The other day I was at the pool with my daughter and two nieces. As it is an ongoing battle to have three girls play together nicely, I am never surprised when one stomps over with tears brewing in their little eyes for one reason or another. This time, it was my younger niece. She was distressed not only because the water was very cold, but because the older girls could do more than she could in the pool.
“They can go underwater without plugging their noses,” she sobbed. “AND they can do mermaid tails. I have to plug my nose and I can’t swim like a mermaid yet!” she told me. “It’s not fair.”
So I gave her the old it’s-hard-being-the-youngest pep talk. I told her: you just do what you can do. That’s all you have to worry about! You don’t have to be exactly the same as those other girls to have fun!
“It’s just hard that they can do things I can’t do,” she said, finally. And I thought girl, I hear you.
I have been reading a lot recently about “Pinterest stress” – or, as I understand it, the pressure to be crafty, creative, and perfect not just on occasion, but with ALL THE THINGS, ALWAYS. Snack for school? Better be something we never dreamed of before! Birthday party? Better be perfect to the very last detail! Moms worldwide are scanning the pages of Pinterest all the live long day looking at ideas and crafts and meals which they view to be beyond their skill sets and available time. We are watching, incredulously, as moms on the internet pull it off without a hitch, while we barely have the energy to get our children dressed in matching clothes and out of the house, some days.
As a result, you see: the STRESS.
We are taking Pinterest, a space that should be fun and collaborative, and turning it into something that is comparative and crazy-making. We are cracking under the pressure to be 100% creative and awe-inspiring at all times. Obviously, I have a quote pinned for just such an occasion:
Pinterest probably isn’t going to be the death of you. Comparison, though, is more dangerous.
While I am one of those nerds who really enjoys crafting, it’s not feasible for me to join my daughter in an amazing craft project daily. Frankly, while it’s something I enjoy and am kind of good at, I don’t always do it monthly! I like to bake, too, and while sometimes I can make a cool, homemade treat for e’s class party, sometimes I send her with Oreos. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good, attentive, involved parent. It also doesn’t mean I am less good, attentive, or involved than the one who brings some elaborate treat that could have only come from Pinterest. It means she had the time last night and I didn’t. Or, she stayed up all night and I didn’t feel like it. Also a real possibility.
Let’s recognize Pinterest for what it is: perfect for when you need to kill some time but also want to feel a tiny bit productive because hello you’re saving ideas for later! It’s an idea machine. It can help you in a pinch when you need to know how to paint a face like a lion in the next hour, or if you need a recipe for buffalo chicken dip, or need to know how to put together a gallery wall without paying a decorator. See? Helpful! And it is going to be there, every day, a little red-and-white beacon taunting us to look at it. Some days, if I’m being honest, I’ll spend hours pinning things and won’t actually do a dang thing. And hey – sometimes that’s self-care!
My niece didn’t get back in the pool that day. In the same way, comparison keeps stealing our joy like a bully with our lunch money – and we just let it! We blame it on Pinterest and other moms who do more, or don’t have to work, or can thrive on 3 hours of sleep a night. We try to lay shame on them for making us feel or look bad when the reality is, it belongs to us. It’s hurting us, so we hurl it elsewhere in an attempt to feel better. Why not instead opt to let go of it – learn to stop comparing ourselves to others – and let go of shame altogether. For you as much as for them.
We’ve all got our stuff, mamas. Even the ones making it seem easy, effortless, and perfect. I’m talking to all of us now – let’s not make it harder for each other. Let’s look at each other with kindness–knowing full well the energy and sleepless nights we know have and will come – both with our kids and the projects that come with them. Let’s tip our hats to the working mom who managed to be organized enough to remember to buy something at the store. Let’s compliment the crafties and their awesome, homemade treats. Let’s recognize hard work in all its forms. Let’s quiet the voice in our heads shaming us for not doing enough, and then telling us to throw that shame on someone who did more. Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Or any other mom’s, for that matter.
In conclusion, I will say to us all what I said to my niece, poolside: you just do what you can do. That’s all you have to worry about! You don’t have to be exactly the same as those other girls to have fun!