After my Huffington Post piece about how I don’t plan to introduce the concept of Santa to my son, I received a lot of feedback thanking me for going against the grain of what’s “expected” for your kids at Christmas. I’ve also read a lot of other articles, and heard from other moms in my FB groups, about the pressure they feel Elf on the Shelf puts on them. Coming up with new and exciting poses for a creepy elf doll every night? No thank you!
But this got me wondering: We talk about the peer pressure that kids face, but is there a sort of peer pressure for parents as well? As if you need to follow certain trends, or just “the way things are done,” and if you don’t, you – or worse, your kid – will be ostracized?
This worries me, because in many ways I don’t feel like I’m the “typical” parent. I don’t follow all the rules, Santa being one of them. For all the positive messages I got from secret Santa-haters (people who secretly hate Santa, not people who hate participating in secret Santas), I bet there were a lot of other moms who thought I was downright weird for not including him in my child’s Christmas celebrations. Maybe this explains why the piece itself got ten thousand likes, but when I posted it on my own Facebook page it got a grand total of…three.
Because of my past experience with struggling to have a child, I still sometimes feel like I’m on the outside looking in. So things that might seem to other moms who fell into motherhood easily to be just the way things are done, don’t seem that way to me. I already feel like I’m an outsider, like I’m different, that that is all strange and new. So I just don’t “get” many parenting trends.
I blame Pinterest for a lot of it. Like Martha Stewart‘s magazine, looking at all the cute and crafty ideas for everything from birthday party decorations to desserts to Elf on the Shelf setups has the (unintended?) consequence of feeling that you need to aspire to do them; and that if you don’t, well, you’re just not as crafty or smart or involved as the moms who do. I love looking at that stuff, I admit it. But I do feel inadequate afterwards, because I know I don’t even have it in me to attempt any of it. It just exacerbates my mom guilt.
And it’s not just about making things. It’s also about what family activities you do, what traditions you have, what social expectations exist for us as parents. And a lot of that is fueled by social media. For example, I never did the monthly sticker pictures – every month in the first year of your child’s life you put a sticker on his onesie and take a picture (and, even more importantly, post it on Facebook). Although, I admit that I did do the ubiquitous smash cake for LM’s first birthday. Other items to check off your family Facebook to-do list: Taking a hayride to a pumpkin patch in the fall. Getting professional holiday photos done. Sitting on Santa’s lap. Everything is a photo opp, and though I love taking pictures, I hate that there has become a social expectation that you will have certain photos for every season, and you will dutifully post them on FB just like everyone else.
Does this mean that I’m a secret non-conformist?
I’m sure it will only get worse when my son starts school. At holiday time, maybe he’ll come home asking why we don’t have an elf, or why he doesn’t get gifts from Santa. Or he’ll ruin Santa for kids who do believe, the way I outed St. Nick to my first-grade class, and then all the other moms will hate me.
I don’t know how I will handle that when it happens. For now, I’m still working on not comparing myself to other moms or my son to other kids. I’m trying to make peace with being a mom who’s, well, maybe a little lazier than others; or maybe one who just puts more emphasis on different things. Maybe there are other kid-related activities I would rather spend my time doing instead of coming up with 30 ways to position an elf. So maybe our family will have other traditions that aren’t the norm.
The interesting thing is, I don’t know any actual moms who make me feel peer pressured (yet, anyway). But somehow the inertia of Facebook and Pinterest put forth the idea that there are all of these “things” I need to do in order to be a good mom. I’m tired of holding myself to some impossible, cookie-cutter standard that probably doesn’t really exist anyway. I just don’t have the time, or the energy, or the inclination.
Do you feel parental peer pressure? Do you think it comes from social media, or other moms, or both?