I suppose there has almost always been someone to portray "the perfect mom." Like Clair Huxtable's perfect combination of elegance and strength, or Tami Taylor's perfect combination of loyalty and passion or how Rebecca Pearson's imperfections actually seem to make her, well, perfect.
We know these perfect TV moms are just actresses playing a role, but today's moms are faced with perfect images day in and day out, and they're often images of people we actually know.
Every time I log on to Facebook, Instagram, or any social media site, I'm typically slammed with photos and videos of what appear to be perfect moms I see every week at school, work, or other activities. These aren't actresses, but real women in my social circles who appear, by their social media posts, to be doing motherhood better.Each day, I peruse the highlight reels of my friends and family members. I look upon their casseroles, their immaculate kitchens, the flowers from their partners, their gym selfies, and their spotless children. Then, I log off and look around at my dirty dishes, disheveled kids, and last week's craft supplies that still linger on the table and think, man, I really stink at this.
To an exhausted mama who is barely hanging in there, sometimes those photos are hard gut punches that can leave her reeling from guilt and feelings of inadequacy. To that mom, here's what I want to remind you of today: It's all an illusion.
The mom who posted the gym selfie had to hustle to get there today. She didn't feel like going after being up most of the night with her kids, but she threw on some under-eye concealer and she forced herself to go, knowing she'd feel better after. That selfie is her "I made it" declaration.
The mom who shared that photo of her clean and beautifully decorated home spent the entire day getting it in order. The clutter was making her anxious, and that morning she decided she'd had enough of the mess. She worked hard on the house while occupying two small children and taking breaks to play with her kids. That photo is proof of her accomplishment.
The flowers that mom friend of yours posted on Instagram? Those came from her apologetic spouse. What you didn't see was the huge fight they'd had the night before. You didn't see her anger or tears; you just see the flowers.
Those moms posting pictures of spotless children and impressive dinners—they are all just sharing the wins that make them feel good because behind the photo is a mom who struggles, too.
Looking back through my own social media posts, I see photos of my family gathered around the table playing a card game, smiling children on our recent vacation, photos of my kids with their arms around each other, and even a photo of my dogs in Christmas sweaters.
Not pictured? The many tears we've cried struggling through hours of homework, the Hamburger Helper we had on paper plates for dinner, or the family argument we had. I didn't share the cookies I burned, the dog pee on the rug, or the panic attack I had at the grocery store. I'm only sharing a happy sliver of my life on social media. Nearly everyone is only sharing happy slivers, and still—we hold our messy lives up in comparison. Don't al
low yourselves to believe that their lives are as perfect as their newsfeeds.
The next time you log off and look around, here's what I want you to see, mama.
That mess—that mess is magic. It means your kids have been playing, creating, and having fun. It means your house is lived in and loved in. What fun would a picture-perfect house be? There would be no finger painting at the table or puddles on the bathroom floor. These are signs of life, not failure.
The messy counter means you made food for your loved ones. The dishes means they've eaten. The laundry means they're clothed. The pile of blocks means you said "yes."
Remember, happy memories are often made in messy moments.
I admit that messes often make me cringe, but when I'm able to see the magic in the mess, I'm a happier mama. I know one day I'll wish for kid-messes in my oh-so-quiet empty nest, so for today, I'll smile at the pile of Lego bricks and mound of dirty dishes…then I'll ask the kids to come help me clean up!
And if you're a mom who keeps a tidy house most of the time, good for you! I know that doesn't mean you're not letting your kids have fun. It just means you get it cleaned up faster than some of us, so no judgments here. 🙅
Those bickering kids—they're normal. Moms of multiple children often snap pictures of those occasional perfect sibling moments and put them on display. It's understandable. If my boys are being best friends, I want to capture that moment, too. Just don't deceive yourself into thinking that her kids are always like that.
I'm a big believer in teaching our kids to respect one another and learn peaceful conflict resolution skills, but let's face it, siblings argue. Sometimes they get frustrated with each other, as humans do. Remind yourself that no one has ever raised multiple children and achieved perfect harmony.
I know it's difficult to not compare your kids to the kids you see online, to not compare their interactions against the interactions you see in your own home, but you're looking at a brief moment in time, not the complete truth.
Your kids won't live a series of picture-perfect moments together, but with patience, growth, and guidance, they will form a strong relationship that's worth so much more than a photograph.
That soft tummy—it's done miraculous things! Listen, mama, your body is lovable. Maybe it isn't perfect, but it carried your babies, and actually―that in and of itself makes it perfect, doesn't it? It houses your spirit. It's a pretty amazing thing, really.
You probably have at least one friend who posts about her fitness accomplishments, and yay for her! Really! Let's support one another and be happy for one another, for sure, but don't allow her accomplishments to dull your own or make you feel ashamed of your body. You are unique and beautiful.
Comparing ourselves to the "perfect moms" we see on social media not only causes us to feel bad about ourselves and our families. There's another very real consequence. It causes us to miss out on real connections with real moms.
If all we see is each other's perfection, we are very likely to miss each other's pain. Maybe it's time we use our phones for more than scrolling and tweeting. Call a friend and share what's really going on in your life. Listen to what's really going on in hers. Behind every post is a real mom with real worries and struggles.
None of us are perfect, but each of us is perfectly enough.
*This post is adapted from a chapter in my upcoming book, The Gift of a Happy Mother.