so, so glad to see you here :)

    • Erin margolin


      Then I wish I could see her on the inside because I kind of can’t believe it. I have a hard time “seeing” that those perfect people aren’t always so pefect.

      I’m glad to be “here.” And I hope I can stay and do it more often…

  • Cameron (CDG)

    I wish I could tell us all to stop. Not to see thinner, better dressed, more recently washed, smoother skinned, etc. for beauty. I wish I could tell us all to see talent and love and generosity and humor for beauty, and to let the rest fall by the side of road as we journey.

    • Erin margolin


      I wish the same. Yet then I stop and read one of the particular comments from above and I’m starting to think I’m wrong and should make more of an effort.  Le sigh.If people could see beyond my sweatpants and dirty t-shirt, they would see a kind, open-hearted, loving and generous person who values so much more than things that are on the outside.

  • Gramps

    Loved this.
    It was real!!!

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks so much!

  • Susi

    Wearing yoga pants with a clorox stain or two on it as I’m typing this. Haven’t yet had time to shower or wash my hair… we are having the A/C replaced today so the house is crawling with work men… I’ll look like this until tonight. Thank goodness for baseball hats and big sunglasses!!!

    • Erin margolin


      And thank goodness for fellow bloggy friends like YOU who can totally relate! ;-)

  • stephanie

    She isn’t that mom either.  Maybe that day just happened to be one of those days where everything aligned just right.  One of those that are few and far between.  There are days I’m in yoga pants sweating like a pig at the checkout from wranging Nate and there are other days I found a few minutes to dress myself and swipe some makeup on and he behaves perfectly.  

    • Erin margolin


      You’re right. Of course you are. I just saw her on the wrong day.

      And wait—I’m not the only one sweating like a pig at the checkout from unloading stuff + wrangling/chasing down twins + trying to find my wallet and reusable grocery bags? A trip to the grocery store is often such a dreaded task. But without  kids? It’s utter bliss. SO funny, huh?

  • Ally

    Well written. I could see it, probably because I’ve stood there and done that comparison myself. I wish I wouldn’t but sometimes I can’t help it.

    I’ll choose to believe that mom you stood behind had had the worst week ever. She’d been in her pajamas for five days running, her hair dull with oil. The kids hadn’t been bathed and had been eating cereal for dinner every day. Her house was a mess, the laundry hadn’t been done for a week. She’d hit bottom the night before and decided to pull herself up by her bootstraps, threw all three of them a shower and tried to fool the world into believing she has her shit together. That blouse came off before she ever unloaded the groceries when she got home, because she knew it would be forever stained, if not. Or…. she wasn’t a mom at all, but the hired help. Kids always act better for the baby sitter.

    • Erin margolin


      I hope you are right, but part of me…still compares and always will. And will always believe there are moms/people out there who really do live perfect lives and always look/act/behave appropriately and manage to juggle it all with grace and nery a mistake or stern voice.

      I do pull myself up by the bootstraps every so often. But it rarely lasts…because then the baby spits up on my clean shirt and/or in my hair and the twins are fighting and I burn dinner and the dog shits all over himself and I have to bathe him…and things fall apart AGAIN.

      Thank god for friends like you. Who show me I’m not alone. And that my way of thinking is warped and clouded.

  • Angie

    Oh, Erin, I’ve been there. So. Many. Times.
    And I have lost my shit in the grocery store.  I’m impressed you didn’t.  The way I figure it, that was the nanny.

    Or the aunt.

    Or a member of an alien race sent to make us all feel inferior. 

    At any rate, you captured every detail beautifully (the sweet potatoes, the smell of sleep, the hair…just wonderful).

    • Erin margolin


      Hopefully it WAS the nanny, but she looked so much like the baby in particular I assumed she was the mommy even before the older daughter called her that. Also? I have lost my shit in the store many times. I just didn’t choose to write about one of those times for this prompt. Especially given my husband’s sensitivity of late to what I post here.

      HUGS, and your piece is still on my mind.

  • Laura S.

    This is me, every day. We should go grocery shopping together sometime, so we can feel equally uncool and like “the meanest mom ever”. NO mom of young children has her shit together. I promise. It’s a facade. 

    • Erin margolin


      Where do you shop? I like Brookside Market and Hy Vee, mostly…let me know and we can meet up soon, even if it’s at the grocery store!

      YES I AM SERIOUS! ;-)

  • Jbswrker

    you were so focused on that picture of perfection airbrushed in the line, ahead of you, that you failed to notice the other 99.9% of young moms in the grocery store mirroring your image…..we women do this, don’t we?  we must compare ourselves to the one, shining, probably-not-real-at-all example we scope out wherever we are…..
    i am glad, and so very proud, that you shine a brilliant light on this self-defeating behavior of ours, but i am also so sad that you can’t seem to find peace with yourself…we are all headed to old age, if we are lucky enough to remain healthy, and the aging process is nature’s great neutralizer!  practice loving who you are each day (instead of the hypercritical example i set for you), and the odds are it will become a reality, sooner rather than later!  i love you…we all do!

    • Erin margolin


      I love you too! And maybe you can find peace with yourself, too? ;-)


  • Jenni Chiu

    Holy Shit, it’s like you and I are the same person.  I know that feeling all too well.
    I hope to someday give you a rancid, baby barf smelling hug.
    You never know, though… that mom’s barf pants may be waiting for her on her bed, and she may not have been that cleaned up in months…

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks, lady. I think it would be AWESOME if someday we would give each other baby barf hugs. Maybe our dead vaginas could have coffee together, too?


  • Nancy C

    I bet she wakes up at four AM and is possibly popping Ritilin. Just sayin’

    This story if full of lush, descriptive detail. I love the image of you holding your nose with your fingers, and this line is my favorite in the piece: I can smell myself–salty, sweaty, and sour, like sleep.

    So often those early days are sleepwalking, on some ways.

    And yet? You write. You’re hear. And I would take your words over shiny hair any day.

    (In fact, I am. I should be showering right now.)

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you.
      You are lovely. ANd yes, sleepwalking is an appropriate word for what I’m doing. But I need to try and write, like this, MORE. Sigh.
      I’m so glad you came by to read and to validate me and I hope you know if you gave me con crit, I could handle it.


  • Jackie

    Here’s the thing…. she probably has help. I know that I never look that good when I go to the grocery store. Hell, I don’t look that good ever.
    If I want to feel good about myself I just shop at Walmart. I always look awesome compared to some of the people there.

    • Erin margolin


      You crack me up—about the Walmart comment. That’s a fantastic suggestion! And hey–I have help sometimes, too. I have a sitter who comes to give me a break a few hours a week. And I still don’t look like that. Not even really on date night (which doesn’t happen often in these here parts lately). xoxoxoxo

  • Kim

    What if that woman spent the majority of the morning making herself look that way so she would feel comfortable enough to leave her house. <– that to me is a weakness. People who go the store in ratty PJ's are the ones who have the most self confidence. Seems to me like she probably has an easy life at home.. maybe a rich husband, this way she can spend all day making her hair shiny while the rest of us are working our asses off to get through life. 

    • Erin margolin


      I know exactly what you mean. Though I do think there are people out there who make time to look nice and that is important to them. I just don’t have my shit together. I do enough to get us through the day and keep myself from falling apart. I don’t think wearing mascara makes me a better mom, nor does ditching my yoga pants. ;-)

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, sorry for the late reply—I’m a complete train wreck, as usual!

  • Annette

    Hey..there are good days and there are baaaad days Lol. I have 4 of my own….a soon to be 13yr old, 11, 9 and 6…..three boys and 1 daughter. Things will get easier…trust me. Stop worrying about them other Moms…nobody is perfect. Kids are a BLESSING from God ;0) and YOU’RE BLESSED TO HAVE THEM<3

    • Erin margolin


      you are right—good days and bad, but at the end of every one I know we are blessed. Thanks for the reminder! ;-)
      Have a wonderful day and thank you for stopping by!

  • rachel

    Yep, that’s me right there. No twins but a 2 year old and a 4 month old. Life is difficult, i never take my kids to the grocery store.

    • Erin margolin


      I try not to take mine to the grocery store, but sometimes it’s easier that way. I have a 4 month old, too. Life is rough lately. Are you getting any sleep?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Ladyfiyre

    I have a five year old son and 2 year old twins. I can’t even remember what it was like before that. So I seriously doubt I will ever be a cool mom.

    • Erin margolin


      We are in similar boats then. I have no memories of pretty much the first year my twins were alive. LOL. I will never be cool, either! I am so happy you stopped by to read and comment!

  • DeeJay

    I had to laugh reading this. As I sit here looking at my house thinking if anyone were to come over right now they would think hurricane Katrina had hit again. I am a single mom of three, a 15 year old who thinks he knows everything and 11 year old twin girls who were born with PMS. It is a never ending battle to keep up with everything. I am starting a new business and spend countless hours on my computer only to find out it is already time to go pick up my kids from school and the dishes from breakfast and last nights dinner are still in the sink. I’m still in my pajama’s and not showered…hurry where is my baseball cap, find the only half way clean pair of pants that still fit, throw on a tee shirt and run out the door. What’s for dinner they all ask…ugh…haven’t thought that far ahead?! Well the people at the grocery store are used to me looking like this I say…and go inside!

    • Erin margolin


      WHere to start? I am from New Orleans and my whole family went through Katrina and lost everything. I have only lived away from NOLA for 7 years now. I miss it, but try to visit often.

      I also have twin girls, but mine are only 6. They act like that are going on 12. I dread the tween/teen years.

      I love what you’ve shared here in the comments and am so grateful for all the other moms weighing in about what life is really like…and how the unwashed (like myself) is more the norm.

      And dinner? PSHAW, I say! Where’s the phone number for Domino’s??? :-)

      Thank you so very much for stopping by to read, comment, and validate me!

  • N2teef

    You and I may never be that mom but at least we are someones entertainment! Hugs…and forgive are exactly the mom YOUR kids need.

    • Erin margolin


      Let’s just hope I never show up on the People of Walmart site. LOL! (j/k I am not that far gone) Thanks so much for stopping by to read!

  • Juliecgardner

    To add something slightly different to the comments here, allow me to suggest that this mother may not be doing her children any favors by constantly achieving perfection.
    (Stay with me, now.)

    Isn’t it good for a little girl to see that her mother is more concerned about reading to her and playing with her than putting on lipstick and zipping up high-heeled boots for the grocery store?

    Isn’t it better for a little boy to see that his mother has important work to do (whether inside or outside the home) than sporting a smooth brow and a push-up bra?

    I skip washing my hair all the time. But I hope my kids think I am smart and kind and generous. And oh yes, I screw up constantly; but then I apologize. Which means my kids know they too can be forgiven when they fall short.

    Grown-ups get tired. Grown-ups spill. Grown-ups make mistakes. Children need to know this lest they measure THEMSELVES against an unachievable barometer of perfection.

    In other words, wear those sweet potatoes with pride. They’re delicious. And healthy. 
    Oh yeah.

    p.s. On a WAY less serious note, this was beautifully written, Erin. YOU have the stuff, lady. Your beginning, your middle AND your end. When you write it, you mean it; that’s for sure…

    • Erin margolin


      I have to meet you. Your comments always make me feel so real and so validated. And I hate that I need that validation. I have a jagged edge in my throat. It’s not only about this, but about so much that I’ve written lately. Thank you, dear one, for always  reading and commenting so thoughtfully and honestly. You are one of the best.


  • Irma Chilton

    Most moms definitely don’t look that great when shopping. And it can be very frustrating to meet a mom that looks like she has it all together…perfectly manicured, cute hairstyle, make-up, all dressed up with matching designer purse…but thankfully this is the exception to the rule.

    However, I would like to share some things that might make it a little easier to look like you have it all together ;)
    - Develop a daily shower routine that includes your kids. You can take your little one(s) in the shower with you (did this with my son until he was 3 1/2), thus saving time by not having to bathe said little one(s) separately. Or you can put your child in a highchair in the bathroom with you. Keep your showers short…shampoo, conditioner and soap shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes. Older kids can be left by themselves while you shower.
    - Get an easy haircut that does not need styling. I brush my hair once after drying it and let it air dry while getting ready to leave.
    - Practice a 3-minute make-up routine. Something like powder, mascara, lip-gloss and you’re done.
    - Tell yourself that sweat pants, yoga pants, PJ pants etc. are not for wearing in public. Neither are jeans with holes all over them. Put together a nice but simple wardrobe consisting of 4-5 pairs of nice jeans (imho dark blue always looks dressier than light blue) and about 10 nice tops/sweaters that do not need ironing. Shop at stores like Ross, where things are cheap and it won’t be a big deal if your child spills ketchup on your clothes. Ballet flats (or flip-flops) are actually a great idea, they’re comfy, cheap and take about 2 seconds to put on.
    - And finally: make sure to dress your kids in a nice outfit too! One of my pet peeves is kids wearing nothing but a diaper in the store. Get those cute matching shorts/shirts from Wal-Mart or Kohl’s so you don’t have to give it much thought.

    I would like to add that I am not from the US, but from Holland. Over there, most moms look like they have it together. I have noticed that here in Texas, it seems to be ‘all or nothing’ when women (not just moms) get dressed. So either sweats/no make-up/dirty hair or all dressed up with lots of make-up. In Holland, women usually always look somewhere in between. Nice, but not over-the-top. I believe it’s all in the mind…once you put your mind to it, you, too, can do what it takes to look nice when grocery shopping!

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you so very much for reading and commenting. You have some wonderful ideas. It’s just hard because I think I mismanage my time. When the baby is napping, I am doing laundry, washing dishes, cleaning my house (when I could be in the shower). I do often shower with my older kids (I have twin girls who are 6 plus a baby girl who is 4 months). I am tired a lot because I never seem to be able to stop, and so showering is not a priority. I am not afraid of showering while the baby is in her bouncy seat and it often does come down to that.

      The clothes are a different matter. Sometimes when I do take the time and make the effort to put on something nice, no sooner is it on than I’m loading baby into the car and she spits up all over me. Or my twins have dirty hands from whatever and come up and grab onto my shirt or pants. So rather than wear something nice, my standby black yoga pants come in handy. I have enough laundry for a family of five, so I don’t like to have to change my own clothes multiple times a day.

      I agree I could put in more effort with a little bit of makeup. My hair is long and straight, but I can always pull it into a little bun or ponytail. I have some cute hair accessories that I put in sometimes, too.

      I am sure everyone thinks we American women are lazy and stupid and frumpy. I am what I am. But I am so much more on the inside than I may appear on the outside.

  • Jjvradcliffe

    I have definitely had my yucky mom moments, where nothing is working for me! But, I have to disagree with the comments on here that suggest if a mother looks well put together that she is somehow neglecting her children. I make it an important part of most days to get dressed and look decent. I think it truly has an impact on how the day goes. I take my showers at night when the kids are asleep, and take 20-30 minutes to get dressed and do my hair and make-up in the morning. I’m not talking full out date night stuff, just the basics. I have one year old twins and a two year old son. Most days, they come upstairs with me and I make them part of the routine. I think it’s just as important to teach my children pride in taking care of one ‘s self as anything else.

    • Erin margolin


      I don’t think anyone here necessarily meant that any mom who looks nice is neglecting her kids; instead I think they’re pointing out it’s not common (to see a mom who’s all put together looking gorgeous) because it’s so difficult for most of us to make that happen. You sound like you have a wonderful routine in place and I’m thrilled it works for you! Maybe part of my problem is that I just don’t have the energy and my postpartum depression is sucking the life out of me. I would rather sleep or read or catch up with my husband than take a shower. I have never worn a ton of makeup and evenings after the kids are asleep (twins go to bed around 8 p.m. and I’m falling asleep by 9:30 most nights—so that precious hour and a half each night is the ONLY time I have to be with my husband alone each night. I’m not going to lose that by taking a shower. Sometimes I do, but not very often. I do think it’s important to teach kids pride in taking care of themselves and I do that. I don’t wear pajamas in public, I wear a bra, I brush my teeth and do the basic things. But they also realize I have a baby and she takes precedence…the little things matter most right now—the snuggles and giggles and reading stories and coloring. I doubt they will remember that I wore yoga pants a lot. Or at least I hope not! I also think that by this time next year life will be drastically different and I will have more time to take better care of myself. Thank you so much for weighing in and reading!

  • Straughalberdi

    Omgwas I the only one that cried.some days at the grocery store are good and others not so much, its funny cause every time the kidsand i are not doing well some ilder lady comes up to me saying how they understand and remember those days.and they tell me about their families. It always makes me feel so supported

    • Erin margolin


      Yes, I should’ve mentioned that the saving grace on some of the worst days is the complete stranger who comes up to me with a knowing smile and a pat on the back, or tells me she remembers those days and that I’m doing great….love the kindness of strangers!