A couple of months ago, I became obsessed with the idea that I wanted another baby, even though my soul knew this to be untrue.
I did not want another baby, but I’d read a blog that made me think I did. In the blog, a woman described her birth story as an experience so spiritual it bordered on holy – a process that strengthened the bonds between herself, her husband, and God.
And here sat I, knowing full well that birth for me had never strengthened my bond to anyone but my anesthesiologist and Preparation H. Her idealized description of birth had confused me so much that it lead me to believe I wanted things that I didn’t actually want.
In short, it made me jealous.
This wasn’t an isolated occurrence. Countless times I’ve logged onto Facebook or Twitter or visited my favorite blogs only to see vintage-filtered vignettes of other people’s seemingly perfect lives. There are my friends, on tropical vacation (again). There are my favorite bloggers, dressed in hip artistic clothes, sitting in their homes which look like exact replications of the Anthropologie catalog. And there are their children, perpetually glossy-haired and rosy-cheeked and smiling.
Meanwhile, here I sit in my untidy home, in the cold of January, wearing an old college t-shirt, and my kids are fighting in the background. Reading these blogs, seeing these profiles often feels like browsing a fashion magazine. It’s fun to look at, but afterward I feel inferior and inadequate and ugly and fat.
Like all my problems could be solved by the perfect glittery scarf or a beautifully photographed craft hour. Like there’s something wrong with the truth of my messy, un-photogenic life.
It’s not that I don’t understand the urge. Everyone is on Facebook-people I went to high school with, former teachers and professors, current co-workers. My mom. And dozens of people I never see in real life. Of course there is the instinct to present one’s best self. But all of us, collectively, posting only rosy images has added up to a great cultural misunderstanding: A place where we all believe that other people are having a better time than we are. That our Facebook friends have lovelier homes, nicer vacations, and children with lower propensities for tantrums and flinging the contents of their diapers than ours do.
It’s also tied in to the pressure our culture puts on women to be good mothers. To be nothing less than giddily, excessively, over the moon with joy for parenting at every moment. It seems almost dangerous to say how it really is … or to say, “Yes, motherhood is wonderful, but there are times when it makes me want to book a one-way ticket to Paris and board the plane alone.”
For a few days I had a confused spirit, a sense of lack that wasn’t authentic but that was brought on by the idea that what makes another person happy would make me happy too. I finally snapped out of it. Of course I was coming up short – I was comparing the whole of my life to the carefully selected highlights of another’s. It wasn’t doing me any good.
Nobody’s life is as perfect as it seems on Facebook. At times when I’ve posted my own idealized accounts, I suspect that deep down I was really trying to prove my happiness to myself. Ultimately, it never served me, and it didn’t serve others. What serves my spirit is remembering the truth: every life has its own unique difficulties and that mine, while imperfect, is beautiful. Beautiful maybe because of my imperfections. Beautiful in my acceptance of them.
When Brittany became a mother in 2003, the nurses told her she could take her baby home-and she politely insisted the baby would be much safer in the hospital. Things have improved since then. She now lives and writes in Longmont, Colorado, with her husband and two daughters, Little Bird and Starbuck. (No need to send your condolences to her children – those are not their real names.) Together they enjoy looking for bugs and always trying to find a bathroom in strange locations. You can find more of Brittany Tuttle’s writing at her blog: www.vesuviusathome.com