Once Upon A Time I was not a mother. I threw fun and elaborate parties simply because I love bringing people together and widening my circle. I was known for the ridiculous reasons I created to order appetizers and use confetti. There was an MMA fight night replete with vampire mouth guards, Rock Band nights and my own birthday parties that stretched into days and made friends scratch their heads if they hadn’t received a Save The Date a good month in advance.
When I was pregnant I had a ridiculous baby shower that ended in a sleep over and people crawling down my hallway looking for coffee.
I was the only one without a hangover.
Then came baby birthday parties and my world changed. I entered this very strange cultural subset where we stare at each other with smiles and unconvinced eyes that look a little like shame and insecurity. I have heard many moms talk about how they attended a “Pinterest” birthday party; the cake in the shape of a baby swan replete with feathers and the ability to molt, the banners were weaved out of the Shroud of Turin and the punch was made of melted gold and myrrh.
They leave with their coordinated cupcakes, fairy dust and a plastered smile and then sigh into their tired hands.
Women have a tendency to think we are not a good mother if our mothering doesn’t look like another woman’s mothering and this has been reflected in the celebration of a child’s birth, the discussion of organic v non, stay at home mom v working mom and a flurry of self-imposed judging. I am just as guilty of the mom guilt. I worry for every hair, particle and pore when it comes to my daughter. I cried when I returned to work after having Olivia. In the time since I’ve had to learn to let some things go and also realized very quickly – things are not always as they seem.
Let me share a few dirty little secrets with you because I have all too often been asked how I keep it together or offered compliments that feel a lot more resentful and sad than they do sincere. It is as if the mom who says what a great job I’m doing wants to start crying before she punctuates her sentence and solidarity woman, I know exactly how you feel. Let’s cry together.
I was surprised when asked by a colleague who’d just had a newborn, “How did you do it?”
I looked up, eyes as honest as they are in my head, “I didn’t.”
My child had colic of the demonic variety. I did not sleep for a full year. I don’t know how I am still gainfully employed.
Once Olivia stopped screaming I made the mistake of not being able to say, “No,” when I was asked to do more than I should have as a new mom with a career. I chaired a Mother’s Day tea right after her first birthday. There were hand-painted tea pots arranged with blooming flowers at every table, many speaking parts and a fascinator glued to the side of my head. I stepped down from the stage after delivering a speech about our honoree’s lovely generosity and a woman at my table said, “You make me feel lazy.”
I felt my legs become heavy as if I stepped in mud. It wouldn’t have been socially acceptable for me to look at this woman and explain that my husband and I would likely be divorced by next Mother’s Day and that I cried a lot, being a new mom with a failing marriage is hard, yo.
After our separation I threw my daughter’s 2nd birthday party at what had been our “family home” per the motions that had been placed before the court. There was a petting zoo, giggling children and chocolate cake, oh my.
Someone posted on Facebook, “Way to raise the bar with a petting zoo, Jeanette.”
It would not have been appropriate for me to respond within the comments with the truth. I chose the petting zoo because it was the only thing I could afford. It was significantly cheaper than what my guests realized when compared to jump houses and play gyms and could be done in the backyard of the home with a mortgage that was killing me as a singleton. No one knew that I was working on a payment plan with the utilities to keep my lights, water and gas on until my divorce was final.
No one knew that in lieu of gifts my closest girlfriends each covered the cost of cake, decorations and sandwiches.
If I’m completely honest I would tell you there was some pride involved. Sure, I could’ve thrown my daughter a party at a public park or done away with animals altogether, but you likely would’ve seen me bawling in the fetal position at some point during the day. I was just starting to accept that the family home that I purchased with my husband, the one my daughter was supposed to grow up in, come home from college to visit, a la Princess Bride, was a house of cards.
I was having a hard time seeing my new life as a divorced mom and everything that entailed.
I felt like a failure.
But, I threw a Pinterest party and made other moms feel inferior.
You never know what is going on in someone’s world. You don’t know the internal struggles within relationships, personal insecurities nor the things that keep a person up at night.
No one is ever throwing a party to make you feel like you aren’t the same kind of super mom. The fact that you care enough to worry shows that you are a good mom, a conscientious mom and you are not going to ruin your babies because you don’t have a face painter. Your child will remember the moments you were there, not the moments you outspent or out glued another mom, good for you.
No one is ever posting a selfie of their personal fitness progress to make you feel fat. They have worked very hard and are proud of what they’ve accomplished. They shouldn’t have to hide it, good for them.
No one is ever posting a quote about self improvement, happiness or attainment to make you feel bad. They have risen from something you probably know nothing about and have found peace, good for them.
And Dear mom, good for you, because what you do is hard, painstaking, lovely work. You are raising people. They will go on to take the values and gifts you’ve given them to build out their own families. Your work will continue through them and their smiles, their full tummies, their wonder-filled minds are all you need to know you are killing this mom thing.
Pinterest is simply another organizational tool.
Like a laundry basket.