Do you ever feel like a Pinterest fail in post-divorce parenting?
I’ll admit I’m a bit of a wannabe domestic goddess. I have always enjoyed cooking, decorating, and making arts and crafts. Because of this, I adore Pinterest and many of the cooking and craft pages on social media. Mostly I look or mentally file away ideas in my brain because I don’t usually have the time, money, or talent to execute some of the ideas I see; but, it can’t hurt to look, right?
Recently I saw an idea for a Bento-style (a Japanese method of packing a lunch in compartments, often with very creative and decorative methods) Halloween theme lunch to make for a child. It was glorious! The meal included carrots lovingly cut into the shape of pumpkins, handmade jack-o-lantern pumpkin butter pastries, tangerines peeled and adorned with a spring of celery to make them look like mini pumpkins, and a turkey and cheese sandwich cut to resemble a smiling pumpkin.
The meal was a feast for the eyes and the belly, and I found myself leaving the comment “beautiful, but this makes me feel like a crappy mom because I would never have the time to do this!”
We can dream, we can be inspired, we can try; but, in many ways these sites and ideas are mere fantasy for most of us, or they result in setting the bar so high that most of us could never achieve that level of perfection, and many of us come away from viewing them feeling inadequate. Boo!
Who wants their post-divorce family to be the equivalent of a Pinterest fail?
As a co-parent and stepmom, I have experienced a similar sense of perfection letdown after seeing some of the social media photos and news stories in circulation about the blended families and co-parenting situations that far exceed what most of us could ever imagine. You know the ones, the stepdad in tears as the bride’s dad invites him to help walk their shared daughter down the aisle or the photo of parents, stepparents, and children wearing matching shirts at Disneyland.
Perhaps these images of the oh so evolved stepfamilies and co-parents serve as the ultimate example of what we should all strive for, just as the next DIY feature in your newsfeed will have us believe that you are a poor excuse for a mom if you don’t spend six hours hand-piping photo realistic school bus cookies for your child’s class party. With either, the pictures are beautiful, we ooh and ah, we might file the idea away for a day when we have entirely too much time on our hands, and we know that we’ll probably never successfully complete what we see.
If you’re like me, you may have tried your best to achieve a harmonious, amicable, cooperative stepparenting or co-parenting situation only to end up with the family equivalent of a “Pinterest fail” on your hands! I know that I have! What I’ve concluded is that it doesn’t make us less intelligent or successful for having tried. On the contrary, the fact that we attempted to create something beautiful in our lives and for the children we care for is a sign of how loving and dedicated we are. The problem is that these depictions of perfection set the majority of us up to fail because few can succeed!
What we don’t get to see behind the amazing ideas on Pinterest (and the like) is the team of trained experts working on the project, the endless budget for the highest quality supplies, the perfect lighting and even the failures! You’re never going to see the pies that burn, the creation that ends up in the garbage, or the number of failed attempts required before a few select pieces were photo ready. We only get to see the best of the best, created by people who design for a living, then we feel obligated to measure our efforts against theirs!
I’m smart enough to know that I am not going to beat an Olympic swimmer in a race, so why do I allow myself to think I can compete in other arenas where I am not an expert? I am me, I am a mom, I work full time and still have to make time to grocery shop, sleep, and take care of a home. I am pretty darn amazing, but I am not perfect!
Similarly, the people who appear in my family photos are just average everyday kids. They go to school, they fight with their siblings, and they hate chores. They are not robotic children programmed to be perfect prodigies. They’re good kids, but they have faults just like you and me. We have good days, and we have bad ones! I refuse to put the pressure on them to be anything they’re not for the sake of a catalog-ready portrait. We live on planet Earth with our feet firmly planted on the ground.
I’m not suggesting that the pictures we’ve all seen of the blended family in matching jerseys on the sidelines of the baseball field are photoshopped. Some families really are that superb at their complicated post-divorce game. Good for them! I am always in awe of the former couples who really can keep it child-centric and conflict-free after divorce. They are an example of what can happen if everyone pledges to go drama free and love the kids more than they hate each other! It may never be a utopia, but it can be pretty darn amazing if all the adults in such a situation can act like adults, live up to their responsibilities, and break-up with conflict!
My words of caution are to not allow ourselves to feel like failures or like something is too impossible to even try because we could never be like the ideal representation of family bliss or domestic magic! Keep gathering ideas of things to try, ways to improve, and inspiration to keep motivated when things aren’t going as well as hoped. But, in the end, if your outcome is a few steps short of internet wizardry, it doesn’t mean that you are less or that things will never get better!
We shouldn’t set ourselves up for failure by measuring against the results of what only a few can master or compare what we have just started to the product of someone else’s lengthy trial-and-error process! Beauty exists in many ways even if ours has a smudge, a scorch mark, or a grimacing ex included in the final product! Keep on keeping it real and doing the best with what you have!