I am a failure as a parent. My children are doomed. Or at least that is how I feel after scrolling through the rest of your lives on social media.
I don’t know about you, but social media and its tendency to show me everyone else’s parenting successes has brought me to a new kind of parenting depression. In a last-ditch attempt to feel slightly less inadequate, I deleted my Facebook app on my phone (for the second time) so that I can spend less time looking at other parent’s posts about their Harvard-bound children and reside happily inside my own mediocrity.
In fact, I’d like to advocate for a whole new social media platform for parents. We can call it Suckbook, and there we can post all of our children’s failures: the Cs earned on the science tests, our not-so-fond memories of the times they said “I hate you” or the times we lost our minds in the treacherous aisles of the local Wal-Mart.
I know, I know. But you are so proud of your kids. You want to share that pride. You want them to feel good about themselves.
You want to feel good about yourself. You think, look how good my kid is turning out. That must mean that I’m not as messed up as I thought I was.
We all need those reassurances once in awhile that we are not completely ruining our offspring.
But as I scroll through all of that Candyland goodness you post, sometimes, well, most of the time, I just feel unhappy.
You seem like your family life is so much less chaotic than mine. You seem like perfect parents with perfect children, and it’s too easy to forget this is the filtered version of you. That in between that post of you on the shores of another beach on another Hawaiian vacation and the post of your daughter winning the Pulitzer, nearly a whole month of unaccounted time passed. A month of the mundane and boring day-to-day tasks of just living.
It is easy to forget that more than likely, those unaccounted for minutes between posts were filled with just as much snot-sucking and back-talking as mine.
I will tell it to you straight. My Facebook self is an illusion. Her lipstick never bleeds, she’s always wearing makeup and she never wears the faded plaid pajama pants that are a staple of her weekend existence. She takes vacations to the Grand Canyon, California and Walt Disney World, and her photos are carefully chosen from the stack so as not to illustrate any of the many flaws she bemoans in the mirror every morning. That is why she only posts twice a month.
The unwritten rules of social media engagement are to post all of our golden moments on Facebook. I get it. I get that is the expectation, but we leave so much life behind, so much reality. What happens the rest of those days, those weeks, those years in between the beautifully-curated pictures and spell-checked posts? I’ll tell you what: normalcy. Diaper blowouts. Grey hairs. Fights over who takes out the garbage. Snoring. Wrinkles. Bouts of the flu. Tears.
Life. Real life. The emotional exhaustion we experience on the daily. The emotional exhaustion that drives us away from our real lives to spend more time online searching for an escape, searching for fulfillment, yet our clicks and our like buttons only perpetuate the cycle of destruction. Inevitably, no matter what we do, our own lives will fall short in the face of Stepford wives and Stepford lives.
Being a parent is so incredibly hard. My parents made it look so easy. So guilt-free, and I wonder how much of my insanity is self-created, is social media-created. I go online, and with each click, each scroll, I beat myself up with internal dialogue. I need to sign my kids up for league sports, I think. I should try to pack sandwiches shaped like dolphins, I think. I should start to shop organic, I think (before eating another Little Debbie).
Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s goods, but is it OK to covet their elusive happiness?
For every self-help book I read, for every parenting blog I cry over, I just create another unrealistic set of expectations for myself and for my kids, and the more I think about it, the more I realize how much it hurts all of us, that consistent clicking. That constant comparison.
If I am not too busy looking at a screen, if I really look at these extraordinary beings that once inhabited my body, really look at them, I see beauty. Goodness. Bravery.
I see the kind of people they will grow up to be: fierce and loyal, creative and kind, full of grit and heart.
And I am proud of every single moment I have been able to witness in their lives because no matter how messy those moments have been, full of tangles and back-talk and mistakes, those moments are what made them.
Those moments are what make me.
I am especially proud of the moments that have not been post-worthy. Those are the hard moments. Those are the real moments.They make up the majority of our lives.
If in this life we are measured by how we spend the majority of our days, then for most of us, we will not be measured by our Facebook posts. They are just the highlight reel. The elusive one percent.
Instead, we’ll be measured by what we do every day when nobody is watching, when no one else sees.
By our small and private acts. The kind of acts that will not earn us likes or shares, but ultimately make us better people.
We are more than the sum of our successes.
And so are our children.
So much more.
Originally published in the Appleton Post Crescent