At around 8:30 this morning, I let my husband know there was a 10 percent chance I’d be asking him to skip work, because after “yes parenting” my way into making whipped cream from scratch and building with magnatiles for 20 mind-numbing minutes on very little sleep, I just couldn’t take another second with loud, rude, restless little people. Anyone familiar with me knows even a tentative SOS like this one translates to something like, “Call an ambulance; I can’t find my arm.” He said he’d do whatever I needed, and then gave me a run down of all the meetings and deadlines that would require missing.
So I implemented my favorite new feminist phrase and “grew a pair,“ leaving the house at 9 a.m. with a heavily sunblocked 8-year-old, 5-year-old, and 2-year-old.
We walked almost three miles (the toddler in a stroller, of course) to meet friends at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park via a playground. We picnicked on nutritious, delicious food. They played the “flower pianos” and kicked around a soccer ball. Then we walked another three miles home, with a quick stop at a magic shop and a longer one at a different playground, that retro type with a metal tunnel and neighborhood kids left to frolic as they see fit.
When we finally got back at 4 p.m., I remembered to have them leave their sand-filled shoes outside and put their grubby hands and faces straight in the tub. Together we fulfilled my son’s wish to receive a pie to the face (hence the 6 a.m. cream whipping), baked pizza with a cauliflower crust, switched the laundry, loaded the dishwasher, and picked up the toys. ("Together," as in, they completed legitimately helpful tasks without leaving me hoarse or standing over the mess with an empty trash bag and a threat.)
“Best mom ever,” my husband texted, then, “Hands down. Scientific poll.” When he heard about the healthy pizza, he upgraded to: “You’ve broken the momometer. Readings cannot be taken.”
Excited and not a little proud, I went to post these pictures to Facebook, but then stopped. What if someone thinks this is normal?
And then it hit me: If we adventured like this on the regular, I wouldn’t be sharing it.
All those times I’d seen posts about the hummingbirds that landed on the sun-kissed, kale-fed faces of my friends’ kids as they climbed a tree overlooking the ocean, while I’d sat on the couch giving in to my youngest’s request to watch “Danielle Tigah on da potty dust one mo’ time,” I’d stewed in jealousy and inadequacy, even guilt. But now I knew they wouldn’t have thought to share if it were normal. It’s like how the local news profiles only the most awful things that happen in a day, only the opposite. When it comes to parenting, failing to be everything to everyone in every moment just isn’t newsworthy.
I’ve read (and written) about how social media is too polished, how we shouldn’t hold ourselves to that impossible standard, etc., etc. When my friends post selfies I assume a new haircut and good light, not that they look like that most minutes of most days. And yet today is the first time that principle sunk in when it comes to my day job. They wouldn’t have thought to share if it were normal. This tiny mental switch changed the way I view others’ triumphs, liberating me from my own unrealistic expectations.
Now I say go ahead. Post your best days. I can love them now, recognizing them for what they are — and aren’t.
This post originally appeared on the author’s Facebook page.
Gail Cornwall is a former public school teacher and lawyer who now works as a stay-at-home mother and freelance writer in San Francisco. You can find Gail on Facebook and Twitter, or read more at gailcornwall.com.