First things first, I must assure you that my son will insert a throw-himself-on-the-ground tantrum and/or throw full rolls of toilet paper into any toilet on the best of days. Those are the best of days, not the worst. The worst are way uglier and involve me losing my patience, yelling, threatening, negotiating, forgetting diapers, and rushing us around. That’s the thing. That’s life on the best of days and the worst of days - messy and unpredictable and changing moment by moment.
The aforementioned best days with my full-blown terrible-twos-toddler are the ones where I have no emotional agenda. We usually have some things on the calendar, but from an emotional perspective when I have a clear mind and can be present with him to let his needs and moods, mixed with my own needs and moods, dictate the rhythm of the day is when I have the most chilled out zen motherhood days. These beautiful days are not dependent on if I work or stay home, if I have decided to homeschool or do private school, or send my litte one one off to daycare or out with a nanny. They aren’t dependent on much more than my decision each day to being on my mental A-game. To be my best self, my authentic and natural self. My sometimes we watch Peppa Pig self.
In the era of Instagram, are we even aware of what reality is anymore - of what our emotional agenda is?
We wake up and scroll with one eye open, filling our subconscious up with images of organic cotton baby coordinates and organized nurseries. Of wooden toys that do not light up or make noise, and not a one single mom has a TV on or an iPad out. That alone can kill your motherhood vibe and poison the water in your already-drying-up well of mental capacity. Thinking another mom knows better, is doing better, or has it better. Better is not real to your kids. You have invented that. So why do we do this? Why do we let social media influence us so much as mothers?
We are “parenting” and not living.
I recently listened to a podcast that pointed out that the term “parenting” wasn’t in our culture until the 1950s with the rise of the Dr. Spocks of the world. The reason we felt then, and still feel now, that we need this guidance is because we are raising kids in a much different world. We no longer live multi-generationally with wisdom from the mothers of our mothers to help guide us personally. Families are smaller so we have less experience in our youth helping raise our siblings. Households involve more working parents than stay at home parents, leaving the banality of life at home behind, and showcasing to us that children must be constantly entertained and engaged in provided learning.
We think there is a perfect way to do things.
This is not just a motherhood thing, this is a modern life thing. There is no perfect. Or sometimes the perfect (which is the “enemy of the good”, don’t you know) is the accident, the making do, the letting your kid squirt you with the hose and have fun instead of constantly boundary setting and saying no. Or perhaps perfect is saying no over and over again, even though it just plain sucks.
Abandon the thought whatsoever that perfect exists, and embrace your instincts, knowing you’re doing the best you can with what you have.
Perfect gives someone else ownership of your heart, and comparison to them is stealing your joy, creativity, and pride.
We forget that we are always only getting half of the story.
They say there are three versions of the truth, yours, mine, and what really happened. Nothing has been more true for Instagram. There’s real life, what you see on someone else’s feed, and what they think you’re going to perceive when they post something. Never forget that while social media can be an informative, fun, and great creative and connecting outlet, it can also just be deceiving. It’s someone else, just like you, putting content into the world with their personal emotional agenda behind it all.
When I find myself feeling low and “fraudy” because of someone’s Instagram, I immediately think: a) Why am I following this person, and do I need to be? b) This is not my truth. My truth is different, and that’s a good thing.
We like labels.
Humans like to identify with something, and we like to belong. We like to be “vegan” or be “a screen-free homeschooling mom” so that we can show people who we are, be recognized for it, and belong to a group of other people who fuel us. But we are not all meant to be influencers. We are not binary beings - we can be good people who also eat meat, and yucky people who also homeschool. No one defines us but us. You can be many things at once - like a vegan who shops at Target. Don’t let society tell you that there needs to be a one-way approach, or that the more pure you are in any endeavor, the better. Remember, there is no better.
After writing all of this down, I realize I am speaking to myself as a mother. I fall victim to the idea that motherhood can be curated and controlled.
I fall victim to thinking another woman has it all figured out, and usually it’s a woman whose life I will never ever be able to even emulate, let alone replicate.
I write this as a way to remind myself, and you, of the antidote to the Instagram comparison game: not playing. Not allowing my mind to be taken over by the images and quotes and prettiness - to stay strong in my own convictions and ideals.
With a job as beautiful and important as safeguarding the development of human souls and integrity, let us not forget the grace for ourselves. Let us compare only to the woman we were the day before, embracing the differences and the callings of those around us with the same warmth in our heart we have for our own children.