This story is part of our series: "But Really, How Are You?" Here, we share first-person essays about real motherhood: the highs, lows and everything in between. Today's piece is by Jessica, a self-proclaimed type B new mom in LA who is learning to make peace with the mothers she is not...
We did not decorate gingerbread houses this holiday season. There was no elf on the shelf; no homemade cookies; no advent calendar memory making. I really thought I’d be a crafty Pinterest mom; and a Montessori mom with a two-year-old that scrambles her own eggs; and a seamstress mom that makes homemade costumes; and a home chef mom that creates animal shapes out of pancakes; and a bilingual mom whose conversation flutters between Italian and English with her infant.
Spoiler alert that you see coming: I am none of those things. I was none of those things before I had a baby, and yet it somehow shocks me that I didn’t give birth to an infant and an entirely new version of myself. Weren’t those skills automatically granted to new parents? Did mine get lost in the post?
I blame these wild expectations, just a little wee bit, on social media. I know, I know, it is a tool that can be used for good and evil but here’s the hypothesis: We have in our hands so much niche information. Car seat experts; baby chefs; sleep experts; Montessori gurus; perfectly coiffed fashion families—they’re all just lined up, offering their wisdom and their cool factor at the swipe of our thumb. We absorb, absorb, absorb everything everyone else is doing constantly—of course it feels like a sprint to keep up with the perfect presentations we consume.
Because we are wise adults, we know by now that social media is skin smoothing filters and extreme life curation. But I think my subconscious forgets that as I’m mindlessly scrolling, one eye open on the couch. It’s then, guard down, that the comparison game sneaks in the backdoor of my brain and I mentally design an entirely new life for myself that’s starting tomorrow morning at 6 AM. A new schedule, new passions, new diet, new goals, new mothering! The alarm clock rattles under my pillow the next morning and one by one, the loaded expectations deflate under the weight of…reality.
The comparison game sneaks in the backdoor of my brain and I mentally design an entirely new life for myself that’s starting tomorrow morning at 6 AM.
If I get into this toxic expectation cycle I’ve found two things that help.
- Deleting comparison triggering apps for as long as I can. Sometimes that’s four hours, sometimes that’s a month.
- Considering the gifts that only I can offer to my child. I greet the graveyard of expectations, and then say gently to myself, “but look at where you soar.” I challenge myself to write these strengths down because the ritual feels like a more concrete recognition. Sometimes it looks like this: I am a good listener in her challenging moments. I am a safe space in her overwhelm. I can light up her face with goofy accents. Her outfits are always cute and considered. I throw the best two person dance parties.
The more specific the better. It’s also fun to think about the other parents in your life in this way, and send them an unexpected compliment about their parenting. Because, what’s better than receiving that?
May offer you this nudge to jot down a short list of where you soar? What does it say? Share your motherhood experience by joining our Village where you can find support and connect with other moms.
Written by Jessica Lopez. Jessica Lopez is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and new mother. She has covered all lifestyle topics ranging from bridal to beauty for publications including Brides Magazine, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY, and more. Walking wide-eyed into motherhood has inspired her to connect with other parents through her writing and shared experience. You can follow more of her journey @Jessica.H.Lopez.