I am supposed to be sitting down to write a post about cookies or cupcakes or something baking related. But I was distracted (well, what’s new) by a great post from Francesca Kaplan Grossman over at Huff Post Parents. Jealousy, Judgement & Motherhood. When she talks about wanting to be that mom who has it totally together, but in reality is the mom peeling a half eaten granola bar out of her bag, unwrapped, and handing it to her toddler (versus the organic homemade treat in the BPA Free container), she totally had me. I get it. I live it, know it, breathe it.
It also reminded me of thoughts I keep wanting to gather into a post and share. I remember the days of keeping up with the Jonses. Oh those Joneses. Who had what house, what car, what job? What were they doing, buying and selling? Somewhere along the way, for me, it felt less like that and more like keeping up with Mama Jones, that perfect, patient, have it all, do it all and do it all well, mom.
When my oldest daughter was little (not so long ago, she’s just shy of 10), I’d see Mama Jones, and her counterparts, at the park, playgroups, Gymboree classes, preschool drop off, places like that. Her kids, just like her, were perfectly dressed and groomed. Well behaved. Masters at sharing and taking turns. Her nails were manicured, her clothes weren’t stained and her car didn’t spill out Cheerios, Goldfish and rocks when you opened the door. She was calm and patient and kind and had the perfect straight out of the parenting books responses to everything, not that she needed to, her kids had picture perfect behavior. Park time would be over, I’d pack up my mus covered and probably screaming in protest at the thought of leaving daughter, and head home. And Mama Jones, and all those like her, would be out of my sight (and maybe my mind) until we met again. I saw her life from the outside. Just a tiny glimpse of it.
But now, not many years later, wow, how things have changed. With all of the amazing social media we have, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, we can see what Mama Jones is doing all day, every day. It is one of those things that I think falls into the “blessing and curse” category. While I used to see that teeny tiny outside glimpse of what the Jonses were doing, today, thanks so social media, I get to go behind the closed doors, and see a bigger picture of what it’s like to live in the Jones Home.
When I only saw Mama Jones at the park, I didn’t know about the amazing homemade organic meals she made using vegetables she grew in her own container gardens which somehow thrived in the Phoenix, AZ summers. I didn’t realize how perfectly she packed the leftovers from those meals into fabulous eco-friendly lunchboxes. I didn’t see the incredible bordering on celebrity style parties she coordinated and hosted for her kids, or the flawlessly coordinated family portraits she had done quarterly – where her children posed, smiled and looked at the camera. I didn’t know she hosted weekly book club nights. I hadn’t seen the way she had reworked a $5 garage sale entertainment center into the cutest play kitchen ever made, and then hand stitched together play food to go with it. I didn’t know that she volunteered at school three days a week, while having a full time job and a toddler not yet in school.
I hadn’t seen inside her home, which is a stunning combo of model home perfection, zen like calm and the perfect sweet (non messy) pieces of framed artwork by her kids. I had no idea she and her husband had amazing romantic child free getaways to tropical places and that she went on these things called girl trips – which I thought were an urban legend, heck I can’t even swing a dinner with a friend, there are trips? I didn’t know she worked out with her personal trainer five days a week at 4:45am, early enough that she could cook breakfast from scratch for the kids. I didn’t know any of that – just the little glimpses I saw at the park. Ignorance was bliss.
I really am in awe at how different things are in such a short period of time. Social media is an awesome thing, and I use it like crazy, it’s my lifeline to the outside world, the world other than my home, my car, school drop off and pick up, and the therapy clinic for my little one – the places I spend 99% of my time. I love being able to connect with others. But I often wonder how this digital age of sharing impacts us, and as a mom I know it often leaves me feeling like I’m not doing enough. It’s so very easy to compare and contrast. And it’s so easy to get down on ourselves, I mean how do you measure up to Mama Jones? She’s like a fairy tale, like a Disney Princess, yet she is real, or at least sure appears to be.
Keeping up with the Joneses is a totally different thing in today’s digital era. What was once left up to our imagination, or preschool playgroup gossip, is now online for all of us to see. Though I guess on the flip side, online is where we also see quotes like this, which help give us a nice dose of perspective…
I know I play a small part in that machine. I bake up all kinds of lovely goodies and share them. But the reality is that my baking and blog are now my business, so it’s my professional work on display. While I may bake and share super sweet cupcakes, the reality is that I didn’t even have a second birthday party for my little one. Things are not always as they seem, and that is something I think we always need to remember. We often see wonderful carefully selected glimpses of life. Or maybe they aren’t selected, maybe there are lives that perfect. I know mine isn’t. And I try and share that as well. I try to show that because it’s who I am, it’s my reality and partly because maybe, just maybe, one other mom out there needs to see a glimpse of imperfection in the sea of perfection that is presented to us. My Instagram from last week looked like this…
I know for myself, sometimes I have to stop. I have to turn it off. I can’t compare. There is no way I will ever get around to doing
10% 5% of the things I have pinned to do on Pinterest boards. My house isn’t going to look like a model home any time soon, though I’m managing to keep it from being nominated for Hoarders, and I like to think of that as some small victory. There is so much amazing creativity out there, and it’s hard not to want to soak it all in and do it all. There are many great ideas I’ve been able to learn about and use, and it’s awesome that we can share with each other in such a way thanks to social media.
I do have to remember though that when I pop on to Pinterest, I’m not looking at the pins of one Mama Jones, the work of one person, but instead I’m seeing the ideas and work of the hundreds of people I’m following, and each of them is sharing a glimpse. Nobody (at least that I know personally) is able to do it all, and that is okay – heck, that is great. I often have to remind myself I can’t bake every treat, create thousands of recipes and come up with endless perfect ideas. I want to, but I can’t. I can’t always keep up. And that is okay. It’s not a contest. Nobody is going to win the internet. I can only do my best and remind myself that while I can’t do it all, I am getting my little one to therapy five days a week trying to help overcome the challenges of apraxia, and I’m helping my oldest with homework and facilitating her participation in dance, swim, band and student council. And sometimes I’m just sitting on the couch with them – just being together, spending time with them, as I watch them grow up so quickly. These may not be things I can pin on Pinterest, but they are what truly matter most to me.
As much as I love the age we live in, I often wonder what it was like for my grandmothers when their children were little. One thing that’s for sure, the only things they were pinning were the clothes they were sewing or mending themselves for their kids, in tough times, making do with what they had. At the end of the day, then and now, I think we all just want to do what’s best for our kids and be the best mothers we can be. Mama Jones may do that in a more picture perfect way, but I think what matters is that our hearts are in the right places. Even if they aren’t all glittery and covered in pretty seasonal washi tape.