How keeping up almost killed me

A friend of mine recently said (and by said I mean typed through the Internet) something poignant to me.

“Don’t compare your ‘behind the scenes’ to everyones ‘highlight reel’ ”

I cannot tell you how much this simple sentence has changed me. Of course! Right? It seems so incredibly uncomplicated. Except it’s not.

We love to compare ourselves to just about anything and anyone, and nowadays it’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex of Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram (et al).

You might find yourself thinking things like:

  • Do my cookies look as delicious?
  • Are my children making crafts as beautiful?
  • Why didn’t that 24 step process of ‘make your own cleaning products’ work for me?! It had 5700 re-pins!
  • Why didn’t our vacation look as amazing as [that person] on facebook?

These are dangerous thoughts. They make us feel ambitious and competitive but they set the bar so impossibly high that it’s no wonder we fall flat on our faces.

Let me start off this cozy little sharing circle, mmkay? We’re safe here! And then you tell me about your revelation!

Let me take you way back in time to January 20th 2013.

I had a 6.5 year old, a 3.5 year old and a 6 week old baby. It had snowed enough to keep us inside nearly every day since he was born (except to drop off and pick up from school) but not enough to accumulate into anything useful.

My eldest son had begun giving me looks of pure hatred as I continued to lock him in the house, afraid for my sanity if I tried to take three children anywhere. My daughter on the other hand happily became one with the television set. I realized this when she was sitting at the dining room table eating cheerios and reciting My Little Pony episodes. (Not lines, full episodes).

My days had blurred from the hospital to the house. Occasionally I scurried like a recently released convict to Target and back again. But the majority of my nights were spent working out ways to get rid of one of my children.

I had made a mistake, surely. I was definitely not meant to have more children than hands with which to duct tape them to the wall.

Who was I going to give up? It was three am. The baby was latched successfully to my breast like a leech and I, in my delirium was pretty sure he was drinking my brains cells instead of milk. I was checking facebook. Again. Facebook is a lonely place at 3am when you are reminded that all normal people are sleeping. (and how I hated the sleeping).

These were the things I looked upon, at 3am:

  • Someone’s vacation photos.
  • Someone elses date night.
  • A pinterest party.
  • An entire album dedicated to someone’s children making a snowman.

The thought electrocuted me through the screen and seared my brain. I must do something to prove I am handling motherhood x3 well. And that was where it all went wrong.

On three hours of sleep the next morning I catapulted out of bed and declared to my wide eyed and obviously afraid (of me) husband. “We are going to the Aviary today!” My children rejoiced at the idea of getting outside of the house and I spent the next two hours packing us up, feeding, changing and then re-feeding and re-changing the baby.

That was the first time I had the niggling feeling that maybe this was a bad idea. But I was not going to let something as ridiculous as instinct ruin my plans.

I wont hold you in suspense. The trip was a complete failure. Judah had his first blow out diaper right there in the Aviary’s viewing room and we were banished to the restroom where I realized I had left his second outfit in the car, exactly one zillion miles away. Sam and Marilyn decided this would be the best exact moment to have an epic fight right outside the restroom door that my husband chose to ignore, but the rest of the Aviary chose to watch with disapproving ‘tsk tsks’. I failed to even consider packing food for my older kids (Gee whiz, you animals want to eat?!) Judah wanted to nurse and currently my blood was boiling (from aforementioned children’s argument) and I was beginning to panic (cold sweat). These were the 2nd-15th times I thought ‘maybe this is a bad idea’. The blanket I brought to cover myself while nursing was hot, Judah was now sweating, the big kids were done with eating and bored. They took to the dusty floor to entertain themselves by pretending to be snakes. Perfect. My husband looked upon the wreckage that lay before him and became quieter and smaller as though if he made no noise, perhaps my wrath would not find him.

The worse it got, the more determined I was to have The Best Time Evar! By the end of the day we had staged photos of happy children, I had frantically stuffed souvenirs into their hands all while near-shrieking ‘Be Happy!’ at them and my husband had written Help Me on his palm and frantically flashed it at anyone who looked at him in a feeble attempt to save himself (I am pretty sure he did this). By the time we got to the car, I was near tears. I don’t think I even saw a bird, to be honest.

As we packed the kids into the car I jokingly said to my husband “Well, I got some good photos. So even if we didn’t enjoy it today, we’ll look back on it in ten years and think we enjoyed it”.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe in ten years, or twenty. I will look back on these photos and forget the time we really had and instead remember the time I wanted everyone else to think we had.

But what was I striving so hard for? To appear perfect and non-flustered? To seem calm and collected? To be some sort of bizarre alpha mom who succeeded in each parenting task with not only poise and grace but also with gusto? I just wanted to show that I could do it too. That I could merge my way back into the life of the living and keep The Wildlings happy while I did it. That I had not made some tragic mistake and ruined all our lives by exceeding my natural talents as a human being, as a mother.

I went home and posted all these photos to facebook. I put up captions like ‘Best time ever!’ and ‘So much fun!’ when what I really wanted to put up were captions like ‘Just changed my kid in a filthy restroom. Would have been more sanitary in a birds nest’ and ‘Thanks for using Judah’s fragile head as your arm rest Marilyn! Way to be careful!’.

But remember when I said the day was a Complete Failure? I fibbed a little bit. During the day of staged photos and near-meltdowns there is one photo that encompasses the truth of life. I didn’t even realize I had taken it until a few days later.

The kids didn’t need perfection, they just needed to be out of the house. They didn’t need souvenirs, they just wanted Joe and I to be present with them. And they certainly didn’t care who thought what about anything.

So if you stumble upon my facebook, if you happen upon my instagram or my amazing gorgeous pinterest boards full of things I’ll likely never do and places I’ll probably never see? Go easy on yourself. These are my highlight reels. But it’s my behind the scenes that make this family mine.

Remember to leave a note sharing your highlight vs behind the scenes story !

6 thoughts on “How keeping up almost killed me

  1. Hi Jen, I found your blog after someone posted a link on Facebook. Shelly maybe? Anyway, you are such an amazing writer-truly. This was the funniest and most heartwarming thing I’ve read in a while. And sooo very true. 🙂

    1. Sorry I am still learning this whole blog thing. That next comment should have been a reply to your comment. I don’t know if it will update you otherwise.

  2. So true! & why I boycotted Pinterest for so long. I’m using it now, as an orginazational tool, but don’t “follow” anyone except in name only & hardly ever check out anyone else’s stuff – I find enough interesting things to look at organically without searching for them specifically.

    1. I was a huge Pinterest fan until I realized that I wasn’t doing anything with it. It’s a good time waster and very pretty but mostly useless. And on top of that it was making me feel bad ! Nothing I did looked like it was supposed to etc etc. I’m sure ill use it again at some point but for now I am too busy ruining adventures of the real kind haha!

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