Family

I'm A "Real" Mom Because I Mess Up, Not Because My House Is Messy

Photo: David Pereiras / Shutterstock
mom playing with kids

My Instagram is full of #WomenIRL posts. Real Simple's campaign is such an empowering and unifying outlet for women that I could hardly contain my rage when I read an essay claiming the moms who truly are naturally crafty and tidy and beautiful are sick of being treated like they're not "real" moms.

The writer mentions, "Some people's houses actually ARE clean and tidy" and my favorite line: "Some people have better hair than others." The essay purported that showing all these pictures of messiness makes us competitive and that possibly we’re bragging about failing at parenting? The writer's point is that we aren’t better moms just because we’re messy. What in the what?

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This misses the point entirely. The campaign implores women to share life’s unfiltered moments, the messier parts of life, not pictures of being messy. It’s a way to break the cycle of perfection in social media.

Wait, but you like your kitchen tidy and your kids dressed in cute clothes? So do I. But when you’re doing other important things like caring for the health, character, and future of your children, or maybe even trying to take care of yourself for a moment, sometimes you didn’t get to comb your kid’s bad bed head and then dumped his cereal all over the kitchen that you really like tidy. And that can be really, really funny. 

What? You don’t have messy moments? Hmm, that’s odd, because real life, a life lived hard, with a big purpose, is inherently messy.

Are you interacting with your kids in any way? Then life is messy.

Are you trying to squeeze a family picnic in on your day off work, or homeschool because you can't afford the school you want? Messy. Are you getting on the floor with your kids in a tickle fight? That might knock a lamp over every now and then. Are you reading fifteen books to soothe a sick toddler?

The shelf will be disheveled. Are you taking your kids out into society to see how the world works, and how they fit into it? You’ll need diapers and car seats and travel cups and those items are inherently messy. Digging deep into life will make a mess. A beautiful, hot mess.

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But it’s true: the campaign isn’t for everyone. If you care more about how things look than you do about how things actually are, then there's no appeal for you to let the Internet see your unfiltered self.

I engage in social media for relatability, not to be emulated, or for people to drool over what I can do or make. I think the purpose of community, digital or otherwise, is for people to feel comfortable being who they are, and then inspired to be an even better version of that.

If showing my good and bad days will help someone feel stronger in her own skin, then yes, see me without makeup and see the pot roast I dropped on the floor.

You see, I’m not bragging about my failure or copping out of good parenting.

Quite the contrary. I’m actually showing you how hard I’m working in life. Whether it’s trying new recipes or losing the baby weight or keeping my marriage together or writing a novel. Mess only happens when you try the big, the hard, and the new.

When we tag a failure or a "messy moment" it’s a chance to let others say, "Ha! Good for you! The same thing happened to me last week. Get back up and try again."

And that can be really, really empowering.

And when I make that killer carrot cake and it turns out amazing, or my baby hits a milestone early, or my kid looks like he walked out of a catalog? You better believe I’m going to post that, too! If you’re that woman with really good hair, post all about it. You’re awesome at making Olaf birthday cakes? By all means, photograph them!

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The idea is to show both, to portray the balance of ugly and beautiful, of messy and tidy, of accomplishment and failure that is women in real life.

And that is what doing life together is all about.

We've moved forward as women and as mothers. We're not confined anymore or defined by any one role. We’re musicians, providers, leaders, CEOs, police officers, and mommies. But when we consistently show boards, posts, and photos that demand a color scheme and constant unattainable style and togetherness, we’re confined once again.

We’re beaten down by perfectionism, regressing back to when we didn’t have choices. And when we’re beaten down, we’re bound to miss the most important moments of life: the hard, the beautiful, and yes, the messy.

Brit Tashijan writes on the collisions of religion and culture and tradition and progress. She's a modern woman who believes in classic values.

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