When I was little, I wanted to be a mom when I grew up. I was very into carting my dolls around, dressing them, pretending to feed and change them, and putting them down for naps. The reality of motherhood is a little bit more involved than I thought it would be. The tasks I imagined as easy, like putting a toddler down for a nap, have proven to be gargantuan endeavors that test my skill, patience, creativity, and endurance. And that’s WITHOUT logging in to Pinterest to see what all the other mothers are up to.
Being a mom is a lot more than keeping your kid alive. I get that now (although it’s certainly no small task to simply keep your kid alive).
When I was toting my dolls around, I had no idea about the complexity of the feelings I would have for my kids and how I would want to enrich their lives and teach them to be good. Basically, what I’m saying is that parenting is already hard enough without Pinterest making us question our ability to perform basic parenting tasks.
Pinterest is expanding the notion of motherhood way beyond what I ever envisioned as a little girl. And since my oldest child was born B.P. (before Pinterest), I can say for sure that Pinterest has expanded the definition of motherhood just in the last few years. There have always been über-homemakers like Martha Stewart to compare ourselves to. But they were the exception — anomalies.
Now that there is a forum for showing and collecting ideas, crafts, projects, and recipes, our expectations about what it means to be a mom and run a household have risen dramatically. It’s not enough to get dinner on the table, it has to be healthy and, above all, presentable. Our homes can’t just be serviceable and happy places, they have to be modern, have clean lines, and display heirloom-quality toys in attractive ways. And it sort of seems like everyone else is living this way. Everyone else is Martha Stewart.
If it weren’t for Pinterest, I would think my ice cream and cake birthday parties were good enough for my kids. Because of Pinterest, I know they are the bare minimum of what people are doing these days. I’d almost just rather not know what other people are doing, because knowing sparks insecurity in me as a mom.
I watched a tutorial I found on Pinterest for homemade cupcakes that have a rainbow-striped center in them. I mean, it’s a feat of modern science for sure! But I thought I was ahead of the game getting two dozen cupcakes made from a mix and frosted from a can before my daughter’s guests arrived when she had her 8th birthday party a few months ago. Her party seemed fine. It’s only in comparison to other parties that I get a bit nervous that I didn’t do enough, put enough time into it. That I’m just not as good at this parenting thing as everyone else because they seem to be nailing it with energy to spare on making things like homemade cupcakes with rainbow-striped centers.
I don’t mean to be too hard on Pinterest. I’ve gotten some good recipes and organization ideas from the site. Browsing pins is a welcome break in my day of carting kids around, doing laundry, and making meals. But I have to be careful or it does make me feel bad. I’ve tried things from Pinterest that simply didn’t work, but mostly it’s the pins that I never get to — the diets and work-out routines that I’ve pinned with good intentions — that make me feel the worst. It also just makes me tired thinking about attempting some of the projects I’ve pinned when I know other people have done it and they have the pin to prove it.
I’ve developed a lot of confidence having four kids. I’ve gained perspective with each child and I know that there are as many (right) ways to parent as there are children. I’ve gotten better at discarding advice that doesn’t help me. I can look at Pinterest for ideas and inspiration or even just as a way to pass the time with a baby on my lap. The problem is that when I’m at my most vulnerable, usually after a sleepless night or a tantrum-filled day, I lose that perspective.
That’s when Pinterest has the worst effect on me. When I’m a little down on energy and confidence, it makes me feel worse to peruse the over-the-top success of other people. I need to remember that the crafts and the gourmet recipes are “extras” when it comes to parenting. Many people take pleasure in those extra hobbies and are naturally gifted at them. For them, it must be energizing to attempt new projects. When I’m down and my energy is low, I need to focus on the family I dreamed about having when I was little and not let the Pinterest anxiety creep in and spoil it for me.