Dear Pinterest, Maybe we should break up

Someone recently told me that magazines today cost about nine dollars. Could that be true? When was the last time I even bought a magazine? I made it a point the next time I was standing in line at a grocery store to check.

There was a time when I read magazines. I even had a few subscriptions in my life. As an adolescent, I read Seventeen where I learned to apply make-up and chuckled at reader’s most embarrassing moments. In college, Cosmopolitan explained everything I needed to know about the opposite sex and gave me fashion tips. I used to get Cooking Light when I was newly married, and after the first baby, Parents Magazine faithfully arrived every month.

I remember my mother always having a stack of magazines lying around. Back issues of Shape would be piled high in a basket next to her bed. As a single mother of two, I don’t think she got to read much of them. And while reading is an important part of my life, (I am an English teacher after all) at the end of the day, I’d rather lose myself in a novel-escaping a little from my everyday life-than thumb through a magazine where I’ll be forced to compare myself to skinny models, enticed to buy products I don’t need, and too tempted to put it down when my husband turns on the television.

Yet while magazines have exited my life, Pinterest has entered it. I enjoy Pinterest. I’ve gotten great recipes and lots of DIY project ideas off of it; however, I’m starting to realize that I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest.

I’m a compulsive person. I’m a perfectionist. I’m a list-maker. While I can lose myself, and time, scrolling through Pinterest feeds, when I am finished I end up with more on my to-do list than before. As a full-time working mother of two, there is enough to do every day. But now, not only have I wasted thirty minutes where I could have been doing laundry or grading papers, I’ve just added three more things to my list: I’ve got a new recipe to try with another trip to Safeway to buy the needed ingredients, a project to do with the kids, and a scheme to make over some part of my house previously thought to not need renovating.

That might not be so bad though. I’ve created some pretty neat things thanks to Pinterest, but what really gets me is the way it makes me feel about myself as a parent.

While I used to compare myself to girls in magazines, I now find comparison in the hordes of stay-at-home mothers on Pinterest.

A half-hour spent on Pinterest leaves me questioning: Do I fail as a mother because I didn’t make my daughter a bento box for lunch? I didn’t cut out shapes from watermelon and organic cheese slices. Instead, I shoved a frozen Uncrustable and a drinkable yogurt in her lunch tote at 6:45 A.M. I don’t have a list of 100 things to do this summer neatly written on a homemade chalkboard in my kitchen or a theme for every day of the week. I’ve never blogged about 25 things to do with your toddler either. If I tried, I would probably get stuck after number 3 or 4, and number 5 would certainly be “put them down for a nap and pray that it lasts at least two hours.”

Years ago, I remember watching an episode of Oprah where this mother had died of stage-four lung cancer. She had two children: a daughter and a son. While she was ill, they went to Disneyland, Palm Springs, and Vail. It was like a family bucket list of sorts. In the end, Oprah asked the daughter what she remembered most about those last months with her mother. The girl replied that it was sharing a bowl of Cheerios at two in the morning. Not Disney. Not Palm Springs. Not Vail. A late-night bowl of cereal.

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A forgettable moment becomes the one we cling to.

So I wonder: with all the projects to do with the kids, the indestructible super-sized bubbles and homemade Kool-Aid Play-Doh, what will they actually remember? All the time spent planning, organizing, buying supplies and documenting the experiences, is this what they will recall as being most special about their childhood?

My kids are the happiest when we’ve stayed in our pajamas way longer than usual and snuggled in bed, when we’ve sat on the floor and played Candyland, when hotdogs and beans is what’s for dinner, when we spontaneously take a bike ride around the block.

Driving down the road the other day, I saw a license plate frame that read, “Yes, I am Super-mom.” If being super-mom is so important, surely there are other roles that aren’t being fulfilled. Isn’t Super-mom going to be super lonely when her Super-kids are grown up and no longer need her to make their lunches or when they are no longer interested in doing the 31 activities of October?

I believe that my mother was one of the best mothers a girl could have, but she didn’t cater to me or my sister. She had a job and hobbies of her own. She did things with us and she did things without us. She was not trying to be Super-mom, but she was a super mom.

The other night I came across a Pin for miniature pancakes on lollipop sticks and I was outraged. Of all the stupid ideas in the world, this one belonged on the list. What a waste of time, energy, and sticks! How many pancake lollipops would one child have to eat to equal a satisfying breakfast? Wouldn’t they all be cold by the time they were ready to be served? I’m certain that if the mother making those pancakes poured a bowl of cereal instead and then spent the rest of that time she would have been standing at the griddle  either reading a book with her children or taking them outside to play, they would like that a whole lot more. And yet, even though I know all this, on some level, I still feel the need to compete.

As parents, we try not to compare our children to each other. Every child reaches developmental milestones at their own pace. As our children grow, we encourage them to be individuals, to not conform to their peers—yet as an adult, I have difficulty doing the same for myself.

Years ago, my life was simplified when I quit Facebook. There were times that I missed it, but whenever I considered returning, the cons outweighed the pros. Sometimes I wonder if breaking up with Pinterest wouldn’t be the right thing to do too. When I don’t have Super-moms to compare myself to, I feel like I am doing a pretty good job raising my children.

Not every moment has to be perfect or planned. For in the end, it’s the bowls of Cheerios that matter most.

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