By Brooke Allen

I remember the excitement of the first day of school as a child. I could barely sleep! The adrenaline was flowing; my mind was racing. I was pumped to pack up my Trapper Keeper and head out on the first day of school adventure.
As a mom, the excitement somehow turns me into a frazzled mess! Between Pinterest projects showing me how easy it is to hand sew my son's name on his Pottery Barn backpack and organized Facebook moms showing me how to get said backpack ready for the first day in only 531.2 easy steps, it's no wonder I sometimes feel inadequate and, frankly, overwhelmed.
This year I'm adhering to a new standard, a new rule of thumb that can be summed up in four words: "no comparisons, no expectations!"
As we all prepare for back-to-school, let's look past what we feel is expected in the great world of social media and moms "one-upping" each other.
The first few weeks of school I come out of the gate like a well-oiled machine. Lunches are packed with fresh fruits and veggies, all organized in a cool lunchbox adorned with the latest Lego mini figures. Backpacks are organized and prepped every night. That enormous stack of papers that I pull from my boys' folders each night is thoroughly examined and placed into piles or filed away. All scheduled events are put into calendars, and all permission slips are signed and returned in a quick manner. But somehow, the newness wears off, and in no time, I'm throwing brown bananas and pre-packaged ham sandwiches into a brown paper sack for lunch. I go through backpacks in a rushed manner 10 minutes before school, and that pile of papers ends up strewn all over the floor board of the backseat of my car. But over the years I've finally realized that neither of these school routines define me as a mom.
I will never forget my oldest son's first day of Kindergarten. I was so nervous! What if they don't like him? What if they don't like me? What if they don't see how smart he is or accept his quirkiness? Will he make friends? What do I send for lunch? Can he have a snack? What about bathroom breaks? And the funny part of it all, is that he was never concerned about any of that. He was just excited, just like I used to be. The Trapper Keepers are now plastic folders of red, yellow and green that the teachers request, and the Lisa Frank six-color pen I loved circa 1985 is now a large box of yellow No. 2 pencils - but that adrenaline that we used to feel as young girls is the same rush that our children feel. Instead of getting lost in our own mom insecurities, let's get lost in the little things that make back to school special for the wee ones in our lives!
Pick back-to-school projects according to what you want for our family, not what others say you should do. If laminating your child's school supplies and hand-painting them an organized first-aid kit for their backpacks is your thing, then please keep on keeping on (and stop by the Allen house if you get finished with yours and are itching to make more). But if it's just not up your alley to make DIY projects with or for your children, then don't sweat it! "No comparisons, no expectations!"
Pick after-school activities by priority. If your priority is to have your daughter in every dance and gymnastics class that is offered, sign that baby up and hold your head high! If you're like me and you make your children pick one or two activities tops, then stick to your guns and don't give in when more activities are presented. You have to make the choice for what's right for your family and stand by your decision. "No comparisons, no expectations!"
If you look around and everyone seems to be "on top of things" and you feel like you're the only one who's hanging on by a thread, I promise you, you're not alone.
There's something that you're doing that's equally as great as those moms who seemingly have it all together! Maybe you wake up your children with a song and a smile, or maybe you let go of control and let your daughter pick that tie-dyed unicorn T-shirt for her first day ... be proud in whatever it is that makes you the great mom that you are. Because those things - that aren't Pinterest or Facebook induced - those are just as wonderful!
You have gifts as a mom that you don't even know about. Gifts that aren't taught, or pinned or blogged about, gifts that God gave you, that come from deep in your belly; gifts that you give to your children without thinking twice. And those are the things that your kiddos will remember. They love you. You are mom. Release the expectations, stop comparing yourself to other moms. You are you, and you're doing a great job!
Now go pack up those backpacks with the 3,921 items that were on the school list & take a deep breath. You rock, sister!