Worry about being a perfect mother is not a new thing, but the wild world of social media has added some new fodder for the wringing of hands. Back in the day, a mother might have been concerned about her ability to create a gorgeous, spotless home. But if she didn’t, who would know? Only the people she invited over. Similarly, she had a pretty limited view into the lives and homes of other mothers. Maybe she’d be jealous of the neighbor’s garden or flawlessly executed dinner party.
But now mothers have endless windows to peek into, and endless examples to compare themselves to. There are Pinterest boards titled “crafts for this weekend” and cooking blogs showing organic homemade seven layered macerated berry popsicles and home-making blogs showing how to create gorgeous centerpieces. Add this, of course, to good old Martha Stewart and the rest of the world of aspirational editorial. All this can be a wealth of inspiration, or a minefield of self-deprecation. For April Perry, it was definitely the latter. Until she thought about it a little.
“There’s this crazy phenomenon going on right now. Good, devoted mothers get on Pinterest . . . and blogs . . . and Facebook . . . and Twitter . . . and then they flip through parenting magazines and TV channels (full of advertisements and media hype) . . . and they’re convinced they’re not enough.
They’re convinced that everyone else has magnetic, alphabetized spice containers, and unless their garden parties are thematically accessorized with butterfly lanterns, and they’re wearing the latest fashions (in a size two, of course), there’s no point in even showing up for the day.
Last Saturday, this happened to me.
I came home from a lovely day out with my extended family and had serious intentions to spend the evening dyeing Easter eggs and making bunny buns.
By the time I got everyone settled and fed, however, I was so tired that I just laid on the couch and dozed while my children played and got themselves to bed.
Around 8:30, when I finally had the energy to sit up, I decided to try out Pinterest for a few minutes until my husband got home. There it was—1,000 reasons why I’m failing at all things domestic.
I don’t make grilled cheese sandwiches look like ice cream. I don’t even have seasonal throw pillows on my couches or live plants anywhere in the house.
Is it really so hard? Can’t I pull myself together and wrap some candles in green foliage and bring happiness to our decor with bright fabrics and hand-crafted photo frames?”
After a minor attack while trying to perfect perfect dutch braids, April came to a realization. Her children were not interested in perfection. They were interested in her, the person, their mother.
There’s something deeper going on in family life than can ever be expressed on a social network. Whatever it is we feel we are lacking, can we collectively decide—as deliberate mothers—that we are not going to sit around feeling discouraged about all the things we’re not?
Can we remind each other that it is our uniqueness and love that our children long for? It is our voices. Our smiles. Our jiggly tummies. Of course we want to learn, improve, exercise, cook better, make our homes lovelier, and provide beautiful experiences for our children, but at the end of the day, our children don’t want a discouraged, stressed-out mom who is wishing she were someone else.
If you ever find yourself looking in the mirror at a woman who feels badly that she hasn’t yet made flower-shaped soap, please offer her this helpful reminder: “Your children want you!”
I would take this a step further. Not only do our children not give a damn whether or not we can make flower shaped soap, they’d probably actively prefer we didn’t. Children want you to do things with them. The more time you spend meticulously shaping leaves out of glycerin (or whatever the hell flower shaped soap is made of) the less time you can spend doing 100 piece Fancy Nancy puzzles or listening with rapt attention to the NBA standings or whatever really makes your kids happy.
This is not to say there isn’t a legit pleasure in creating beautiful things for your home or family. I do it all the time, and I admit it makes me feel like I am somehow winning. And if I put it online and get a lot of ‘likes?’ Even better. The social media world has given home-based moms the opportunity to interact with others and get feedback on their work, just like people who go to the office. This is a great thing, except when it’s not. Because the way other people feel about your work is of limited importance. So is the way you feel about other people’s work. Feeling sorry for yourself because you aren’t able to create a picture perfect life is no different than regretting your inability to look as good as a Sports Illustrated model in a bikini. Unrealistic goals are unrealistic goals. But the fact is, this stuff really doesn’t matter. What matters, as April Perry discovers, is the content of your life, not the way you arrange it—or don’t—for the camera. Read her sweet, inspiring piece here.