The Internet is a wonderful thing. It allows me to do most, if not all, of my Christmas shopping in my pajamas. It has connected me with some of my closest friends, many of whom I haven’t even met in person yet.
It gives me entertainment and amusement and information.
It gives me validation.
If you’re a mom (or a parent or a caregiver), you’ll probably agree with me. You’ve seen the memes, the posts and the articles.
“My home is a mess but my children are loved.”
“My kids ate McDonald’s this afternoon and watched TV all day. But they’re loved.”
“I haven’t taken a shower in four days. Wait, five days. Look how filthy I am. Look how tired I am! Because I love my kids.”
A friend of mine dubbed this the “mommy counterculture.” And on the surface, the mommy counterculture is fabulous. The internet is fabulous for letting us connect with people who are being real and open and honest about how hard parenthood is.
The problem arises when this counterculture turns into yet another competition, another spin-off of The Mommy Wars (which I’m honestly surprised hasn’t become its own reality show yet). But for this competition you aren’t required to bake two hundred cupcakes in one night and then frost them with perfectly rendered images of Anna and Elsa for your child’s preschool class party. For this competition you aren’t required to show up at school drop-off in a runway worthy outfit, with a face full of make-up. It doesn’t require shiny-clean floors or a dust-bunny free house.
In fact, it requires the complete opposite.
That’s the thing, though. It requires something. To belong to this mommy counterculture, the group that supposedly loves their children the most, you have to have a messy house. You have to spend time with your kids and neglect your hygiene.
Have to, have to, have to.
I freaking hate “have to.” I freaking hate “should.”
I can love my children and have an uncluttered house.
I can love my children and manage to take a shower.
I can love my children and be who I am. Whoever that is.
It reminds me a lot of the whole “Real Women Have Curves” statement. It’s body positive on the surface. It sounds good. It sounds encouraging. But what about those women who don’t have curves? Are they not “real women”?
When you think about it, it’s ridiculously hard to fit into the very specific body type we’ve now allotted for women: You can’t be too skinny. You can’t be too fat. You have to be just right.
It’s a totally messed-up version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
It’s one more way the world pressures us to be something we’re not, to fit into the perfect definition of everything.
Now it’s been extended to motherhood.
Things aren’t so black and white, though. We’re not necessarily fat or skinny. We’re not clean or messy. We’re not a good or a bad parent.
We’re human. We’re normal.
I’m not a bad mom because I wipe down the counters after meals. You’re not a bad mom because you don’t. I’m not a bad mom because I have no idea what lipstick shade works with my skin tone. You’re not a bad mom because you do.
We’re moms. We’re parents. All of us together.
And we don’t have to end every proclamation with “…but my children are loved.” There’s no “but” needed. Because that’s the one thing that stays stable, whether we shower or clean or dress-up or not.
That makes us all great.