I’m not sure what’s going on. Maybe it’s because it’s the back-to-school rush for some. Or maybe it’s the mid-summer blues for others. Or maybe it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
But whatever it is, I’ve been hearing way more moms than usual comparing their parenting skills and lives to others – and feeling like they are failing. Big time. Why does everyone seem to have it together and I don’t? they wonder in desperation.
I’m hearing it whispered among friends, admitted in private Facebook groups, and declared in moments of defeat on Twitter.
“I went to the park and all the moms were happily playing with their kids and talking about how wonderful their lives are. I just wanted to cry.”
“Why do I spend the entire weekend catching up on tasks instead of having fun with my family like everyone else?”
“My house is a disaster, my kids are fighting all the time, and I feel like all I do is yell. I bet other moms don’t do this.”
I get it. It’s been a pretty tough summer here, too.
The house is gross.
The kids are overtired.
Many days, Hubs and I barely get to talk because we’re running around, trying to get the dishes done and fold the laundry and make the phone calls and pay the bills and get to Target and and and and.
In the meantime, it often seems like all my friends lead lovely, idyllic lives and are going on fun family outings all weekend long. Because that’s what I hear about at the park and see on their social media. They don’t seem to spend their weekends running errands and doing laundry like I usually do. Why is that?
Every time I glance at Facebook or Instagram, there are the pictures. There’s one friend going to Block Island on a beach excursion. Another is all cutesy crafty and spending the day doing fun stuff with her girls. Another seems to do something incredibly fun and awesome as a family every single weekend.
And as I skim through these pictures, I sometimes wonder if a trip to Wegmans counts as a fun family outing. I could Instagram the crap out of that, you know. Look, it’s Grace staring mournfully at the lobster tank! Annie’s eating a piece of free American cheese from the deli! Now they’re gorging themselves on jelly beans in the candy aisle because I GIVE UP!
(OMG, I am so doing this. #RealLifeInstagram is MINE. Don’t steal it. I’ll know if you do and I’ll call that shit OUT.)
Back to the picture-perfect families. For a while I feel all inferior from scrolling through Facebook because I’m unshowered, sitting on a pile of laundry because it’s the only open space on which to sit, and drinking my (again) reheated coffee at 10am on Saturday – while apparently some others are already on their second super-fun activity of the day. But then common sense smacks me on the side of the head. And I pull myself together and move on.
I remember to tell myself this: Whether it’s flipping through Instagram, chatting idly with acquaintances at the library, or seeing “perfect” moms all over Wegmans while I sport yesterday’s t-shirt and shorts, I have to remember that I am just getting a snapshot of those moms’ lives.
That’s it. A snapshot.
Let’s turn the table. If you saw me at the beach last week on Sunday at around 4:32pm, you would have thought I had The Perfect Instagram Life.
Hubs and I were with our friends, sitting in beach chairs with our feet in the ocean and drinks in our hands. The kids were frolicking in the bay. We were laughing and living it up. I took a gorgeous picture of my girls in the sunset-tinted waters.
A perfect snapshot.
Two hours before, I was crying in my room because I was low and sad and down and I felt like the worst mother ever.
That’s life. There’s good stuff. And there’s bad stuff. And because bad stuff isn’t fun, we don’t Facebook or Instagram that crap for the world to see. Why would we? What’s wrong with wanting to share the best stuff with our friends and our “friends”?
Here’s what I think: We just have to keep all the perfection in perspective. I’d argue that one mom’s pretty Facebook feed does not mean she’s trying to make me think her life is perfect. She’s not Facebooking AT me. Or maybe she is – but who cares? Why is that my problem?
It’s only my problem if I let myself feel insecure from it.
I know lots of people say this is a social media phenomenon, but I’d argue that’s not true at all. Remember the Olden Times, when we had photo albums and boxes of pictures we’d show our friends? If you looked at pictures from my sophomore year of college, you’d see a happy 19-year-old and her boyfriend, roommates, and friends having a grand old time. You would not see a frightened college kid, wondering why she was suddenly struggling with OCD-like symptoms and feeling hopeless and depressed. You would not see a irritable young woman, driving her friends and boyfriend away. You would not see the sadness and the loss and the pain.
You’d just see the snapshots I wanted you to see. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not me being fake or unreal. Those good snapshots are just as real as the bad stuff, and they’re part of my story, too. But if you’re going through a hard time and my tough experiences from sophomore year can help you? You’d better believe I’ll share them.
So, mamas. Let’s make a pact that the next time we’re comparing ourselves to others, thinking they have it together and we don’t – We Will Stop and remember that we are seeing a pleasant moment in time from someone’s life.
We need to keep the perfection in perspective, give ourselves credit for our own good moments, and forgive ourselves for our bad ones.
Because as we all gratefully know, one moment does not a mama make.
PS: You know that perfect-looking mom pushing her perfect-looking kid in her perfect-looking outfit on the swing in the park over there? I bet that kid had a tantrum in the car and yakked all over her park clothes, and her mom only had her dressy outfit from last night leftover in the car from when she changed the kid into her jammies so she could fall asleep in the carseat on the way home, sucking on her thumb even though she’s two years old and shouldn’t be thumb-sucking as much as she does. And the mom had such a horrible night, the only way she could get through today was to put on some makeup and some clean clothes and fake it. Take a chance and go say hi. That’s how I met my first real friend in my town. You just never know.
PPS: I was the “perfect” mom in that scenario. And I’m so glad my friend Sarah didn’t judge me for it.
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