I know it can be hard to believe, but social media isn’t real life. “What?” You might be saying, “No way, not true! Molly’s house is always that clean, her kids’ outfits are always coordinated.” “Carrie is always on vacation and Susie is always working out.”
No, no they aren’t.
The Highlight Reel
It can certainly feel like that, though. Social media gives us a glimpse into people’s lives, but actually, what you are seeing is the highlight reel – 30 seconds of the best part of someone’s day. Well, most of us do have that one “friend” who overshares about their bad luck or indigestion and makes their space totally awkward by sharing each day’s play-by-play, but I digress.
I am totally guilty of this, too (the highlight reel). But I do knowingly save my media posts for the best part of our lives. I have written about this in the past, and I use my Facebook account as a record to be printed at the end of each year in a hard copy “yearbook” through My Social Book, so I only post what I want to look back on fondly.
But that doesn’t mean that my life is all butterflies and rainbows. Take it with a grain of salt, and maybe add a lime and some tequila too…
So what does my life actually look like? What didn’t make the highlight reel?
Well, let me tell you…
The Messy Details
It is all the messy details in between the smiling faces and scenic backdrops. Life’s ugly truths and ALL the mom guilt. It isn’t always what it seems.
For example, this summer, I took many Fridays off work to take my kids out on adventures. I dubbed these days, #FunFriday and posted about it each week on Facebook. On the outside, this might look pretty idealistic, but there is always more to the story.
Why, you might ask, am I doing #FunFriday in the first place? Well, could it be that work has been so crazy for so long (short staffing on top of the loss of a co-worker from Covid, training gaps and deadlines etc.) that I have been unable to take ANY time off all year, (or cumulatively for years on end, apparently) to the point that I have “use it or lose it” leave saved up? Yes, that is part of it, (I know, #firstworldproblems).
But I am being honest, I am so burned out and the number of tears from stress I have shed is a real mental health issue for me. That, in combination with the cost of everything going up this year, I couldn’t budget for four kids in full-time daycare this summer. Even with my kids in care two days a week, two days with me working from home and one day with their grandparents, I am still paying $2000 a month. Full-time would be closer to $4000 a month, so #FunFriday it is…
Then, I made them a deal. “Be good and entertain yourselves on Monday while Mommy works (insert mom guilt for unlimited screen time), and we’ll do something fun (and cheap) on Fridays.”
But orchestrating weekly entertainment for four kids is a BIG job with big expectations. It’s exhausting. Especially when “fun” is defined differently for each of my 4, 6, 8 and 10 year olds. They see their friends going from camp to camp and they don’t understand why they can’t go, too.
But we keep trying to build those happy memories and preserve the good times in their little mental data logs to look back on. So when we go hiking, I want them to see photos of sun, trees and free play in the water.
What I Include and Leave Out
What I don’t want to show is the panic on my face when we got left behind the group because we were too slow to keep up. Panicking because my 10-year-old can keep up and got too far ahead of me to ensure he was safely with the group because my 6-year-old (despite being in a bright orange shirt) decided to hide along the trail and I passed him.
When we go to dinner and a movie, I want them to see they got to go to their favorite restaurant and to a movie at a theater. (Never mind that it was to make up for mom having had to bail last minute on their museum day because of a work deadline.)
When we go swimming, I want them to see their smiling faces frolicking in the water. Their new paddleboarding skills and sun tans. Not mom yelling as she hustled them out of the pool in time to pick their sister up. (She had to go to daycare and miss the pool because I worry the 4 kids to 1 parent ratio isn’t safe.)
When they look back at pictures of their first lemonade stand, I want them to remember how proud they were of the $27 they made, including a $10 tip. (Nevermind that I spent $40 on supplies). Not mom’s panic when they got started before I was ready and came in saying they didn’t have enough lemonade for all their customers. (I hadn’t yet explained the whole, set up, prepare, make-ahead concept and they were busily squeezing straight lemon juice into cups for unsuspecting customers.) Big thanks to generous and understanding friends and neighbors. Learning curve!
You Are Not Alone
You get the picture. As moms, we try to provide fun memories for our kids. We love these adventures and want to share the highlights, but that doesn’t mean it’s all highlights. Social media never shows the whole picture, there are tantrums and fits, broken toys and broken promises. Big wins and big losses and big messes…
So if next time you want to take your kids adventuring but first, coffee and then dishes and then your all-day outing turns into an hour and a half at the park, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. Your efforts are appreciated and when they look back, they won’t remember how long it too for everyone to find their shoes or that they were “dying of thirst” because you forgot water bottles. They, too, will remember the highlight reel…