Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mommy + Media = Meltdown

Like millions of other 21st century mamas, I am both overjoyed and overwhelmed by the amount of parenting information available to us, 24/7/365. From the moment I saw the little plus sign on a pee stick, I researched motherhood like I was applying to be a Rhodes scholar of Mommyland. I was six weeks pregnant with a baby that was slightly smaller than one of the sesame seeds on my bagel, but I was already stressing out about whether or not to buy organic baby food, what the theme of her first birthday party should be, and what kind of college savings plan we should be starting.

One of the first things I did as a mommy-to-be, is sign up for Babycenter.com. Babycenter is a great resource when you are checking into the nervous hospital becoming a mother. They send you these handy little emails, each week, comparing your baby's size to a fruit (week 10, a kumquat!), and give you fun facts about your ever-expanding belly, butt and thighs . It all sounds innocent, until you venture onto the message boards, where ladies from all around the world are sharing (often OVERsharing) and comparing. Did I gain too much weight? Did I not gain enough? (haha, funny!!) Should I be using non-toxic, low VOC, strawberry-scented paint for the nursery, like Mary P. from San Diego? Is it too late to put the sesame seed on a waiting list for nursery school? Carrie from Topeka already paid for the first semester for her kiwi's Montessori school!

These emails don't stop there...they stalk you all the way through your child's 21st birthday. Just kidding...their 9th birthday. But that is nine loooong years of checklists and milestones that will drive you to drink (as if you didn't have enough of a reason already!). That being said, according to the emails I got yesterday, this week I should be teaching Bella the value of money, introducing her to the "birds and the bees" (yeah, I may need to be sedated for that one) and assessing Luca's phonological awareness, as well as his ability to count to 100 in Chinese.

Moving on to my favorite social media hot spot, and yours, Facebook. Now I will start with the disclaimer that I HEART FACEBOOK. Like, I wouldn't trade my login and password for a lifetime supply of bacon. It is an amazing place to keep in touch with friends and family, share stories, stalk ex-boyfriends from college and the hot blond they left you for (not from personal experience, of course, just generalizing...).

However, Facebook, much like my hair, is not always perfect.
Problem #1: Bragging rights. Many of us mommies use this platform to share our little one's latest and greatest skills and developments, which is perfectly fine. Shooting off a status about your little one learning to subtract, riding a bike without training wheels, scoring six touchdowns in a single game, or conjugating verbs in Swedish is totally acceptable, and a great way to share your exciting news with family and friends. The problem lies in your audience. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I have totally used other people's statuses about their kids' academic achievements, sports glories, and language acquisition, as a yard stick to measure what my kiddies should be doing.

Here's an example (may or may not be based on true events):

Me (nose buried in my iPad): "Honey, do you remember Suzy from college? The red head that lived on the floor above me, and was always passed out in the hallway? Her boyfriend cheated on her with the RA and then she dropped out of college and moved back home?"

My patient husband (trying to watch the Mets game): "Um, yeah. Why?"

Me: "Well, I'm on Facebook, and this morning she posted that her six-year old twins just signed a modeling contract AND are now being home-schooled by the same tutor that Brad and Angelina use! Her oldest daughter was just accepted to the American School of Ballet's intensive summer program!! I was looking through her pictures, and last year, she threw a environmentally friendly, 'green'-themed birthday party for her girls AND it was featured in Parents magazine. Instead of a cake, she made gluten-free, sugar-free cupcakes, frosted with mousse made from fair trade chocolate. All of the paper plates and cups were 100% compostable, and she used the compost to fertilize her garden. They're Fruitatarian Vegans, so they grow 90% of their own food themselves."

Hubby: "Uh-huh..."

Me (anxiety level rising): "O. M. G.!! Look at this!!! She is on a strict kale, quinoa and water diet, and is not only training for the NYC Marathon, but ALSO for the Iron Man triatholon in Hawaii!" Look at her profile pic- it's just of her abs!! That's like a 12 pack. I don't even have a 2 pack! Do you think I'm fat?"

Hubby (staring at the tv): "Uh-huh..."

Me (hitting soon-to-be-ex-husband in the head with iPad): "WHAT??!!!"

OK. So apparently I was boring my beloved, and completely lost his attention the minute I mentioned Brangelina, but the ranting, raving and complete envying I was doing over this classmate that I hadn't seen since 1997 is not only embarrassing, but totally unhealthy. Then again, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem...

Speaking of 12-step programs, the newest addiction sweeping the mommy nation is Pinterest. I have to admit, I didn't really "get" Pinterest at first, but once I figured it out...woah. It is one spicy meatball. Basically, people (who are obviously not regular people, but crafty aliens from a parallel universe, where no one has to work or sleep) post recipes, crafts, fashion, hair styles, party themes, floral arrangements, original photography, etc.

Pinterest was making me second guess my life. Why aren't I scouring local garage sales to find chairs, circa 1912, that I can strip, sand and refinish? Should I be creating seasonal garlands for my fireplace mantel? Why didn't I make pancakes in the shape of Malibu Barbie for Bella's breakfast this morning? There were so many amazing pictures of wedding flowers, dresses and handmade invitations, that I was considering picking a fight with my husband, filing for divorce, just so we could reconcile and I could replan our wedding.

After gathering hundreds of pins, I was faced with a reality. Unless I kidnapped Martha Stewart, Giada Delaurentis and Nate Berkus and kept them as my crafting, cooking and decorating indentured servants, there was no way in heck that I was recreating half of what I saw. Pinterest account deleted and Xanax prescription avoided. Winning!

Although I truly appreciate living in the 'information age', I do sometimes wish for a simpler time. My laptop and iPhone are never more than 3 feet away from me and even though I feel very connected to "the world", I can sometimes feel disconnected from the ones who matter most, my babies. If I'm busy staring at my computer screen, finding the perfect recipe for the perfect cinnamon rolls, then I'm missing out on a great game of tag in the backyard. If I spend 15 minutes on Facebook, stalking researching my best friend's ex-boyfriend's new wife, I just lost 15 minutes that I could've spent reading a book with my girl.

My mommy accomplice, J, is so good at this. She is a computer savvy smart cookie, but her Facebook account hasn't been used in over two years, and she rather get a root canal than spend more than 10 minutes on Pinterest. She is much more likely to be found pitching to her girls in the backyard, or blowing bubbles with her little one in the driveway, rather than shopping online to find cardstock in the perfect shade of yellow for her daughter's 1st birthday party invitations.
From experience, she knows that being a part of the social media world can plunge you into a black hole of time suckage, and I admire her ability to go cold turkey.

Now, don't get nervous, I'm not buying a horse, buggy and bonnet, and moving to Pennsylvania any time this century. Technology is amazing, and it has enriched my life in so many ways. But unplugging for a day (well, let's start with an hour...) here and there, and not worrying about keeping up with the Joneses, or in my case, the Suzys, can do a world of good. Realizing that my family doesn't need handwoven Easter baskets, homemade organic fruit leather and a color-coded pantry is a game changer...all they really truly want is 100% of me

(and maybe some of those chocolate peanut butter cup cookies I found on Pinterest).

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