One of the most marked differences of my pre-mom self and post-mom self is how I view other mothers. I thought motherhood would make me more judgmental. It’s done exactly the opposite. Now if I could only learn how to ease up on myself, I’d be getting somewhere. It would be a lot easier to do that if I didn’t constantly have the details of everyone else’s parenting triumphs staring at me in the face on my Facebook feed every day.
It’s amazing how much empathy comes along with being totally humbled by your role as a caregiver. I’m kind of a control freak – and have always been able to “make things right” on my own. Nothing like a toddler to prove to you that you really don’t have everything under control. And nothing like Facebook to remind you that there are parents that do.
Before I had a child, I was always assuming the worst about parents. A child was out-of-control in a restaurant? Those parents aren’t strict enough! A child throwing a tantrum in Target? Spoiled! A child refusing to eat his dinner? No way is my child doing that! Ha. I knew everything about parenting before I actually became one. I didn’t realize it at the time, but judging mothers was something I did regularly. I had an opinion about everything.
I still have opinions about parenting of course – it’s kind of my job. But there is one opinion that stands the strongest; if someone thinks all children are the same and insists that no one hits a rough patch here and there – they are completely full of shit. Now – when I see a woman in Target with an unruly child – I default to that child probably skipped his nap, not that is the worst mother on the planet.
If only I could have as much compassion for myself as I do for other parents. Then I would really be on to something. I hate to admit it – but Facebook is making that impossible.
The older my child gets, the more I find myself dissecting every decision that I make. I think I have a pretty happy, well-adjusted child – but I can’t help but compare my parenting to the parenting of others. You know why? Because everyone documents every damn thing they do for their child on Facebook. And it makes me feel like a total loser Mom.
Easter just passed. It was no big whoop to me because, for one, I’m not religious and also my family has always celebrated the Orthodox version – which falls on a completely different day. I’d walked by Easter baskets in Publix every time we went shopping. It never really occurred to me to buy one because my son is two and he definitely has no concept of the holidays yet.
Easter morning I log onto Facebook and see all sorts of friends with infants who had giant baskets in front of them and stuffed bunnies and shit. That sent me on a shame spiral that lasted about five hours. I kept looking at my child thinking, is he missing out? Will he really not notice that he didn’t get a chocolate bunny, or do I just suck at this whole Mom thing? Should I be dying eggs right now? I refused to just go buy something for him to make myself feel better because I thought it would be disingenuous. I’m a freak.
The more I think about it – pretty much every, single time I’ve felt like a shitty mother it’s been Facebook’s fault. Everyone incessantly sharing all of the crafty things they do for their children makes me feel like a total loser parent. And don’t even get me started on Pinterest. Five minutes on that thing and I’m convinced we live in a hovel and I am the worst mother, ever.
Before social media, we didn’t actually know what was going on in other people’s houses and families. We just did what we did and assumed everyone else was doing the same thing. Guess what? They’re not. On Halloween they’re making black licorice fondant spider cupcakes with glowing eyes. You’re giving your kids candy corn. You suck.
I’m always the one giving new mothers the “just relax” advice. I’m convinced now it’s because I want some moms to join my ranks – to not be perfect at everything they do. Yes I’ve stopped judging parents. I’ve had to. Parenting has totally kicked my ass. The truth is it makes me feel better to see that there are moms and dads out there that can be just as flustered and confused as I can. It’s comforting. While I used to stand in a state of shocked disdain, now I’m looking on thinking, Yup. It’s hard isn’t it?
I’m really going to try to stop being so hard on myself and start looking at the photo evidence of parental perfection on social media for what it may just be – the photoshopped version of real life. I just know behind the tray of fondant spider cupcakes, there’s a toddler having a sugar-high comedown and destroying some glowing eyes while refusing to eat dinner.
Well, I hope so anyway.