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The end of the make-believe Supermom

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The modern-day Supermom has a lot of expectations to live up to. (Stock photo by thinkstock.com)

The modern-day Supermom has a lot of expectations to live up to. (Stock photo by thinkstock.com)

because-I-said-so-REDGood people of Utah Valley, if you don’t mind, I’d like to opt out of the Supermom Olympics. If my daughter wants to run around in a stained, ripped leotard all day and not a sweater set from Baby Gap, I say go for it. If my minivan is dirty and fishy-smelling instead of detailed and pristine, so be it. I’m exhausted, and I’m sick of playing grownup make believe.

In February, the KSL-TV lifestyle show Studio 5 had its monthly theme to encourage viewers to “live without pretending.” It’s something that I’ve always struggled with, and I realize I’ve spent the last decade I’ve lived in Utah keeping up with not only the Joneses, but also the Maylees and Taylees, the Navyies and Lakynns.

Among the ridiculous, cringeworthy things I’ve done over the years:

  • I once made bread but decided not to take a loaf to a neighbor because I didn’t have any cute fabric ribbon to tie it up with. I only had curling ribbon.
  • I have, on more than one occasion, missed the sacrament, the holiest and most important religious ritual of my week, because I wouldn’t leave for church without styling my 2-year-old’s hair.
  • When my kids were doing something cute and spontaneous that I wanted to post to Instagram, I restaged it to show a better angle of my house, one without diapers, wipes and toys strewn on the floor.

As I’m typing this I know how silly I sound. I’ll be the first to admit I have a problem, and it has little to do with where I live and everything to do with my own Narcissism. But sometimes I just feel enormous pressure to fit in here in our beautiful, Happy Valley, to have Michelle Obama biceps and a sparkling house, to teach my kids Chinese and to speak reverently about how we all gave up sugar.

There are a million wonderful things about living in Utah County. We have gorgeous mountains and Café Rio. We have a low crime rate and a high quality of life. But the hard thing is that everyone seems so dang perfect, especially where parenting is concerned.

Have you seen Pinterest? Am I the only mom in the world who isn’t throwing birthday parties with hand-calligraphied menus and whimsical fondant cakes?

As part of my recovery, I feel the need to put this out there: My kids wear mostly hand-me-down clothes, and I’m working part-time not because it’s fun and exciting but because I need to help pay for soccer fees and our mortgage. I have long been feeding my kids too much sugar and not enough vegetables, a problem I am working on but haven’t totally fixed. Our family nights sometimes end with little-boy fistfights.

Here’s another thing: I love being a mom. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and, to paraphrase a quote I keep seeing on Facebook, I don’t want to get so caught up with being a super mom that I forget to be a good one. I want less ironing and more fun, less obsessing about perfection and more recognizing joy.

That’s why when I see children at church with wet hair and mismatched shoes, I want to throw my arms around their mother and weep.  A dear friend once said that she let her house get messy in order to help other people feel better about themselves. I laughed about that for weeks. But this friend does make me feel better about myself, and it has nothing to do with the state of her house. She is genuine and caring, positive and real.

That’s all I’m asking of myself, and everyone else. Let’s be real. If you love to sew and can whip up children’s clothing cuter than anything at Nordstrom, that’s fantastic. Make a dress for me too. If you are a great cook, or just naturally gifted at elaborate little-girl hairdos, let those talents shine, shine, shine. I will love and applaud your efforts. But if some days the most you can manage is stringy hair and sweatpants at Walmart, and you don’t even have enough left in the tank to reprimand your kid when he pees in the cart, that’s fantastic too. As with the Velveteen Rabbit, our imperfections make us loveable, make us real.

Besides, I promise to crop out your pee-pants kid and add a flattering filter before posting your picture to Instagram. Really, it’s the least I can do.

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99 Responses to "The end of the make-believe Supermom"

  1. Ramona says:

    Awesome. From an LDS in Alabama. Because the perfect ones make it hard on us simpletons.

  2. Laurie says:

    I have been trying so hard to live real and be real. I firmly believe it is what leads to true happiness.

  3. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this article! There are too many of us women in the church who do compare ourselves and think that every other mother is perfect! Not so! Thank you for your perspective-I hope you get lots of readers to this article! From LDS mom in Oregon

  4. Dianne says:

    And what is with the ridiculous neighbor gift
    Segments on local, Utah stations.
    When you give a neighbor a gift at Christmas time,
    It should signify your gratitude for having
    Such wonderful neighbors in your life. A plate
    Of cookies adorned with a peel and stick bow is
    All it needs to be. Trying to get creative with rolls
    Of wrapping paper and fuzzy socks, is quite frankly nothing
    More than “one upping” Don’t think the Wisemen spent
    Hours on Pinterest, trying to find the better gift.
    Give simply~ from the heart.

    • Amy says:

      As a mom who gives creative neighbor gifts, please realize that this is not done to one up anyone. I am a super busy working mom who doesn’t have time to bake you a plate of homemade anything, but I can run to the store and buy you a bag of semi-homemade cookie mix (or socks or wrapping paper, popcorn, soda, fuzzy socks or anything else I can find for a deal in a box), slap on fun card and try to pretend that I’m a normal stay-at-home mom with oodles of baking time just like you.

      While I love the homemade cookie plates just as much as any gussied up gift, both gifts are from the heart and should be appreciated. Having distain for any gift, just because of extra luster or lack thereof, truly lacks heart.

  5. The Robinson's says:

    Just wanted to thank you for your wonderful article. I was obsessed with cleaning many years ago. It took 5 more children for me to realize that when I die, I will never wish I had cleaned more. However, our time with our little one’s is precious and limited. No amount of money can ever buy back the time you didn’t spend with them, so don’t forget to spend quality time with them.

  6. Jenna says:

    Family Home Evening: The only fight that begins and ends with prayer. 🙂

  7. Rachel says:

    I love this article. I don’t normally try to keep up with the Jonses. Too often my kids go to church or school in crumpled clothes (at least they’re clean) and with hair that is at best combed (some days we’re lucky to get that done). My two little whirlwinds make it impossible to keep a clean house, or have enough time to look cute except on the rare occasion. But, in truth, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    I grew up in a home that seemed perfect from the outside. The house was always clean, the children’s hair and clothes clean and tidy, and my mother made practically everything from scratch and could do just about everything.
    We were miserable.
    All of that outside stuff didn’t leave time or patience to enjoy children or enjoy being a child. So if my kids run around shrieking in spaghetti stained shirts and with wild hair that should have been combed but isn’t–all I have to say is “At least they’re happy.”

  8. sammantha says:

    there is a huge difference between living the gospel and living the culture ! you discovered it!

  9. Amen Sister! I am much too busy being a Mom to worry about appearances.

  10. Jill says:

    Great article – so funny. Utah should relax a little. I live in California and it’s a little more forgiving atmosphere. I pretty much get a free pass for anything just because I have 5 kids. People think that’s just unbelievable.

    I am the Bishop’s wife and I see it as a service when my kids come to church with wrinkled shirts, pants a little short, crazy hair. I figure I probably am making someone feel a little more at home that way. Let’s celebrate being real!

    • Vanessa says:

      I am a mother of 5 as well and my husband is serving as the Bishop too! I learned in the first 6 months to let go of the pressure and expectation to be perfect. I had to! It would have driven me crazy! Just last Sunday, I glanced over to see my 9-year old wearing my blue and white exercise socks with his Sunday shoes! Hope that made someone else realize that we are as imperfect as the next family!!

      • Mom4 says:

        This kind of pressure is what was a contributing factor to the divorce I am currently going through. Four children, a spouse that was a bishop and then on the high council… I worked full time, but was required to keep up the show – ie perfect kids, clean house, always a smile on my face and ready to service a fancy meal in a spotless house whenever there was a last minute invitation to dinner. Be real ladies! I’m learning that lesson after 15+ years of marriage and now losing everything.

    • Amber says:

      Amen to that. California Mormons are my crowd. I came from a small uptight town where everyone in the church seemed to judge each other. We are real here, my friends and I show up to kindergarten pickup in our sweats and no make-up. I would feel so out of place in Utah having to try and be perfect! Thanks for this!

      • Renae says:

        Please stop trying to over generalize. I have about half of my congregation here in “Uptight Utah” that is always more concerned with the state of their relationships than the state of their homes. And I have a sister in “laid back” California that had several women criticize her in public because her daughters nail polish was too loud for church.
        I’m just saying I really wish we could quit using the phrase Utah Mormons or California Mormons. It’s really insulting and frankly not accurate in any description, because people are people, whether in Perfect Cali or Uptight stressed out Utah…..

        • Kalli says:

          Thank you! I find it funny that people think this is a new thing, or that it only exists in the church, or that it only exists in Utah. When my mom was a young mother she experienced the same kind of “pressure” to have a spotless house, well-dressed kids, perfect hair, an ‘adorable’ assortment of hand-painted raffia-tied knick-knacks, freshly baked bread, etc. When my grandmother was a young mom, it was much the same, but add in bridge club and quilting bees (don’t believe me? Read/watch “The Help” for just one example).
          While part of the problem certainly can be attributed to people judging each other too much (and it’s happening on this forum too… Ahem, California vs. Utah? What’s up with that???) I think the main problem comes from within– from comparing ourselves too much to others and from a lack of self-confidence that causes us to post too many selfies so that people will tell us how good we look, and too many pictures of our food/crafts/day-trips in an attempt to convince everyone (and ourselves?) that our lives are picture perfect. We seem to have a problem with allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Why do we do this? I don’t really know. But I definitely think it’s a first world problem.

        • California Transplant says:

          Hallelujah! Thanks for posting your comment. I love it. I don’t understand why people always want to hate on Utah. I grew up in a big city in California – and it sucked. Utah isn’t the promised land, but the people here are just about as good as they are anywhere else. It seems those that grew up here have the hardest time accepting themselves and are the very ones who instituted such an ugly label (Utah Mormons.)

          People don’t blame the religion, don’t blame the so called “culture” like you’re somehow above it – because you’re free to leave anytime. How about we all start being more accountable for ourselves and start worrying less about what everyone else is doing Mormon or not.

  11. Annetta says:

    Thank you this was a PURE JOY to read!! I am a mother of 8 children ( His, Mine, a few of Someone else’s, but they are all Ours), and a proud grandma of 1 grandson. My house is never completely clean, meals are simple or take out, very seldom are they fancy or time consuming and I love it!! I am so grateful to enjoy my life ‘As Is’ messes, amazing children with struggles and imperfections (just like their parents), and dog who barks too much. Wouldn’t it be great if we all, all the time, discovered that living a pretend life is, and always will be a HUGE waste of life energy? Instead what if we focused all that energy in a positive direction and started enjoying the entire experience. Besides other peoples judgments are 99.9% about them, and only .1% about us anyway. Let’s spend more time enjoying and excepting the stage, time and season we are in. Life changes so quickly, kids really do grow up, and the things I have regretted are only the times I wasted on parenting my children based on pleasing someone else or not enjoying my life ‘As Is”.

  12. Sue Loveland says:

    Thank you for your article! I’m sure more people feel the same way. My kids are raised now but I was the same way, I stressed about the silliest things… Until when my kids were 5,4 & 4 months old, I got breast cancer. Then my priorities changed in a hurry! We took life a little less serious and had more fun! Not knowing if I was going to beat cancer or not made my time with my family more important than cute hair, clothes, and mostly what everyone in the ward would think about my parenting skills! My kids had a much happier life as did my husband and I because I changed what was really important in life! Thank The Lord I learned it while they were little!

  13. I am literally laughing and crying at the same time.So true, and so needed!

  14. Tiffany says:

    I love this. I’ve read many articles on this subject that tell people what to do (for example stop going all out on holidays), but you just say “be yourself”. If you love going all out on holidays great, but if you don’t that’s ok to! I love living in Utah to and have choose to place my priorities on spending time with my kids and making memories with them. I don’t feel the pressure of keeping up with the Utah culture because the only person I need acceptance from is the Lord!

  15. Angie says:

    My day has improved immensely from your article. It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone esle is doing right, that I forget to take notice of what I’m doing right. Or at least good enough. I’m going to go make surprise soup (from who knows what) and think about folding some laundry while watching a redbox rented especially for the occasion while sipping my way-too-big-and-sugary Dr. Pepper and not think about my supermom to-do list. 🙂

  16. jay in mesa says:

    too much of the “supermom syndrome” here in AZ. Thanks Utah for sending the gospel from your state, but you can keep the culture you guys invented to go with it up there in the holy land.

  17. Michelle says:

    I gave up on perfection years ago. I sometimes tell my kids, who come up against the perfection seeking youth at church universities, “Apparently their Jesus isn’t as strong as ours. Ours is so perfect we don’t have to be.”

    When we give up the pretense of perfection we are giving a gift to those around us, we are giving a gift to ourselves, and most importantly we are receiving the gift the Savior so freely gave to us.

  18. Liz says:

    This article pinpoints the reasons I would never live in Happy Valley. And for the people lumping all of Utah into this cultural mode, I will tell you, here in Salt Lake City, this type of competition does not exist. If it did, I’d have no desire to join in. I love the advice to “be yourself”, but I wonder, perhaps some don’t know themselves well enough to do that.

    • Karen says:

      Oh… it exists in SLC. Probably not as bad as other places, but it definitely exists. I’m glad it doesn’t exist in your neighborhood though. 🙂

    • The Atomic Mom says:

      As one who does not live in Wasatch Front Utah, but comes to visit on occasion, it does exist all over Utah. We have been made to feel very uncomfortable when people find out we don’t have, or do, like they do.

    • Carli Field says:

      I grew up in Holladay and I have lived in Sandy/Draper, south Jordan and now for 2 years in Utah County. I will tell you that where I live in Utah County I don’t have that at all , it is the best of all of the places I have lived so far. I really think it depends on your neighborhood . I have always teased about Utah county and said I would never live in “happy valley” but I Love it ! I think there are things about each place you can go in Utah and outside of Utah that are hard and positive .What you have to do is decide who you are and be happy with it. Learn from others and always work on bettering yourself but laugh at your mistakes and realize that nobody is perfect and don’t strive for that. I love what she said in this article. I think as you get older you realize these things and become content with who you are and are a much happier person 🙂

  19. Shellie says:

    If you sat next to my four boys at church you would cry all your mascara off and bond with me for life afterward! I couldn’t agree with you more….

  20. Amberlie says:

    I have lived in Utah County and a couple other states as well and I have seen it in each place, I believe it has become part of the cultural to members of our church and has become a problem. We need to remember the reason why the church is true and the true teachings of the gospel!

  21. Beth says:

    From a non-LDS that lived in Farmington for 5 years…You go girl (mom)! I loved Utah but all the ‘perfectness’ absolutely drove me nuts!

  22. Cheryl Reynolds says:

    A good friend once told me that she loved coming to my house because I have dust. I took it as a great compliment,

  23. Carlee says:

    Love love love this!!! I have cried before because I feel like a loser mom that I can’t keep up with the over the top birthday parties for the kids!! 🙂 I still have the silly homemade cakes that my kids help decorate…..but they love it! The sad thing is that those parties aren’t for the kid at all…..it is all for show. I loved reading this…a great reminder of what is important! Thank you!

  24. Sheila says:

    Good for you! I am probably more real than the “in crowd” at church, but my kids have turned out (so far) to be hard workers that paid for their own missions and first two years of university (so far) because they aren’t busy trying to turn into pretending adults. I struggle like you just to do the basics.. Houses should be clean enough to be healthy but dirty enough to be happy. This summer I had a separation, unemployment, a torn achilles which developed a bloodclot (so on crutches in a house full of stairs for 6 weeks) and somehow, I expected myself (for the first little bit) to still keep a smile on my face, a perfectly tidy house and to throw the perfect farewell party for my daughter.. Let’s be real…. If I can find a sock for my one good foot cause I haven’t done the laundry for two weeks..ok..If my garden is out there rotting cause I don’t want to harvest on crutches.. all the more for the birds!.If I listened to my daughter tell about homework, or visited with the sick neighbor girl for a few minutes..isn’t that really what it’s all about anyway! Bedtime stories outwin flat abs and clean windows anyday!

  25. Betty Chila says:

    Thank you! I was stressing about leaving the house a mess to go to my son’s JR.high football game today, but quality with my kids definitely outweighs a clean house! There is enough time after they are grown to worry about the state of my house!

  26. Leone says:

    There are no perfect Mormons. There never were and never will be. If you are intimidated by someone else’s talents – it is your problem. If someone else is judging you because you can not do something – it is their problem. Don’t worry, be happy. President Hinkley said that if you do your best the Lord can’t ask for more than that. Your best is between you and the Lord; not the “THEY” that we worry about what “they” think.

  27. Carrie says:

    My kids are grown now. I remember all those Pursuit of Excellence classes and all the other RS classes about constantly striving for perfection. Yes. It’s a cultral thing.

    • Ashlee says:

      I don’t believe that not being the “super-mom” means that you stop your pursuit of excellence. Shouldn’t we always be striving to be our best selves? I completely agree with this article and about not keeping up with the Jones’ but I think that is different than trying our best to better ourselves and striving for perfection.

      • Dale says:

        I completely agree, Ashlee. The goal IS to become perfect, but as King Benjamin said, “it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.”

  28. Elyssa Andrus says:

    *** From the author *** Thank you so much for your comments. I have read them all, and I am touched by so many words of support from others fighting the good fight. I should clarify that I don’t think that the pressure to be perfect is unique to Utah or Utah Valley. I’m sure it exists anywhere there is a parent with a kid asking how to spell that she “ruined” his day. (True story, from yesterday. My kindergartner was loudly writing his grievances because I made him go to his brother’s soccer game instead of a friend’s house.) Let’s just, as one reader said, celebrate the days when we find the right sock … and celebrate each other. Thanks again for reading this. I am truly grateful. *Elyssa

  29. Michelle says:

    love, Love, LOVE!!!!!
    I’ve already pinned this & I’m going to share it with every mom I know. No doubt about it.
    Thank you!

    -Michelle
    Trust Me, I’m a Mom
    http://www.trustmeimamom.com

  30. L.D. says:

    Elyssa: Thank you for this. What is it all for if we cannot be genuine and real with each other? I love your words and so appreciate all that you shared. What a blessing it is to be a mommy today, imperfections and all. I want to embrace imperfection!

  31. Crystal says:

    Lol great article! Although, I haven’t ever been one to really care about what others think. My girls go to church most often with only “brushed” hair. And THAT is a feat most days. Lol there are other things I would rather do then clean house all day. Besides, staying in doors, cleaning all day is depressing! To me anyway! We are more than a maid. We are people too! And need to take care of ourselves also. Find a great hobby! There are plenty out there that can stretch you, make you feel good about yourself, bring in income and even make a difference in the community. That’s what I did, and I LOVE it!

  32. Jackie says:

    All I can say is, YOU ROCK!!! 🙂

  33. Summer says:

    I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! My son peed his pants at Walmart last month in the checkout line . . .pee dripping from his bottom in the cart all over the floor. Yeah, I’m one of those moms. The whole time I read this I thought, I am the one with the stinky car and kid with pee pants!

  34. Rachel says:

    I have friends that I feel truly are better mothers than me. I learn a lot from them, but I’ll admit that it does make me pity my kids that they got me in the eternal lottery. But, happily, I have found several moms who are a lot like me in their imperfectness and it makes motherhood so much easier!

  35. happy momma says:

    Love it! I wrote a post on my blog about a year ago. It was at back to school time. It said a lot of the same things, just with a lot less humor. I entitled “it be your own kind of supermom” . We spend waaaaaaay to much time comparing ourselves to others and the internet makes it all the worse, because we see things at the very best and we tend to compare it to our very worst. It is no comparison. I am much happier now that I have thrown it all out and remember the lesson I learned at a high school dance years ago. I was 15 at the time. I had a friend who encouraged me to let loose and dance and enjoy myself. I was soooooo self conscious. I just knew they would all be laughing at me. He said “look around no one is paying attention to you, they are all to concerned about themselves” I took that to heart. I enjoyed that dance and many after that. That night changed my life until Motherhood took hold.

    Motherhood came and it was a whole new ballgame. I started comparing myself to other mothers. I spend the first few years of motherhood beating myself up because I could not compare to others. Lucky for me I was reminded of that lesson that I learned. I started dancing my own dance and not comparing myself to others. It has been really freeing to me to know that I am my own supermom to my kiddos and even if I do not do all the really cool things that other mothers do, I am making memories with my family. I want them to remember me as the cool mom that did things with them, and not the stressed out mom that was making “wonderful whatevers” for everyone else but neglecting the family.

    I think I will take up that thought above and when I see someone who is struggling and the kids are mismatched I am going to take them under my wing, give them a big hug and show them how to dance a real dance a joyful dance will help them to find joy in real life, because that is where it is at, encouraging one another to be the best they can be, not wollowing in the pain of keeping up with everyone else.

    http://www.lifelesshurried.com/2012/09/be-your-own-kind-of-supermom.html

  36. Zephne says:

    I have been uptight about this for a year! You expressed my thoughts and feelings so PERFECTLY. Thank you! Jesus Christ loves us the way we are and understands that we struggle. But sometimes, our struggles aren’t that important! In the long run, are your children happy and healthy? Speaking of which – gotta go be a mom! THANK YOU!

  37. Rachel says:

    Trying to be supermom and judging others is a human problem, not just a Utah Valley problem. I live in Utah county and I’ve lived other places, and it’s not unique to here. And btw, I don’t feel judged by my neighbors and ward members. Maybe I’ve just learned to ignore things and do what works for me and my family. Just be nice, ladies!

  38. Misty Lambert says:

    thanks so much. It is so true. And have you read “Velveteen Principles: for women” by chance? That book is FANTASTIC!!! We should all be little Velveteen Bunnies. Thanks again for a great post. No more make-believe. 🙂

  39. Far from perfect says:

    Thanks for the clarification. A mother’s drive to be seen as public “supermom” when in private feeling more like a “simplemom” is neither unique to Utah, nor to LDS culture. It exists in all states and is no respecter of religion: women in general suffer from supermom-itis. I appreciate the truly brave moms whose superpowers include allowing kids to pick their outfits whether they match or not, keeping their house livable not spotless and raising kiddos who will be contributing members of society one way or the other. I think we all agree that us moms are all doing our best and the last thing we need is self-imposed perfection pressure. I, for one, had enough of that a decade ago.

  40. Kristen says:

    I live in Utah valley, I have 6 kids and struggle balancing the demands of motherhood. Over time I have learned from my experiences that most of the pressure of being ” the perfect mother” are pressures we put on ourselves. When it really comes down it we realize that most everyone is doing the best they can with the best they have. And if we learn to accept our own best efforts, we can find happiness in our imperfections, and realize that others around us are too busy trying to keep their lives in balance to notice our imperfections as well.

  41. Stephanie says:

    Hooray! There are normal people in happy valley! I had lost all hope. You inspire me, and hopefully all the other stepford females, and the husbands who expect them to be perfect. And even thought everyone in the valley thinks they are more righteous than any one else, (just by living in the shadow of BYU) you have the humility to actually be counted as one of the truly righteous. Thank you.

    • Steve says:

      What a ridiculous display of black and white thinking, when you say “Even thought (I assume it you meant though) everyone in the valley thinks they are more righteous than any one else” you expose how truly insecure you must be. Judging everyone with such short sighted blinders must lead to much unhappiness if your life. The problem of comparing oneself to others is neither unique to Utah Valley, Utah or Mormonism.

  42. Elyssa Andrus says:

    Also, if you have a minute to share this column on Facebook, I would really appreciate it. Just hit share at the top of the page.

  43. Jack says:

    Matthew 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” wasn’t talking about home made and hairstyles, Matthew was talking about humility, charity and “Love one another as I have loved you”. I applaud your change of heart, now teach your children about helping others, giving a dollar or so to your brother that stands asking on the street corner. Teach them that what he does with the money isn’t their or your business, but between the man and his God. While your at it, teach them to reach out to the lonely, depressed perhaps new student in school that others make fun of or harass… Then you will be Supermom in the Lords eyes and does any other eye matter?

  44. DJ says:

    While I agree with you in your mentality shift, the negative tone in suggesting that everyone doing these things thinks themselves above another is not the right focus either… this type of thinking will lead to you mocking others for just trying to do what is obviously the hardest and most rewarding thing any of us will ever do… parenting. It is no more right for anyone to judge someone for cleaning their car than it is to judge someone for not cleaning it. I think if we all just focus on being the best we can be, then you don’t miss important things because hair styling is overlooked. I know by writing this you might assume where my thoughts are, and maybe you guess right, but as I sat in my bed this morning thinking about what I could do to make my daughters birthday a special one, the thought that it would be a lot easier if other parents didn’t set the bar so high as to make it darn near impossible for a full time student and widowed father to keep up with what they see other kids doing was quickly pushed out of my mind when I remembered it was more about a 7 year old girl and making her feel as special as I knew how with the time and resources available to me. Its not a race, its parenting, and hopefully everyone is just doing their best. maybe some people have better bests, haha! that doesn’t reflect poorly on me, my daughter was still excited to see a mcdonalds happy meal even if their were no pony rides with it.

  45. Heather says:

    This is fantastic! I’m with you for sure! My sister-in-law and I were talking on the phone yesterday and she mentioned “how many things do we as moms do for our own selfish reasons?” Certainly our child doesn’t care if her hair is done perfectly. They don’t care if their shirts are stained or they smell like stinky boys. WE do. we care about what others think. our desserts don’t need to be fancy. we want others to think we are AWESOME. BTW, you are awesome.

  46. Nicole says:

    I have finally realized the desire to appear perfect comes from not accepting ourselves, especially our imperfections. There is happiness to be found when we love ourself for who we are, that includes celebrating the good, as well as acknowledging the bad, and sometimes just plain ugly in all us.
    When we truly love and accept ourself, the pressure we perceive to be perfect drops away. When we stop judging ourself, we see the world as less judgmental. When we are confident in who we are, we don’t need to spend time trying to impress others.
    Sounds simple, but it’s something I am working on daily. I know I am making progress when I don’t feel the need to apologize for who I am.

    • Jeanine says:

      You hit the nail on the head. That is something I also work on daily. It wasn’t until I realized that, that I found peace in my own life. I realized I was my own worst critic and it was limiting me in every way. Once I stopped judging myself and gave myself permission to really be ME, speak my mind and not care what anyone else thought of me was when I started to truly grow as a person. I feel like I’ve had a huge break through. I’m also way more accepting of others, and try to have compassion where I may have judged before.

    • Raquelita says:

      You said it perfectly.

  47. Catherine says:

    This article is hilarious and strangely uplifting. Thanks.

  48. mommyloves2 says:

    I am a Utah County mother of two. I am grateful that I have yet to experience the kind of pressure for perfectionism described in this article and its comments. I believe we all have different talents and we should not compare our talents since no two of us is the same. My sister-in-law sews the most adorable pinterest worthy clothes for her children. That is her talent. I enjoy cake decorating as a hobby- but I can barely sew on a button. Isn’t it nice that she can make my kids clothers and I can make her kids a birthday cake. I think we should all stop judging each other and celebrate our individuality.

  49. Rebecca says:

    Thank you so much for this! I cried while reading the article and the responses. I’m so glad I am not alone! I am so sick of feeling like I have to apologize to everyone who comes to the door for the toys on the floor and that we haven’t gotten dressed for the day yet. I haven’t even asked any babysitters from the ward to come sit with my kids for fear they will immediately go home and tell their mother what a pig sty I live in with this ocean of toys. It is such a relief to know there are real LDS moms out there who also have no time for pinterest projects and primping.

  50. heather bell says:

    Never been one to impress. TAke me or leave me.=)

  51. Jen says:

    I’ve lived in happy valley for 6 years and do think women here have perfect mom syndrome more frequently. I have never figured out how people have the energy to pretend and know my children are always the disheveled looking ones, my very unstylish mini van is always a mess, and I can’t remember the last time I posted a instagram-worthy photo of my kids. Add the fact that i work outside of the home and it’s as though I’m a leper. I’ve never felt like I really fit in here. This is a great article, but I seriously doubt things will change any time soon.

  52. K. Smith says:

    Amen! AMEN! You go girl!

  53. Ana Magnussen says:

    Lol, I live in Maringa – Brasil, and I feel the same pressure, I’ve lost one or two sacrament searching for hairbands, we all need to calm down…

  54. Jackie says:

    And yet the woman in the photo is picture perfect with flowing cape and all. How much time, effort, and money was spent in that?

  55. Kassie says:

    Lets not have a Utah bashing session, I am originally from Wyoming, and/or Colorado, but I live in Utah now not on the Wasatch Front, but in a town east of Salt Lake. I think you make what you want out of where you live and what you do. I loved the article because I have seen that here but also where my parents live in Wyoming! We are all children of god and it is important for us to accept each other as we are and it is Gods job to judge us! I have learned to love my neighbors even the ones you call the Joneses or whatever! But I could careless if they don’t like me! I go to church to be close to God! If I make some friends a long the way that are accepting of me and my imperfections…score! I agree being real is a challenge for some but to be honest most people can probably read right through your fake persona! Enjoy life, don’t allow yourself to feel miserable while pretending to be happy!

  56. joanna says:

    Wow this is refreshing! I just had these thoughts last week and was hoping someone on a social site would say something! I love living in Utah valley but don’t love being of Utah valley. Let’s just all be real people please!

  57. Kathy says:

    Loved this article, I am at the tail end of raising 8, it is all about spending time with your sweet children, they grow up and remember the time you spent with them, Amen to stopping the comparing and judging,

  58. Jennifer says:

    I have to say that I lived here in Utah Valley for three years now and I think it is all where you live. Where I live and in my neighborhood I don’t have friends that fit into this. Maybe it is because we are all not from Utah and have moved here for our husbands to finish school. Maybe it is because we are all “poor” and don’t have the time or $$$ for “keeping up” with everything. Yes, I am that mother that you may see my daughter running outside in her panties and my son wearing mix match clothes to play in. I am that mother that does wear her pj’s all day if I am home and not going anywhere and allow my kids to do the same. I am so happy to live where I live. To know that my kids have friends that are similar to us and can all have fun without judging. I too have friends that can come into my messy home and to know that there’s looks that same because we rather play with our kids than worry about the home at that moment. Life is to live and not worry about the things that don’t matter.

  59. Silby says:

    To all hardworking mums out there, please, please, please stop comparing yourselves to others. It’s all a fantasy. I have had it the other way. I have been the one’s others compare themselves to. Somehow everyone seems to think I have it together and whenever I try to point out how often I fail to make the grade they think I’m kidding or just being nice. I’m not. My house isn’t picture perfect and never has been. I don’t hand sew all my daughter’s dresses, even though I could if i wanted. (I have the skill, I just can’t be bothered.) I don’t make my own bread (I have a bread maker) Just be the mum you are meant to be. Stop reaching for the stars, they will forever be out of reach. ‘To thine own self be true.’ Heavenly Father doesn’t want a world populated by clones. He want’s unique, quirky, gets it wrong sometime (most times) tries her best all times, daughters. I love you all. You are all fabulous. Yay for us! 🙂

  60. Amber says:

    Awesome! I went to BYU in “Happy Valley” and had a small taste of this perfectionism. This is the ONE AND ONLY thing that makes me nervous to live in Utah. As a laid back Californian I don’t do well with people who seem so well….PERFECT! I don’t want to read blogs about how wonderful your children are and how your 2 year old already reads the Book of Mormon fluently. I want to hear how your kid wet themself at Target while your other kid went on to have a huge temper tantrum in the middle of the store aisle. In a weird way I need to know people have days just like I do so I can feel empowered! Being a mom is a wonderful blessing with the messy/crazy stuff included.

  61. Carrie says:

    This gave me the best laugh of my day…and I teach 2nd grade, so that’s saying something! I was always making my friends feel better about their homes and kids when my kids were growing up, because I’m a giver 😉

  62. Michaun says:

    The only word I can think of is: AMEN!!!!

  63. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I wish more people realized this problem like you.

    I do have to say that at least you have friends and genuinely nice people around you. I am in a place where not only is there the “one-upping” issue, but also many cruel stereotypes that are discriminated against. And yes, even in church. I am young and married- strike 1. I am not curtrently in school(out of state transfer)- strike 2. I live in an apartment- strike 3. I work nights which sometimes have to include Sunday-strike 4.

    Now because of the elitist area I live in, I have no friends, and even a bubble of empty seats around me when I sit down in church. Like I said, I wish more people were like you.

  64. Crystal says:

    I loved this blog. I took it and not only posted it on my FB page, but challenged all the moms I know to post a picture of the messiest room in their house, which I did as well. I didn’t think anyone would take me up on it. But quite a few did. With each post it became more and more obvious that not only are we moms not perfect, but we’re quite busy doing some really great things that don’t always include cleaning every nook of our homes. I love my brave friends for kicking the “super-mom” myth out the door and embracing the realness of what it means to just be a great mom!

    Thanks again for such a great article.

  65. KayLyn says:

    Well said. You should move to Colorado. Real is the norm here. And going to church is about coming closer to Christ, not about fitting in with the keeping up with the Jones’ culture.

  66. Angela says:

    Finally my thoughts put into words!! I moved to “The UC” (my pet name for Utah County) nine years ago from Cache Valley and there was a huge difference!! I can’t keep up and quite honestly have no desire to keep up with anyone!! But at first even within my husbands family I felt pressure, I mean their babies wore more jewelry than I did and the hair I’m not even going to go there!! I am glad that I got over it (and had boys so I didn’t have to worry) and can just be happy putting on my t-shirts and sweats after church on Sunday!!!

    Do what makes you happy!! Life is too short to have to keep up with anyone!! I loved what you said about doing what you’re good at and what makes you happy. Those that bring sunshine into the lives of others can’t keep it from themselves!! Do good, be good!!

  67. Lauren says:

    I love this article. Hopefully, it will be read by many. I like how you talk about the ridiculous things you’ve done yourself. Many years ago, I was so overwhelmed by working full time and having young children and then my health deteriorating (because I was pushed to the limit), that I was forced to let go of so many things. This has made me profoundly unhappy for nearly a decade as I want to cook perfect dinners every night, dress my kids in lovely clothes, bake bread, etc… but often find that I can’t. I have been judged in strange ways by some people.

    I think we’ve lost sight of loving others. All these things we do are seeking the approval of others and our own made up sense of success but not love or joy. It’s actually quite far away from the gospel of Christ and truly loving others. I have received cute little VT gifts with poems and ribbons – and I marvel and enjoy them. But the best Visiting Teachers I have ever had have been the ones to “just show up, open themselves up to me in real and imperfect ways, listen, and generally be a friend”. When that kind of service is extended I find joy in myself and in them and I don’t ever miss a ribbon.

    My own confession: I consider myself pretty ‘real’, however, I am pregnant and moving and I recently went through a major freak out because I wasn’t able to clean my home before someone from relief society came over to help me clean my home. 🙂

    I hope you keep spreading the message and keep looking at yourself for all the ways you can be more ‘real’, more heartfelt, more focused on joy, more focused on others and not ourselves….just as we all should be after reading this post.

  68. Karen says:

    I’ve lived in many places–Calif, Oregon, Tennesee, West Virginia and even on a tiny island in the Pacific called Saipan (we called it ‘Celestial Saipan’). I Have visited often many more places as my kids move around the country. Here’s what I think. There are varying levels of this “one-up culture” wherever I’ve lived or visited. It exists inside the church as well as out. It exists in foreign cultures as well as our own. I believe we as women need to settle down. we need to get real with ourselves and study our scriptures, especially those concerning women, pray hard to the Lord and get on with life. We need to get testimonies of just who we are and what we’re capable of spiritually (and by spiritually, I mean every aspect of our lives). We need to REALLY study the Lord’s opinion of women and what he wants from us. It’s between me and the Lord about whether I put a cute ribbon on a loaf of bread or just hand it over out of love–no one else. BUT, as I find out who I am, I find myself just DOING and not worrying about who thinks what. It’s a hard thing to learn, but with study. prayer and focus, we learn of Heavenly Father’s unlimited love for us, we learn to love him back and guess what? Confidence, and joy of living take over and we become fearless! I think it gets easier with age and experience, but so many young moms and single gals need to learn this now. Hang in there girls! We have a lot to live for, and a pretty bow on a loaf of bread just doesn’t matter!

  69. Amy says:

    I think it’s important to find a balance. I think an orderly home should be kept but not so others can walk into it and be impressed but so that we can have peace of mind. However, when you have had a long week and your son left 3 weeks worth of math homework to the last night and he doesn’t understand it (and you don’t either quiet frankly) and your daughter called you from school three times saying her ear hurt so you finally have to leave you at home business (which is totally demanding that day) and take her to the doctor who tries to cancel when you are half way there (so you throw a small conniption fit over the phone and they decide to fit you in somehow bc now they are scared not to) and your other daughter is screaming for attention and following you around everywhere like a little duckling and you forget the piano teacher is out of town and show up in a rainstorm anyway and you forget you have primary presidency meeting—- you should go back to bed the next day and sleep until 10 am and then get up and clean up the mess with a little fresher perspective. 🙂 Whew- I’m tired just retyping my last 24 hours!

  70. Patty says:

    The problems, the pressure are typical of that stage of life, not just in Utah, California or anywhere. It isn’t even a Mormon issue. I’ve been both a young catholic mother and a young Mormon mother and they both were exactly the same. The pressure on my grandmother and mother to keep up with June Cleaver or whoever the 30’s equivalent was, is just as real as the current keep up with the Jones today. We joined the church while living in rural upstate New York. We went from being in a huge congregation of 2000 to a small branch of 20. The pressure to feel you had to be perfect didn’t change suddenly, it was exactly the same. I feel that it is Satan’s way of making things hard on young families. It’s taken another 40 years to get to the point where I can see that. It doesn’t make it any easier on my children or grandchildren dealing with it, but it’s really true. I don’t remember if my home was clean or cluttered. I do remember the walks to the park, the picnics of peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I do remember sitting on the couch with my mother as she patiently showed me how to take small, even stitches on a long lost embroidery project. I can’t remember if the laundry was done, if the dishes were washed, if my hair was styled or if I wore a pretty dress. Thankfully at some point I remembered those things, before I drove my own children batty and just ignored the laundry, cleaning and thousands of other things that I could be doing and concentrated on the things that mattered. I wasn’t perfect and I’m sure not anywhere close today. Just let it go dear sisters, just let it go. You only have so much time, spend it where it counts and ignore the rest.

  71. Sherrilee says:

    Good for you!
    I’ve never tried to be the “perfect” mom I didn’t have time. I go to church most Sunday’s without any makeup on.
    (Would have rather died than doing this when I was young and single)
    We miss Sacrament most Sunday’s not because we don’t want to be there but because we have a severely autistic son who is completely overwhelmed by the noise and children that can cry in Sacrament.
    Is that anyone’s fault? Of course not!!
    It’s just our reality. Most people think I’m not even active because I serve in the Primary. They don’t see me so I’m not there. My husband is in YM and my oldest son is still finishing High School and will be for a while.
    I pin things on Pinterest but my kids don’t get fabulous home made cakes, they get one from the grocery store.
    I CAN bake and I do bake and cook most things from scratch I just gave up doing cakes some years ago.
    I don’t attempt to be perfect and that really annoys some of the ‘have to seem perfect’ folks. I also speak my mind and if you don’t like it, too bad for you. 😉
    I’m fun, once in awhile funny, straightforward, shoot from the hip sort of woman. If you don’t like people like that, you won’t like me.
    Believe me a lot of people don’t.
    I don’t have time for the silliness. I have a severely autistic son who is the light of our lives, my oldest son has some special needs as well and I’m on my second marriage because my first husband couldn’t keep his covenants and you know what? That’s ok.
    Because this life is about making mistakes and learning from them.
    I don’t expect to be perfect yet and there are some things I just don’t have time for. If you want a strong, independent woman to be your lifelong friend then I’m that girl! If not well, you know who to talk to! 😉

  72. debi says:

    Awesome article! I just came to this conclusion a couple of days ago (the messy house so others feel better one lol). Thank you!

  73. Clarissa says:

    Great Read! If you want to know why all those people out there are trying to be perfect READ any 3 of Brene Brown books she tells you why people act the way they do! One word SHAME!!
    Your eyes will be open after reading all about it!

  74. Shannon says:

    I don’t think this just happens in Utah or with other people of our own faith, I think it happens all around us. I am so glad that you wrote this article. I have felt that way for years. I can only be me. Thank you for a great article!

    Another Oregon LDS Mom

  75. Anita says:

    When we moved into the neighborhood I wore large tshirts and sweats and dirty grimy clothes everyday because we were doing a remodel on our house. Every one who came to our door to welcome us saw our home ripped to shreds and us covered in dust or paint. That really helped me start off in the neighborhood not really caring. Just yesterday, after living here for a few years I just took my son and dog on a walk in sweat shorts and an old ugly hoodie. Sometimes I show up to church with wet hair and since having a baby I almost never have it styled. I do get ready some days but I’m saying that by my first impression of myself the opposite of perfect it’s helped me start off on the right foot in the neighborhood, not caring about appearances. I didn’t do it intentionally but it helped that for a few months we were so involved with the remodel we just were being ‘real’.

    That said I have really wonderful neighbors. When you serve others you love them. When you help and compliment others they feel good. I have found focusing on my son, my husband, or helping others always brings true happiness.

    AlsoSometimes it’s us who’s to blame. we may have a particularly good day and set it or use it as a standard of what we should be like everyday. I think that’s a mistake. We should do our best but not enough to stretch ourselves to the brink of exhaustion. Elder Hollands talk on depression was WONDERFUL and he mentions that we need to rest, we need to take it easy and not push ourselves too hard. Keeping up with the jones’ or setting personal expectations for performance that are based on the exceptions rather than the rule is what will run us all into the ground or make us miserable in the process.

    We all have our strengths and weaknesses, every one of us.

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