Courtesy of Mary Sauer

I Tried To Be A Pinterest Perfect Mom For A Week, And This Is What Happened

by Mary Sauer

I've always taken a minimalist's approach to motherhood. I let my girls entertain themselves for large chunks of time. They have toys, but only as many as can fit in the toy chest in our family room. We love play dates, but no more than one a week, because more than one seems to only add stress to our schedule. I cook dinner from scratch at least five nights a week, but we rotate the exact same meals each week.

Nothing about my approach to motherhood screams creative, or Pinterest perfect. But it works for us, my girls are happy, and as a work-at-home mom, I don’t really feel I have time for extra bells and whistles. But lately, I’ve felt as if we’ve all getting a little antsy at home. My children seem to be more ornery than normal and I’ve found myself wondering if boredom is the reason they’ve been acting out. Which has me thinking,  maybe we could benefit from a little more Pinterest in our lives.

The Experiment

I decided I’d try to be the “perfect” Pinterest mom for a week to see if all the crafts, elaborate recipes, and charts really live up to the hype. Browsing the 1,800 ideas I’ve pinned — and forgotten about — over the last few years, I was ready to give our lives a Pinterest-worthy makeover.

Playtime: The Dollar Store Is My Bestie

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I started our week looking for some fresh ideas for playtime. After consulting Pinterest, I quickly came to a conclusion: Pinterest moms love the dollar store. So I made a list, packed up the girls, and took a field trip to our local Dollar Tree. I had purposefully picked activities with overlapping supplies to avoid spending too much at the store and to avoid anything that was too complicated or too time-consuming. My 3 year old was in complete awe of the bright colors and cheap party decorations while I was determined to stock up on everything we needed for a crafty, DIY week. We left the store with posterboard, stickers, toothpicks, paperclips, construction paper,  marshmallows, markers, and some bubblegum-flavored lipstick my 3 year old simply couldn’t leave behind.

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Throughout the week, we built towers from toothpicks and marshmallows, made popsicle people, practiced our numbers with stickers and popsicles, painted with marbles, and practiced fine motor skills and letter recognition with paperclips and construction paper. Some days, we did several activities, on others, we just did one. 

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I was surprised by how easily these activities fit into our daily routine. Before beginning this experiment, I expected most of the activities to be more work than they were worth, but I loved how well they kept my older daughter occupied and engaged. It allowed me to get a few things done around the house and take care of my youngest, who was sick this week. I know none of my activities looked quite as perfect as the pictures on Pinterest, but my daughter was excited by everything we tried and she didn’t seem to care, or notice, how my lines were crooked and my handwriting wasn’t great.  

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In The Kitchen: I Think I'll Just Stick With What I Know Already Works

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As a busy, working mom, I’ve never felt like I had much time to get fancy in the kitchen. Before kids, I loved trying new recipes and learning new techniques. Now, I just want to get something semi-nutritious on the table before one, or both, of my toddlers get hangry. After one too many stressful mealtimes, I’d resigned myself to the belief that simpler is better when you’re cooking with younger children underfoot. So, for a little over a year, we’ve been eating the same 10 meals over and over again. I’ve given up baking outside of special occasions, and we eat the same thing for breakfast just about every day. It may seem boring, but our family thrives on routine and it’s  easier for me to keep things simple. This week, though, “routine” was totally off-limits.

I was a little nervous about bringing Pinterest into our mealtimes, solely because I didn’t want to make our days more stressful than they needed to be just because I wanted to add a little flair to the table. By the end of the week, I realized I was right: Trying new recipes did make our lives our lives more stressful.

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I dug out a black bean burger recipe I’d pinned several weeks back and I made a sweet potato french fries recipe I pinned not long after I first joined Pinterest. My 3 year old and I baked together, because that is something Pinterest moms do. We made gluten-free cookies, and “the best ever” banana bread. I got friendly with my Crock-Pot, which I found to be way more trouble than it was worth since most of the recipes I tried required a decent amount of prep work. We of course made kale chips — and of course, I was the only one willing to eat them.

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The food was great. But, the taste of the food wasn’t really my concern. A lot of these recipes require a lot more time than I’m used to spending in the kitchen. For instance, the black bean burgers and french fries took over an hour and by the time it was all said and done, my kitchen was trashed! It isn’t just the time and the clean up which I found to be a burden — the cost came into play, too. Browsing through my pins, so many of the food pins caught my eye, but after click, I found they had so many ingredients, which frequently included specialty products. Even if I had the time or the desire to spend time in the kitchen before dinner, I believe our budget would get in the way of being a Pinterest-perfect mom in this area.

Baking with my toddler was a blast, but I don’t foresee us making a habit of baking treats together more than once or twice a month. My toddler seemed to enjoy it well enough, but when it came down to it, she was way more interested in eating the end product than the process of baking the treats. Plus, it was messy, time consuming, and added an unnecessary cost to my grocery budget since I had to purchase products I don’t normally have on hand. To be totally honest, we aren’t accustomed to having treats around, so if we go back to our old ways of baking for birthdays and holidays, no one will notice.

It was fun to mix up our routine for a week, but I’ll be sticking with Old Faithful: my rotating 10-meal rolodex. If the cost of new, fun dishes is adding more stress to my already jam-packed schedule, then I don’t plan to ditch my boring and quick meals.

Housekeeping: Who Has Time To Vacuum This Much?

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The last area I wanted to tackle during my week of being a Pinterest-perfect mom was my housekeeping routine. Generally, I like to keep a pretty neat house, but I also don’t stress when life gets in the way of housework. For this part of my experiment, I wanted to simplify my routine and make keeping up with housework easier. Too bad this isn’t exactly how things went.

I poured through several daily and weekly cleaning routines, one insisting there were 15 things I wasn’t cleaning often enough, another detailing exactly what I should be cleaning each morning, and the last one outlining how to clean my entire house in less than one hour. On Monday, I started with the daily cleaning schedule. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to complete the entire checklist before naptime. I made my bed, did a load of laundry, wiped down the bathroom,  vacuumed, swept, and mopped the floors.

When Tuesday rolled around, my teething 1 year old was feverish and had been awake from 12:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. By the time morning rolled around, we were both exhausted. Still, I’d made my mind up: exhausted or not, I wanted to keep up with my cleaning routine. You know that phrase, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”? Well, as soon as these cleaning lists became a part of my life, I was way more aware of how I was falling short in the homekeeping category.

And when I realized the list suggested I should be vacuuming my entire house everyday, I wasn’t feeling so determined anymore. I did what I could, and then settled in on the couch to read with my girls, frustrated that being a Pinterest-perfect mom meant scrubbing my toilet every single day. As the week progressed, I realized I could only do so much in order to spend the time I wanted to with my girls and keep on track with my work. It wasn’t realistic to think I could do it all, every single day, and still have time leftover.

On Sunday, my husband and I teamed up to try to blitz through cleaning our house in less than an hour. This cleaning checklist was way more realistic, especially since it claims you only need to carve out an hour each week. But, with both my husband and I working on it, it took a little over an hour. If it had just been me, it would have taken twice as long, and is it even possible to clean an entire house in an hour with two kids? I don’t think so, but I’m still OK with devoting an hour of our combined effort to keep up with the housework each week. This method for keeping our house clean felt way more manageable with our jam-packed schedules. And the cherry on top? This cleaning schedule didn’t require I vacuum my floor or clean my toilet seven days a week.

Was A Pinterest-Perfect Life For Me?

All-in-all, my efforts to be a Pinterest-perfect mom mostly fell flat. I’ll hang on to the new playtime activities -- they actually made my life a little easier because they kept my toddler entertained. As for the daily cleaning schedules and the creative new recipes? Quite frankly, those just got in the way of me being the best mom I can be. The added workload made me stressed out and impatient, and the extra time needed to cook and keep my house perfectly clean took away from valuable time I could’ve spent with my kids.

Pinterest can keep its perfectly cleaned houses and elaborately planned menus; I’m more than happy to hang on to my carefree days. In the end, this week really confirmed what I already knew: Pinterest-perfect momming isn’t for me.