Mom Truth Bomb: Holidays Make Me Feel Inadequate

By Published On: October 14th, 2022

I found myself trying so hard to keep up with internet moms during holidays that I almost forgot to enjoy them.

If you know me in real life, or especially online, you’d probably find that headline laughable. The interior and exterior of my house are decked out in Halloween decor that I’ve been compulsively adding to since July. Yes, July. Last year I discovered Halloween influencers (they’re a thing, OK?), and this year I decided to try my hand at it. Spooky season is already an obsession of mine, so why not? 

What started as fun and exciting ended up with me feeling like an imposter as a person, but also somehow inadequate as a mother. After sitting with these feelings and trying to connect the dots, I think I finally understand where they stem from, what it has to do with modern-day mom culture, and how it’s rooted in … 1950s ads? Bear with me.

I’ve always gone “all out” for Halloween. At least I thought I did before Pinterest and social media came onto the scene, and then suddenly my “all out” seemed lackluster in comparison. In fact, everything I did seemed lackluster, especially once I became a parent. 

I have a love/sigh relationship with social media. On one hand, it’s how I make a living as a social media manager and internet mom humorist. On the other, being so well-acquainted with online culture is how I’m able to see the dark underbelly of its effects on its users and society. You’re subjected to an endless scroll of what the “perfect” moms and housewives look like and do 24/7. We see a single highlight of five seconds of a person’s day, and our minds create the idyllic mom figure as we envision what her life must be like outside of the square image displayed on her Instagram feed. She lives at arm’s length, reminding you of all that you lack. She’s the face of all your favorite influencers, perceptions of other moms, celebrities, and mom guilt. She bakes, she cleans, she crafts, she always looks put-together, she makes everything fun by throwing epic parties for every occasion, and she decorates for every holiday. It’s as though she’s never short on time or money, and she doesn’t experience the same parental exhaustion that the rest of us grapple with daily.

By this “simple” equation, it’s not such a leap to see how something as innocent and fun as fall decor has become another thing we feel like we have to do just to keep up. So you try to meet this new baseline that has been set and start doing the math on what you’ll need to achieve one of your favorite Instagrammer’s holiday decor lewks—and your bank account, well she doesn’t “lewk” very happy. You just aren’t able to pull it all off quite as she can. Just like so many other things. Or so you think.

Motherhood is riddled with the feeling of not being able to keep up, but we’re stubborn and ambitious. Constantly chasing the high of seeing our child’s face light up, we keep trying, jumping higher and higher to slap the top of the “super mom” door frame as it grows taller, seemingly every day.

But, why are we like this? Because “mom guilt” is just a fancy rebrand of the old “trying to keep up with the internet Joneses,” the modern-day version of regular “keeping up with the Joneses” which was a byproduct of commercials and ads. 

The lines between being the “perfect” wife, mother, and homemaker and appearing to be as such got really blurry in the 50s. Like social media, the pages of glossies sold women the idea of the perfect mom and housewife through advertisements for toaster ovens, vacuums, face creams, and that weird sanding belt apparatus that was supposed to vibrate your mom pooch away. Perfection was defined by possessions and cleanliness, and by raising our standards, we unintentionally raised the standards for everyone else, creating this sort of momming inflation to the point where just doing the bare minimum became exhausting and, quite honestly, fucking expensive.

When I think of my favorite holiday memories, I don’t think about whether or not I had the most coveted hand-hooked throw pillow of the season; I remember how I felt and the people I was with. Yet this year I found myself stalking whatever storefront was hashtagged for a “must-have” product before it sold out. It was fun—an adrenaline rush at first. It felt like I was participating in a scavenger hunt. But after every must-have was another must-have, and then another, and then I thought, must I? And that’s just for Halloween—stores are already displaying Christmas and Easter stuff. Easter!

Speaking of Easter, that’s one of my earliest memories of momma holiday bar-raising. Shortly after having my first child, I remember scrolling Facebook and seeing a mom friend post a photo of the biggest, most obnoxious Easter basket I’d ever seen. Then another friend, likely scrolling through the same posts I was, wrote a status update that said, “When did Easter become Christmas?” I think about that statement often. When did “more” become the bare minimum in motherhood, not just with holidays, but with all things?

I wish I had some sort of inspiring thing to say in conclusion to all this—that I’ve decided to sell 90% of my belongings and move my family to the mountains where instead of going to school, my children will learn from the wilderness and whittle spoons out of trees using nothing but Swiss Army knives—but I’m not. I wish I could tell you that I don’t have my eye on the Christmas decor some stores are putting out that I griped about earlier—I do. What I can say is that if we continue subscribing to the notion of “more,” we will never feel like enough. I haven’t felt “enough” in a long time, and if I did, I’m sure I was also exhausted from doing all of the things I thought I needed to do to get there.

So I’m putting the fall decor (and my wallet) down. I tried keeping up with the internet Joneses but I’m out of breath (they’ve got freakish amounts of stamina), so you’re just going to have to trust me when I say that I love my family.

I don’t want to “give it my all” all the time if there’s nothing left for the people I love or my well-being. I’m OK with giving it my some. I’m tired of reaching when everything I need is right under my nose, calling me “Mom.”