Mommy Branding in the Alternate Reality of #pictureperfect #socialmedia
It began with a desire to vent a simple annoyance. On my way to my rollerskating class, I realized that I had a missed call from my attorney. Since I am in the throes of divorce number 2, I thought it imperative to return the call immediately. I pulled over into a nearby parking lot. Safety first! I was greeted by a very quick, “Can I call you back? — I’m in a meeting.” Not wanting to miss the call again, I somewhat reluctantly decided to use the time I would have spent in my class to have a cup of coffee — okay a cinnamon dolce latte with coconut milk and extra sprinkles — and work on my new side business (bepure.ly/jaclyn). Shameless plug!
Robbed of personal decompression time, for a third consecutive week I was teetering on the brink of snap. I’m not exactly sure that latte=workout, but sometimes you just have to improvise. Juggling my ipad, charger, phone, a notebook, and a book (I’m not totally sure what I planned to do with all that stuff), I successfully ordered and found a small table near an outlet that looked zen enough for me. That is, it was zen enough had it not been for the two teenagers loudly lounging in the comfy chairs adjacent to my little piece of nirvana. Seriously, do we have to teach kids how to sit in chairs?
There was really nowhere else for me to go. I was tethered to the only unoccupied table near an outlet, it was now pouring rain outside, and I just needed a little time out of the house. I resigned to staying in my current location, but the wait for my beverage was taking a little longer than I had hoped and having just spent the last 9 hours surrounded by high school students, filtering out the ruckus next to me was not within my grasp. The force was not with me. My energy was depleted. Shields down.
It’s in those moments that I feel strangely compelled to say something semi-humorous; but since talking to oneself is generally frowned upon, I did the most ludicrous, socially acceptable thing that I could. I posted on FB, “Does anyone else sometimes wish there were adults only establishments of all sorts — grocery stores, coffee shops, etc.? I seriously need a break from kids.#ijustwantaquietcupofcoffee” It was a sort of can I get an Amen kind of statement, but given my Unitarianism and tendency to twinge upon hearing such references to religiosity, I refrained from actually asking for the Amen.
My coffee came. I put my headphones on in an effort to cancel out the chatter from the chairs. Having surrendered to the situation I was almost serene, until it happened — the anti-Amen. One of my closest, most-supportive friends posts, “Can’t honestly say I have ever wanted a break from kids.”
Really. Who says that? I read the words and immediately felt guilty. I wasn’t trying to imply that I didn’t love my kids or want to be around them. Then, there was the reality that I was sitting in a coffee shop 3 miles down the road from my house. I felt a need to clarify, to reassert my status as a loving mom. Seriously, WTF? My anxiety level had just gone through the metaphorical roof over a flipping FB post. Yep! It was a most-unmistakeable, MOTHER-flipping FB post as it turned my identity as mom on its head.
I wondered if I had said something terribly wrong. Was I weird? Was I somehow not as bonded to my children as I thought? Was I becoming a crabby old lady at 39? Would I stop liking dogs next? Okay, now I knew I was just thinking gibberish. The call from the attorney came. I was upset by that, but still more bothered by the FB comment.
As I tried to distract myself with the marketing of my small business and a few smaller writing projects, I found myself on Pinterest. That picture perfect place is really the virtual equivalent of the land of misfit toys for me. It represents what I think I might like to do but will probably fall short off accomplishing.
I do love Pinterest. I’d like to think I might somehow have time to do all the things I pin, and I want to be a good mom — a great mom even. But, do I have to be that mom? Is anyone really that mom? Or are all of these posts, all of these pins, status updates, tweets, snaps, etc. (aka wtf), just meant as mommy marketing? Have we expanded the circle of the ancient tradition of the battle between mother-and-daughter-in-law to now include all women? “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.” Our mommy images, our identities, our brands — hang in the balance of what we snap, tweet-out, or Instagram.
In the modern world of third wave feminism, women are often more destructive to each other and to ourselves than men are to us. Many women are afraid of the very word feminism. Contradictions incarnate — we struggle to be independent and dependable. We juggle roles as the essence of our being in lieu of adjectives. We want to be WonderWomen but not just any WonderWoman will do. We want to play the part Meredith Brook’s style — we think ourselves bitches, teases, goddesses on our knees, children, mothers, sinners, saints, and angels undercover. All that means we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
Sure, we expect that we all have depth to our characters and therefore live somewhere in between the lines of those constructs, but we are often very quick to criticize the natural ebbs and flows of each other’s identities. We dismiss the validity of each other’s experiences.
Can we flip the script? Instead of having to worry about being the perfect mom, teacher, daughter, wtf, could I just try to be the best version of me that I can? Shouldn’t that be enough? I want to be a real person. In the same way that it’s normal and okay that my daughter doesn’t want me embarrassing her in front of her friends by over-participating in her slumber party, it’s normal and okay that sometimes #ijustneedaquietcupofcoffee.
It also might be somewhere on the spectrum of what’s normal to never feel the way I sometimes do as my good friend expressed. All of it, might be okay.
Oh, I wish we could just follow Grandma’s advice; she may have been a better feminist after all. She said, “Kill ‘em with kindness — it’s almost the golden rule.”