Every month I look forward to getting my Martha Stewart Living magazine. It’s beautifully photographed and just by opening it, I believe I am affirming myself as an organized, crafty, together person.
But once I’m done, I find out it’s actually made me feel worse.
Truth is, I have never once made a recipe from the magazine. I’ve never once attempted a craft I’ve seen there. And although I do enjoy gardening, I do not have the green thumb that the people featured in Martha Stewart Living do.
I have Martha Stewart Syndrome.
Also known as the “Plague of Pinterest,” this condition draws you in, luring you with beautiful pictures and easy-to-do activities. It promises to make you a better housekeeper, a better wife, a better mother. It holds you up to a standard of excellence that you come to believe we should all be judged against.
One of my favorite things to read in the magazine is the opening column called “Martha’s Month.” It details what she’ll be doing on each day, prosaic activities like “gutter cleaning,” “replenish baking supplies,” “schedule doctors’ visits for 2016,” to take some examples from this month. Readers also get a glimpse into her life, as she lists friends’ birthdays, events she’s attending, and dinners she’s having at her country estate in Bedford, New York. Oh, and she includes her exercise schedule, with two to three days a week of yoga, pilates, cardio and core, or weight training.
Maybe this is what I need. “Gentle reminders,” as the column’s headline reads, for all the things I need to accomplish in a month. Maybe if I could write it all down, see it in black and white, it would seem manageable, doable, organized.
I contrast this with the chaos of my life as the mom of a toddler. Is it possible to do it all like Martha? Or is that just wish fulfillment? Does Martha actually do all of the activities listed here, or are they just for the benefit of her readers, to keep up her image? When she says, “clean out closets,” does that mean her assistant is doing it? I’m sure she definitely has a housekeeper to “clean out refrigerator and freezer thoroughly.” She probably does go “cross-country skiing in Vermont,” though.
Especially at this time of year, it’s almost impossible to keep up. Christmastime is both the best and most stressful time of year. Things that are supposed to be fun, like shopping, giving gifts, baking, even putting up the tree, seem like chores. It’s a mad rush to get it all done by December 24.
Unless you’re Martha, right?
When I was a magazine editor we had a meeting to discuss what effect our magazine was having on readers. How did it make people feel after reading it — better about themselves or worse? And did that make people more or less likely to buy it?
For Martha, it seems that her readers are gluttons for punishment.
I will keep reading, though. I will keep aspiring to all of the life “hacks” that others post about on Facebook and Pinterest. “Want to have your house smelling wonderful?” one friend recently posted. “The next time your kid eats a clementine, take the peel and put it in some water on the stove. Add a cinnamon stick and some nutmeg, and it will smell great!”
Sounds simple. And I will probably never, ever do this.
All of this stuff sounds so easy. That’s the key to the marketing of Martha and everything else — it seems easy, like anyone could do it. It’s within reach. But taken together, how does anyone have the time to do all of these so-called “simple” activities?
It’s keeping up with the joneses, ’50s housewife-style. And I admit I’ve bought into the posturing. Haven’t I posted pictures on Facebook of my homemade strawberry jam? Haven’t I shown my son helping to decorate our tree? Haven’t I talked about delicious meals
my husband has we’ve cooked?
Facebook, like Pinterest, lies.
It seems like Martha is perfect. Even the “oh see how normal I am” attitude evident in the everyday activities she lists in her monthly calendar are calculated to make you believe that not only is she good at everything, her humility makes her human, too.
I don’t know Martha, so maybe she is perfect, or as close as a person could be. Maybe she’s one of those highly productive people who doesn’t waste time and only needs four hours of sleep.
Or maybe she’s just a fantasy.
Do you feel like you need to aspire to an unrealistic expectation, too? Do the holidays have you feeling like you can never accomplish enough?
When Foggy Daddy and I used to take trips pre-kid, I had a strict no-internet policy. In fact, we purposefully picked hotels without television or wireless in the room. After all, we were going on vacation to get away, to “vacate” from our life. It made sense to unplug in order to reconnect with each other. No outside contact required.
Now, it seems harder to do that. Something about having a kid makes vacation seem less about “vacating” and more about creating fun times for our child. We are not on a romantic escape, and as it often is with a baby, vacation doesn’t even feel like we’re relaxing. Plus, along with each kid-friendly activity come ready-made photo opps, perfect for Facebook posting. It almost seems like they’re a requirement (after all, if it’s not on FB, it didn’t really happen, right? I kid).
But you could also argue that it’s even more important to unplug during family vacations than couples’ retreats. Shouldn’t our time away be about bonding together, without the distractions that devices provide? FD doesn’t agree – for him, part of salvaging any sense of relaxation is playing video games on his iPad. He’d be loathe to give them up.
I have mixed feelings about it. As a blogger, I feel that I need to remain connected. I need to know what’s happening in the mom-iverse. But if I consider blogging part of my “job,” shouldn’t I take time off while on vacation, the way I would from any other “real” job? Shouldn’t I unwind without the need to know what’s going on outside our little familial unit?
I also think it’s important to take a break from technology for LM’s sake. Even though I tried my best to adhere to the “no screen time before two” recommendation, I caved since he’s almost two and let him watch Peppa Pig. But now, anytime FD or I take out our phone or iPad, we are met with a “Peppa? Peppa?” request. He’s learning young.
Tonight we are leaving for vacation to my aunt and uncle’s lake house in rural Virginia. I’m debating how much I want to be plugged in while we are there. In many ways I think I need a Facebook break – I’m worried that I’ve become a bit addicted to it. Maybe I should try to remember what it’s like to actually talk to people, as opposed to sitting around in a room while everyone is on their respective devices. Of course, this would require everyone else to agree, otherwise I’ll be staring into space while the others are glued to their screens.
What say you, FD and family (and Foggy Mommy readers)? Are you prepared to give up technology for the July Fourth holiday?
(So readers, I’m going to do my best to unplug during vacation. This will mean no Foggy Mommy until next week. Happy Fourth!)
Here I am, mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I see that someone has linked to some tragedy about a child, or about a mom, something so horrible I can’t even handle the headline. Don’t open it, I think to myself. But if I don’t click on it, I can’t stop wondering about it. My imagination comes up with a plot that may be even worse than what actually happened. So I go back and click on it. Like a train wreck that I can’t look away from, I read the whole thing. The story jolts me to my core, and it takes a day or two to get it out of my system. But just as soon as I’m feeling better about the world, someone posts another one.
I’m not going to link to any of these stories here, or even mention what they were about. No doubt if you’re a parent you’ve already read them, too. But there are two things I don’t understand about this phenomenon: Why people post these stories, and why I insist on reading them.
I think people post them for a couple of reasons. Once you read the story, it festers in your brain. You can’t stop thinking about it. It has brought out some primal fear, some animal instinct to protect your children. And the only way to exorcise this demon that has crept into your mind is to blurt it out to someone else. Once it’s out there, once you’ve spoken it, you’ve passed along the horror and the worry to someone else. They take up the banner of concern and march with it until they pass it off to someone else in turn.
Sometimes the story is just a link or a “like” (even though I’m assuming the poster doesn’t actually like it, in the actual sense of the word). Sometimes they write a preamble: “I can’t stop thinking about this story. That poor family. I can’t imagine what it’s like to endure such a horrible tragedy.” Sometimes they, out of respect for others, post the link in the comments so not everyone has to see it. But I challenge you to read a post that says “tragic story in comments” and not click on it. You just have to know what it is.
People also post these stories as cautionary tales. Did you know that xyz could harm your child? Well, it could, because here’s one who died from it! Chances are, I have probably heard of the caution before, because I am one of those super worriers who knows and sees the dangers in everything. Maybe if I wasn’t, I’d be thanking the person who posted the link to the tragic story; but actually, moms who don’t worry probably wouldn’t take the story to heart anyway, because it was something so rare that it couldn’t happen again, right?
Sometimes, as unlikely as it may seem, someone in one of my mom FB groups actually knows the tragic family in question. This brings it home for me – it wasn’t just some random person, it was someone who knew someone I know (on FB anyway). In the case of one tragic story last year, I actually knew the person myself. Not well – it was someone I went to high school with – but still, I knew him. Having such a connection makes it seem as if these tragedies are less rare, because they can strike close to home – or strike your home itself.
OK, but if I don’t know the person, why do I insist on reading these stories? What need do they satisfy? Is it like watching a horror movie, where your fears can be explored and subconsciously dealt with while remaining safely on your couch? Maybe. But if anyone should be avoiding these stories, it’s me. There is too much in my past, too many lost babies, for this not to rattle me. Because I went through so much to have LM, I feel his vulnerability so deeply. I see the fragility of his life. I already know these things and I do not have to be reminded of them by a news story about an unlikely tragedy.
My fingers itch to type the stories here, so my readers can share in my misery. If others know about them, I’ve gotten them off my chest and can free them from my mind. I so badly want to write about them. They stick in my mind otherwise. I need to release them.
But for your sake, reader, I won’t.
I’m not sure what bothers me more, the stories about dead children or about dead moms. I think the children. But the moms get me too – what would happen to LM if I was gone? I can’t think about those kids crying for their mother. How awful.
Stop thinking about it.
And to the news media, why must you insist on reporting these stories? They really have no bearing on my life. But I think news reporters know that people can’t resist a tragedy. They eat it up like candy. There is something deep and dark inside people that enjoys reading them. Because they’re happening to someone else.
But for those of us who’ve actually gone through tragedy, a carefree scroll through Facebook can sucker-punch us, instantly taking us back to that mental place of misery we’ve known personally. So for our sake, people, please stop posting them. I just don’t want to see it.
Do you get annoyed at people posting tragic stories on Facebook?
Hold on a sec, baby, just let me finish reading this… I know you’re crying, I’ll pick you up in a minute…
I’ve said these things to my poor child. Why? Because I’ve been on Facebook. I’ve admitted before to sometimes being a distracted parent, and I fear it’s only getting worse. Now that LM is 16 months and is more aware of what’s going on around him (there’s no fooling him anymore), I’m worried that he sees me constantly glued to my iPhone, watching it instead of him. By doing so, am I telling him that it’s more important than he is?
Apparently, Facebook is no longer “cool” among young people. They use other social networking sites, most of which I’ve probably never heard of. Facebook has been taken over my moms (and dads), who’ve filled it with nothing but pictures of their kids. And I guess that’s OK, considering that, well, I am a mom. I like having a place to go to connect with other moms. In addition to my regular FB friends, I’m also a part of several – OK, more than several – mom groups. There are no less than six post-infertility groups I’m part of, plus a local county group, a breastfeeding group, and one for my real-life mom group (this is the only group in which I’ve actually met all the members in the flesh). It’s a lot to keep track of.
But I like reading parenting information and tips, discussing parenting issues, and getting ideas for blog posts. As a stay/work at home mom, it gives me some sense of connected-ness that I don’t always have while at home alone with LM. But, I wonder if it’s taking up too much of my time, if I need to designate certain times as Facebook-free so that I can focus on LM.
The other people around LM are just as bad as me. Foggy Daddy is obsessed with his iPad (he’s usually playing a game on it), and Grandpa is attached to his as well (usually reading a news website). I worry that when LM looks around all he sees is us glued to our individual screens.
Sometimes I try just putting down the f-ing phone and paying attention to my kid. But then he starts playing nicely, by himself, and I’m just sitting there. My mind wanders. I wonder if anyone’s posted anything on Facebook, I think to myself. And so I take a peek. And a peek turns into 15 minutes of me reading linked articles and responding to the latest controversy over car seat installation. And then LM sees me and starts whining for my attention.
Hold on, just let me finish reading this…
There’s also the feeling that, looking at everyone’s kids in all the Facebook photo opps one needs to do these days, everyone’s life is better than yours. Which is complete BS, because I could post a ton of photos that make my life look fantastic – not that it’s not, but there is more going on than meets the eye in my newsfeed. I find myself comparing my life to others’, and too often it makes me feel bad. So-and-so is going to the gym. So should I. So-and-so is on vacation. I wish I was. So-and-so is going out to dinner. I’m still in my sweatpants.
This is my fault, not Facebook’s. My confidence is just not helped by social media, where it is oh-too-easy to make it look like your life is fabulous. Much self-promotion happens on Facebook.
But still I can’t turn away. It’s an outlet that I don’t want to give up, but I do want to learn how to balance it better, if not for my own sake then for LM’s.
Do you feel like you spend too much time on Facebook? How do you curb your habit?