Parenting as a performance art

Motherhood and all that the word entails has changed in recent years. With the development of the Internet and subsequently, of social media, motherhood has become less a private relationship with your child or children, and more a performance for others to comment and weigh in on. We post pregnancy announcements on Facebook, and nowadays, even make a performance out of finding out if we’re having a girl or a boy. I know you’ve seen the videos of couples popping balloons with pink or blue confetti and all the variations thereof. Once the baby is born there are, of course, adorable pictures, and the accompanying announcement on Facebook. Then every month after you can usually expect to see another picture (or pictures) of aforementioned baby with a cutesy number designating how many months or weeks old they are.

I’ll admit, I’m not above all of this. I’m a millennial parent, and as such, social media is a large part of my life. In fact, I’ve done most of the things I’ve mentioned! And I recognize that the stress of “keeping up with the Joneses” can be overwhelming because it’s easy for me to compare myself to other moms, too. I find myself becoming jealous of other moms at times thinking they got professional photos taken, why didn’t I? (Because it’s expensive.) All of these instances add up, which causes moms like you and me to wonder, “Am I good enough?” 

We have an individualist culture of perfection. Being a mom is not exempt from that culture– from what our bodies look like, to whether or not we’re parenting the “correct” way, and everything in between. The term “parenting” didn’t come about until the 1950s after psychoanalytic research and attachment theory developed. Think about that. Prior to 1950, you were just a parent; there was no parenting. No labels, which millennial moms seem to love so much (helicopter, free range, crunchy, silky, and scrunchy…. the list goes on). This concept of parenting changed our way of thinking, and now that we’re flooded with information from family, friends, books and the INTERNET telling you a million different ways to parent, it’s no wonder that we’re constantly anxious about whether or not we’re doing it “right”!

The good news is that “good enough” is not the same as “perfect.” I know a lot of us look at other moms on social media and see what we assume is perfection. But, guess what? You’re comparing their highlight reel to your behind the scenes. Those moms aren’t perfect either. My good friend and mentor, who specializes in child therapy, once told me that there isn’t a parent that doesn’t regret something they did while raising their child. We all make mistakes, we all have off days, and we all feel like we’re at the end of our proverbial rope at times. And, mama, that is okay.

You’re not “ruining” your baby if you can’t run to them every time they wail. You really only need to respond quickly 25-30% of the time for your baby to form a secure attachment. So take a breath and remember that your baby will still love you, because sometimes, especially if you’re going through perinatal anxiety or depression, it’s hard to go running every time your baby gets upset. And if you have to use formula, whether exclusively or as a supplement, your baby will still turn out just fine. It’s more important that your baby is fed than exclusively breastfed. Remember too, that if you’re not on social media posting every smile or even once a month because you’re too strung out to do so, that’s perfectly fine. It’s really not a competition. And remember that the mama posting those gorgeous photos of her little bundle of joy all over Facebook still has days she can’t get it together too. You just don’t see it posted on social media.

However, if posting monthly photos of your little one makes you happy, then go for it! Just remember that you can’t compare yourself to others. That only leads to feelings of inadequacy, and you are not inadequate. Just like me, I’m certain that you’re doing the best you can at this thing we now call parenting.

good enough

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