T here’s no supper, not in the oven, not in the fridge — not even on the agenda — as I enter my apartment at 5:30 p.m., my eyes two slits, taking in the world through a pounding headache.

Two toddlers, indignant over the injustice of seeing no mama upon their homecoming (Papa is fast asleep on the sofa) greet me with shouts, cries, and what I guiltily detect as growls of hunger.

Before I get my bearings, my husband is gone, having signed off to the early evening job he holds. He went like a grass widower, on an empty stomach, with no food in his bag. I wish I could say it’s the first time.

An assessment of my fridge comes up with a package of string cheese and yogurts; the pantry offers a can of corn. I look further, seeking inspiration as far as carbs go, but the crinkling sound from the hallway — where two little imps are sharing the contents of my purse — inform me that carbs are taken care of.

They are still feasting on the black-and-white cookie as I place a string cheese into each little boy’s hand. “Seven grams of protein,” I read on the package. Not bad. (Much later, I find two almost-whole mozzarella sticks with little bite marks in their room.)

The corn kernels they take to heartily. I know there’s some controversy as to whether corn is a vegetable or starch. So technically, I can count it as both, right?

Bath time passes in a wave of tiredness. Bedtime eludes me. For every ounce of energy that I can’t summon, my boys have four apiece. There’s a trail of junk food, toys, puddles, corn kernels, and whatnot behind them.

On impulse, I decide to escape this crime scene and all its evidence of my parenting foibles.

“We’re going to Babby!” I announce.

In one swift motion, two docile little gents line up at the door, arms eagerly outstretched to don their coats.

I step through the door of my youth. I’m Alice in Wonderland. The house smells of hearty vegetable soup. My stomach grumbles. Everything is in its place. The whirring dryer perfumes the air with freshness, the soft chatter from the kitchen against the backdrop of clinking flatware beckons to me.

The serenity of the cozy kitchen scene is broken by the delighted squeals of two little boys sighting their grandparents. Atop the table they climb, jumping in an impersonation of Thing 1 and Thing 2.

“Mommy, I want!” They’re eyeing Zeidy’s plate hungrily, little fingers stretched out for some of the heavenly food on the table. Interesting, this kind of food, which appears on Good Mother Days, even on Mediocre Mother Days, never tempts them like this in my house.

Stealthily, I look into the pot. It holds just the right amount of food for an average — actually, small — portion. My mother’s plate is still empty. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 538)