Not long ago, my team at work went to breakfast before taking the afternoon off. My co-worker asked me over pancakes, “Are you going to pick up your daughter from daycare?”
I laughed and said no. Then I went swimming, bought a book at Barnes & Noble, and watched TV at home until my husband picked her up later that evening.
Hi, my name is Kelsey, and I’m a “lazy” mom.
I haven’t always felt so enlightened and guilt-free about my lazy mom status. When I took my first sick day after returning from maternity leave, my husband convinced me to let the sitter come over anyway so I could get some much-needed sleep. I tossed and turned in bed for an hour because I felt so guilty that I was ignoring my baby — and I eventually emerged from the bedroom to send the sitter home.
Despite my quiet, desperate desire for some alone time without my baby, there was a nagging voice inside my head. It told me that being in the same house with my daughter and not holding her made me a lazy mom.
It wasn’t the first time I had heard that voice. I’d been hearing it for months, ever since the night I gave birth.
I had walked into the hospital that night armed with an illusion that I could keep up with those glamorous Pinterest mamas who breastfeed for two years, post weekly milestone photos of their newborns surrounded by halos of flowers, and testify of the utterly transformative experience of natural childbirth.
I’d printed a birth plan on card stock paper. I outlined my preferences for pain management, from warm baths to birthing balls. I planned to change position often and walk off my contractions.
But when I finally reached the delivery room, I planted myself on the hospital bed with no intention of leaving that spot until there was no longer a baby inside me. I kept wondering when I’d finally be able to go to sleep, not when I’d get to meet my daughter.
And I guess that’s when I first felt the sinking realization that I didn’t measure up to my own vision of an empowered, energized warrior mother.
The realization returned when I saw friends take babies younger than mine on strenuous mountain hikes, while I struggled to get my kid into the stroller for a walk around the block.
It returned when I switched from breastfeeding to formula — not for medical reasons, but because I was sick of plugging in the pump behind the couch every night. When I made that switch to formula, I agonized over telling my own mom, who breastfed all five of her kids. In my mind, she is Wonder Woman. I imagined that she’d be disappointed in me and my utter “laziness.”
When I mustered the courage to tell my mom, she praised me for breastfeeding as long as I did, and that she didn’t know how I had managed it with a full-time job.
It occurred to me then that the pressure I’d been suffocating under had been almost entirely self-inflicted.
I’d concocted this “perfect mom” image, and believed that everyone else in the world was measuring me against it.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Of course, society contributes to the staggering weight of unrealistic parenting expectations. Just as your body image might suffer if you only follow fitness influencers on Instagram, when you constantly compare yourself to those seemingly perfect mommy bloggers in your news feed, it will only reinforce any feelings of inadequacy. Aside from my desires to emulate my mother, the rest of my insecurities stem from reading too many Pinterest tutorials and drooling over too many adorable Instagram photo shoots.
I can almost guarantee that I’m not the only woman who does this to herself. According to a recent study, millennials are more likely than their predecessors to feel stressed out, and women are more likely to feel stressed than men. I can’t speak for every woman out there, but I would venture to guess that at least some of us are adding to our own stress with self-inflicted, unrealistic expectations of what we should be, often influenced by our mistaken perceptions of others’ lives.
So, I unfollowed the mommy bloggers. Not out of malice (because I believe that most of them have only the best of intentions), but out of necessity and self-preservation. I’m learning to let go of these expectations, and to embrace my status as a lazy mom.
It’s going to be a long journey, but I’m getting there slowly.