The school year is in full swing and now that the hoopla around class assignments, bus routes, and incredibly specific school supply lists is over, some of us moms find ourselves settling into our own familiar routine: feeling inadequate. I work full-time outside of the house, and I love my job. I also love my two boys, who are in 2nd and 4th grades. And once upon a time, before I went back to work, I enjoyed trying to make things as pretty as they could be; a craze spread by the original judge and jury of inadequacy, Pinterest.
Several years ago, Pinterest entered our lives with many clever and fun ideas about literally everything: fashion, home decor, gardening, stealing paint chips from Home Depot and turning them into a wreath, and forcing your entire family into mustard yellow and staging them perfectly in a wheat field for a Christmas card photo. Soon, Pinterest also quickly established itself as the leading authority on ALL things child-related. Anything that could be made cuter, more fun or perfect for your kids had a detailed plan supported by high resolution photos.
Finally, Pinterest transcended Matrix-style consciousness and was no longer a website or app, but a lifestyle that slowly dissolved its unrealistic standards of perfection into our daily lives. What used to be inspiration started to shift our self-esteem down a few notches if we didn’t hit the mark in all kid-related everything: the perfect school lunch box and food contained within, the perfect Halloween costume, the perfect holiday gifts for teachers, the perfect everything.
At first I didn’t mind trying to keep up. When my oldest son was starting kindergarten, I refinished a vintage school desk and created the most elaborate first day of school photo vignette. It took me two weeks to make, and it was freaking beautiful. But it was also really exhausting keeping my cool as I tried to get my five-year-old to sit still while snapping fifty photos. I remember thinking, who am I doing this for?!
When I returned to work almost three years ago, the weight of making everything perfect really started to take its toll and I simply stopped. Pinterest makes all things the best versions of themselves, but when you’re a working mom your best can feel like you called it in from an 80’s payphone. Because you literally phoned your own mom and asked her to please track down a presentation board for the science fair. Then you yelled at your kids at 7 p.m. for not getting their act together and coming up with a project for the science fair. Finally, you let your kids drop out of the science fair because it would’ve just been you dropping Cheerios into Dr. Pepper and making graphs.
The weight of perfection doesn’t just affect us moms; it trickles down to the kids. I remember being in the fourth grade making my own valentines out of construction paper. Were they good? Not really. Were either of my parents involved, helping me assemble glow sticks into Cupid’s arrows? Also no. Last year I tried to make my kids reuse leftover Star Wars Valentines and they basically threatened to form a union and sue me.
Can we please set ourselves and each other free? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired! I can barely keep track of school events, days off, sport schedules, birthday parties, fundraisers, registrations, orthodontist appointments, writing projects, and volunteer opportunities! Please, Merciful Father Above, tell me there isn’t something I need to be preparing in a pretty and magical way for a classroom activity, outlined in a teacher email from three days ago that I have yet to read.
If you are one of the moms who actually enjoy all the Pinterest things (I know a handful of you beautiful creatures) this isn’t about you. You make the world more aesthetically pleasing and nobody can hate that. But maybe when you bring your perfect, end-of-year teacher basket of curated local artisan goods and you see the pitiful Amazon gift card tucked into a blank note card, let me know it’s okay and we’re all doing the best we can. Or better yet, just make two baskets and I’ll pay you for it!
Ava Palmquist lives in Bonny Slope with her husband and two sons, and works full time at a creative agency managing projects and providing brand and content strategy to clients. A Portland native, she immigrated to Oregon from Iran as a child and passionately loves this place. She also loves being a mom and apologizes to anyone who heard her give parenting advice before her kids were born. A series of her industry blogs can be found here.