Good 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.