There is so much pressure for moms to appear happy, calm, and collected at all times. To slip from this facade is to show a perceived "failure," because there's something society believes to be dangerous about an unhappy mother: When you're not the "Happy Mom," you're not maternal, you're weak, and you're even a bit selfish. Of course, none of this is true. The energy it takes to be fake is only energy you're taking away from your parenting reserves. Plus, there are many times when you absolutely shouldn't fake this "happy mom" thing, because faking it is just plain unhealthy.
I am not good with faking things because I am not a good liar. I am as transparent as saran wrap. This is why the game of poker is not for me and this is also why confessional essay style writing is my jam. I think I tried faking being the "Happy Mom" for 20 minutes once, with my first kid, while we were at one of our first baby gym classes. After my son had been screaming at me for half the class, I just stopped making jokes about his "first day jitters" and let myself lose it, too.
Could you imagine what would happen if all the moms of the world decided, collectively to just stop faking it? We would have less "Happy Moms" to compare ourselves to, and less people would think that the "Happy Mom" is the norm. There is a spectrum of mom Feelings, and they change all day, every day, depending on the kid, on the mom, and how the wind blows. If we stop comparing ourselves to a perceived ideal, maybe some of the pressure would come off and we wouldn't have to fake so much happy. Maybe, instead, we could be a "Real Happy Mom."
When A Struggling Mom Friend Asks For Advice
There is no more appropriate time to be real than when another mom friend needs you. When I first became a mom, I thought that everyone else was doing it right and there was something defective about me. Then, one of my husband's old friends from high school came over one day to hang out with me and revealed her own struggles with postpartum depression. I hadn't heard anyone else talk about having the same feelings I was feeling. It felt so damn good to hear that I wasn't an abomination and this was something normal. It was inspiring to see that she was thriving and happy and doing amazingly with her second child, too.
When You're In Your Own Damn Home
This is a sacred space and you should not have to fake anything anytime you are home. This is your home, your sanctuary, and if you want to ugly cry as you make dinner number four because your kids refuse to go to bed "starving," you should go on with your bad self.
When You're At The Playground And Your Kids Are Doing Their Own Thing
There are times when you should absolutely be present as a parent, like when you and your kids are in need of some quality time, or when your kids need your help or assistance on the monkey bars. Then there are times when you just need to zone out because you're only a few hours into your day but it feels like 6 p.m. and you just need to escape (even if it's mentally).
These are the times when I slink down in my park bench and hide under an oversize scarf and try to pretend I'm a babysitter lacking in better judgement who stares at her phone too much. I make sure my kids are safe and happy, but otherwise let them be because I need some time to myself and since a spa afternoon is not happening, this is all the "me time" I'm going to get.
At Morning Drop Off, Because Everyone Understands
Is anyone really happy at drop off? You and everyone else has probably had to fight their kids to eat breakfast, to get dressed, to brush their teeth, and then dragged them down the hall as they wrestled them into the coats they refused to put on. Half the parents haven't even had coffee yet, and are impatiently waiting to hightail it out of the school so they can get to the calming cocoon of the office.
When The Kids Are Being Obvious Jerks In Public
Do people expect you to be some kind of robot? Are you supposed to sit there with a goofy grin while your kid throws his pasta at your shirt in the pizza place you took him to as a "special treat," then giggle when he yells to the waiter, "Where's my water with ice cubes already?"
Maybe some moms are chill AF and able to calmly explain to their children that this is not appropriate behavior for a restaurant, and that talking this way to their mothers, and especially to people who work in restaurants, is very disrespectful and unkind. Maybe these moms are able to do this while maintaining a soothing voice and using loving gestures.
Me? I completely lose any and all facade of having been happy the second the tomato sauce grenade has been launched on purpose (accidental splashes are perfectly fine). I have zero tolerance if either of my children are rude to other adults or people who work at restaurants. Nice Mommy instantly becomes Mean and Sinister Mommy when that happens, and my kids know that they have just overstepped a big boundary.
When You're Doing Parenting Tasks That Are Damn Miserable
Folding the laundry pile that's been building up for days, and that now smells kind of mildewy, but you're too lazy to run the whole three loads all over again? Scooping out mushy poop that's clogged the drain for the second night in a row from a fun bath time surprise? Does anyone actually feel happy doing any of these things? If so, I smell something worse than mildew and poop. I smell dirty, dirty lies.
When You're Dealing With Some Real Deal Bad Stuff In Your Life
It takes a lot of emotional energy to pretend to be happy when you're not. If you're going through some heavy life stuff, you're probably already using up a lot of your energy reserves as it is. Add to that the work of caring for children, and it's a wonder you're just not spontaneously combusting in the middle of the coffee line at Starbucks.
When I'm going through the not-so-glamorous sides of life, I don't even bother with trying to hide it. If people ask me how I'm doing, I just say, "You know, hanging in there." I find that, most of the time, that resonates with people. I'm lucky, because I don't live in a Big Little Lies type neighborhood where the other moms expect me to constantly have it together and are just waiting for the sign of one tiny slip in my facade.
When You're Not Feeling Happy Because Why Should You Have To Fake Anything?
Can we just be kind to ourselves and make a blanket statement that being fake at any point is just a bad idea? I mean, unless you are an actor and this is your art, or you are studying for a role as the "Fake Happy Mom," why in the world would you want to pretend to feel anything you're not? There are wonderful, happy, Instagram-worthy moments in #MomLife, and there are moments that are a complete and utter drag that you'd rather just keep between you and your four walls. Any parent would agree. Unless, of course, they're worried about those other parents judging them for their response and, in that case, they might fake a smile and say, "I don't know what you're talking about. Every moment is bliss."