We read a lot of blog posts, articles, and Facebook opinions about how to raise our kids or why one way is the right way. Whether you’re an attachment parent or a free range kids kind of person, breastfeeding or bottle, strict schedule or no schedule, working mom or stay at home, really into sports or all about arts, there will be a blog post on just about everything. On top of that, we have influencers to follow who dress so fabulously or buy all the right things and throw the perfect parties. We can even follow famous actors and actresses on a daily basis and get a glimpse into their lives.
I am the first to reach for my phone and check Instagram and Facebook to see what I need to be buying, wearing and doing, but it all starts to get a little overwhelming.
I wonder if I am doing things correctly. Are my kids going to be ok? Are they going to be scarred for life because I work and sent them to daycare? Did I make the right decision starting my son in kindergarten late with his summer birthday? Should I do more planned activities or fewer? Did I get the right clothes for the right occasion? Are we taking the right vacations to the right places?
A negative to social media is that you have access to so many people’s opinions and great ideas, and it all looks so perfect in pictures, but we don’t get to see the real life version of anything. I think it has created a competitive momming culture. Somehow we’ve gotten so used to seeing everyone’s highlight reels on social media that they become our basis for comparison, and we don’t get a chance to talk about real life with real people.
I also think that we are busy. More families have both parents working or if one is working, the stay at home parent is bearing the huge weight of feeling like they have to do all the things at home and for the kids. We are burying ourselves in sports and activities and we don’t get a chance to sit down and breathe. We don’t have time to just be and have real conversations.
I’m a little afraid that I’ve gotten myself so busy and so caught up in filling my little blips of time with social media, that I’m missing the reality and the messiness of all of it. Before social media, when you had a question about your kids and how to raise them, you’d ask your parents or your friends what they would do, and you’d make a decision based on the opinions of real life people. You wouldn’t read an article about someone with perfect pictures of their perfect life and opinions about why their way is the right way.
I am so thankful for my neighborhood because I am surrounded by the real deal kind of moms (and dads) that aren’t scared to share the ugly stuff, the messy houses, the tears and heartaches, and the times we feel inadequate, or when we don’t feel like great parents. Our kids go to different schools, we are a mix of stay at home and working parents, but we are all in the same stage of life, just trying to figure it all out and do our best.
Some of the most fulfilling moments I’ve had over the last few months have been sitting down and just chatting with my neighborhood friends, with parents sitting at sporting events, poolside watching the kids swim, or on the rare girls’ night out. I’m finding less and less happiness with social media and what I see there thanks to the feelings of inadequacy or competition that it causes.
My grandmother used to have lawn chairs on her back porch and her neighbor friends would drop by in the afternoon and chat and share life together. It wasn’t perfect; she didn’t feel like she had to clean her house perfectly or have the right china and serving plates and set a perfect table. They’d just walk to each other’s houses and be together. I always found this to be so comforting and when I picture her now, I think of her surrounded by real friends who knew her well and who would walk up at any given moment and “just chat” in the afternoons.
I am writing this post to encourage everyone to recognize social media, blog posts and influencers for what they are: someone’s best version of themselves and their kids without the real life stuff to go with it. Every child is different, everyone’s situation is different, and everyone’s marriage is their own, so when I come across people who have it “all figured out” in a blog post, I run the other direction.
I am also writing this to remind myself to do better.
I am horrible about working then coming home, being with the kids, and then getting in bed looking at other people’s lives on my phone, reading other people’s opinions or sharing my own photos and waiting for comments and likes because that is all the interaction with my friends I’m going to get for the day. All the while, the really good stuff is right down the street with a lawn chair and a glass of tea waiting for me.
I’m writing this post to remind myself to do better and to encourage everyone to find their “lawn chair friends.” Find those friends and make the time to be with them. Sit in the backyard and let your kids play together and order pizza and leave the messy house for another day. Hug them tightly when the hard stuff happens and lean in when you need it.