Once upon a time, I was an active Facebook user… very active. I was constantly scrolling, posting, checking for notifications from people I didn’t even know, and just generally pausing real life for a digital world that didn’t matter. After some insufferable Girl Drama with some insufferable girls, I decided I needed to take a break. I deleted my account, certain that I’d cave and return in a few days… except I didn’t. The next day, there was a shooting at a church in Texas and I actually had the emotional and mental energy to discuss it with, of all people, my husband. When Jake shared that he’d felt like I never wanted to talk to him about world events, because I’d worn myself out arguing with virtual strangers, I realized that social media was harmful for me on levels I’d never even acknowledged. As time went on, I felt less stress, less frustration, and like I had so much more time without it. Suddenly, my family called to inform me when someone was having a baby, getting married, or admitted to the hospital. While I felt less connected from those for whom I felt little, I felt more connected to the ones who mattered. That was six years ago and although I do use Jake’s old account to sell things on Marketplace, I’ve deleted anyone we actually know from his friends list. In my mind, Facebook has just become a place where moms go to compete and old people go to fight. I want no part of it. Instagram, however…
I became an active user of Instagram when I found out I was pregnant with my girls. I knew my Gramma would want to see pictures, but I wasn’t willing to rejoin Facebook. It took years for my family to accept that I’d left and would never return. As far as I knew, Instagram was strictly comprised of photos and videos, with little opportunity to argue with my great uncle about whether or not it was appropriate to use the n-word on someone else’s account… or at all. It seemed the obvious choice for sharing family photos, one universal enough that I wouldn’t need everyone to download something new. That was two years ago and I feel that Instagram is the one social media forum with which I can manage a truly healthy relationship. Still, there are several Instagram trends with which I want no part, such as…
Becoming a Momfluencer
I take a lot of pictures and the number increased exponentially once I had some babies. Having spent years working as a teen librarian, however, I am hyperaware of the presence I give my family on social media. My children are not only my children. They are people with feelings, who will one day have relationships, goals, and an image they want to cultivate for themselves. They don’t need to know about the times Mama sat in the living room floor and cried as they screamed, while somehow managing to look gorgeous for that carefully filtered photo. They don’t need to read about any of the negative feelings they’ve inspired, be they stress, frustration, or anger. They don’t need to be constantly dressed in uncomfortable designer toddler wear, that occasionally veers into disturbingly suggestive territory. While it’s easy enough to decide what’s appropriate to share and what’s not, now, just as I have never shared nude baby photos, I’ll never tell tales of bathroom accidents, school punishments, or private puberty moments. I limit both the types of photos and videos I share, in addition to who can see them and will likely become even more discerning as my kids grow older and more aware.
It’s not just my children who I don’t want living under a microscope, though. I have zero desire for feedback on my every parenting decision, from snack time to forward-facing carseats, to whether or not I do Santa. Moms can be the worst, most judgmental, hateful individuals. Just as I won’t allow my children’s middle school friends to dig through the archives for humiliating family song and dance videos, I won’t expose myself to the relentless scrutiny of women who know nothing about me or my children’s needs. My Gramma loves seeing photos and videos of her great grandbabies, but her ability to do so does not include the general public. There’s a reason this blog is anonymous and I’ve given my own family pseudonyms. We all deserve privacy. I will not give that up for the remote possibility that I’ll gain the kind of popularity that could lead to ad revenue. Which leads me to my next undesirable craze…
Creating Amazon Storefronts
Naturally, the above opinions mean I don’t follow a lot of influencers. My feed is largely comprised of complex cooking, cake decorating, and crafting videos, which I harshly judge with full awareness of my inability to replicate them. Still, the occasional influencer has crossed my path with her Amazon Storefront.
Folks, even a cursory glance at my most recent Amazon orders leads me to call shenanigans on these influencers and their carefully curated shopping history. At least half of my last twenty purchases were different brands of earbuds, because keep your Lilysilk hair scrunchie for overnight curls, what a stay-at-home-mom really needs is excellent earbuds. Were I to share my Amazon purchases, it would only result in an Amazon Storefront for the insane. In the last three months, I’ve purchased:
- 8 different styles of leather pouches
- 14 different pairs of earbuds
- 8 pairs of women’s shoes
- 1 curling iron
- 4 different infant hats
- 3 jacks-in-the-box (yes, I need to know the plural)
- 1 high-end XBOX gaming controller
- 4 different lamps
- 3 pack of acrylic double-sided picture frames
- 40 pack of slap bracelets
- 8 pack of hand puppets
- 4 rolling blackout curtains
Sure, I returned most of the duplicates. I even bought more popular mom items, such as face wash, fabric softener, and hairbands. Regardless, my Amazon Storefront could only appear as a cross between that of Peewee Herman and one of the Desperate Housewives. I never have excelled at trendy, which brings me to…
Tiny Home and Van Living
It’s rare that I throw around the word “privilege.” Initially coined to call attention to legitimate social and economic advantages, our bored and hyperbolic society has wielded this term to create greater division and attach a sense of moral superiority to what often boils down to simple jealousy. In the truest sense of the word, however, there is nothing more privileged than glorifying minimal square footage. A component of the more widespread minimalist movement, tiny home living exalts the wealthy for having less, when so many people in this world have little choice in the matter. I, myself, have lived in “tiny homes” at different times in life. They just went by different names, like “trailer,” “motel room,” and “low-income housing.” My “capsule wardrobe” was a collection of Goodwill finds. The dishes I once displayed on an open shelf were a design choice resulting from my apartment’s roach problem. My simplistic décor and limited belongings were due to a lack of funding. I wasn’t chic. I was poor.
As a white, middle class, suburban mom, I am now exposed to every Marie Kondo-style fad as it arises. Each time it’s presented as a new and innovative way for people to dispose of all the junk they’ve had the privilege to buy in the first place, before painting everything in their house “natural cotton,” and filling it with overpriced houseplants. Each time, I roll my eyes so hard they’re in danger of getting stuck. While it is, of course, fine to love the color “oatmeal,” limit your dishes to four individual place settings, and decorate with copious amounts of macrame, I cannot stomach the sanctimonious attitude that accompanies this movement. I grew up in a hoarder’s home. I’ve been donating and throwing out the things that don’t “bring joy” for the entirety of my adult life. Have less if you want less, but don’t act like it somehow makes you a better human to spend $50,000 refitting a shed or van that you plan to park on someone else’s property rent free. Don’t even get me started on shipping container homes. I’ve gone without out of necessity. My three bed, three bath, 2,300 square foot home (converted garage included), on over an acre brings me joy. If living with less is your jam, excellent, but I’ve lived in 400 square feet and it was far from Instagrammable, so the champions of this movement can hold the self-righteousness. At least van and RV living have the benefit of mobility, which can’t be replicated by just buying a smaller house. That, however, reminds me how much I don’t want to…
Travel with Children
I have previously written that I am the only Millennial who hates travel. As much as I want to see something new or something old, the process of doing so is exhausting. I cannot wait for The OASIS of Ready Player One, so I can tour the pyramids from my own home. I am apparently all alone, however, because according to Instagram, travel is the bees knees. I’ve never related to the wealth of reels raving about the adventure that is spending hours in a car or on a plane… to sleep on a comforter that’s only washed twice a year… so that I can wake up and spend hundreds of dollars on basics that would cost me tens of dollars at home. In 2019, I declared that I’d rather do porn and I stand by that. Now my feed is flooded with articles celebrating travel with children and while I’m not quite willing to joke that I’d rather do porn with children, I would do some pretty degrading stuff.
Last summer, Jake and I had to bow out of a family trip to Colorado. We were a single income household with one-year-old twins, expecting a baby in December. We had to buy a minivan, decorate the spare bedroom for the girls, and redecorate their old bedroom for Thomas. As much as I wanted to spend a week in a luxury cabin with my family, it just wasn’t possible. Instead, we took a day trip to a nearby lake and watched The Hills Have Eyes in a hyperbolic reminder that vacations aren’t always fun. Meanwhile, while they weren’t dealing with mutant cannibals, my parents and step-siblings were decidedly not enjoying their Labor Day getaway. What began with an all-ages airport floor slumber party, shifted to group altitude sickness, followed by mass food poisoning, a family IV hydration therapy session, and finally, a return trip with Covid-19. The only thing that sounds worse than sleeping in an airport lobby and being several different kinds of violently ill, is doing so away from home, surrounded by other people, while caring for children.
While all of this reads like the screenplay for a bad family comedy, even normal travel involves navigating airport terminals, extended car or plane rides with changing air pressure, hotel rooms without the routine of home, and sourcing food and fun for everyone involved. This week, I had the privilege of telling Violet that she couldn’t eat the beanbag filling, Scarlett that it was time to leave the park, and the opportunity to try out the baby leash on both of them. If those every day events have been any indicator as to how a family vacation with three in diapers would go, I think I might prefer the cannibals. No amount of painter’s tape, snack tackleboxes, or a toddler travel bed from your “Amazon Storefront” is going to make a family trip any more enjoyable or worth the money than planning a family fun weekend in our comfortable home while our children are this small. Speaking of which, there is one final Instagram obsession that I wholeheartedly want to never tag.
When Jake and I bought this house, we had a short list of improvements we wanted to make. Having rented my entire adult life, I was eager to paint every room in the house. We needed a fence for our dogs. Jake had to clear some brush so we could get full use of our backyard. Over the years, the list grew. While we immediately refinished our converted garage into our bedroom; we eventually had to redo it as a family space where we could pull back the furniture and carpet when it rained heavily. That meant we had to finish the master bedroom in a way that would fit our furniture, requiring a pocket door and 360° shelves. Next, we blew insulation into the walls of the adjacent spare bedrooms, in preparation for the day they would be made into nurseries. Somewhere in there, we needed a storm shelter, a water softener, and a carport. The roof has been replaced, but now we need a new front door, a few new windows, and exterior paint. Our laundry list of little luxuries has become a chore list of necessities for a finished home built in 1980. I cannot imagine the burden that is flipping a house.
I’ve previously detailed my disdain for HGTV and how every single house looks the same. Nowhere is that more apparent than the #flipperhome hashtag. Whether you’re staring at a red brick townhome from 1960 or a Frank Lloyd Wright-style bungalow form the early 1900s, it’s going to be painted white with black trim and doors. The kitchen will have exposed wooden beams, a backsplash of subway tile, and dark green cabinets with gold finishings. The bathrooms will have free-standing oval tubs and showers built entirely of transparent glass. It’ll be staged with jewel-toned minimalist 60s mod furniture. The finished product will be homogeneously gorgeous in a feed with all the other #flipperhomes and it will have been miserably expensive, time consuming, and tedious to make it so.
HGTV presents every disaster as a hilarious adventure, complete with dialogue reminiscent of a middle school play. As a homeowner, though, I’m aware of the actual financial obligation that is a flooded garage turned bedroom, the disgusting chore of a septic system that needs tending, and the relentless hassle that is a roof replacement. I don’t even want to replicate the furniture remodels on my Instagram feed, let alone take on an entire house. As it is, Jake and I both insist on decorating our own home in classic styles and fashions we love, so we don’t have to take on the physical, emotional, or economic burden again any time soon. Our home may not be Instagram feed worthy, but that just might save me the trouble of getting all dolled up for that mental breakdown photoshoot.