Social media is anxiety-inducing when times are good—why doesn’t my stew look exactly like Alison Roman’s? Wait, everyone’s on a yacht without me? Oh my god, how does she have time to color-coat her pantry? Add in kids, and you take it to another level—how in the hell did she pull off that DIY princess canopy bed? How are her kids so…clean? When did she learn TikTok!?
Though lots of things have changed in the time of COVID-19, “momstagramming” has not. And if you thought things were Insta-perfect before quarantine, buckle up, because some moms are absolutely thriving in isolation—or at least they’re posting like it—making troves of moms even more anxious than they were before. For many, it started with one mom’s viral schedule which accounts for every hour between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. with everything from waking up to contingency plans if it’s raining (yoga instead of a family walk).
There are tons of grateful comments thanking the user for sharing her detailed daily plan, including one “grown ass woman” who could use it to “desperately [add] some structure” to her days. But for lots of moms, it simply highlights their own failures as they scramble to retain some semblance of normalcy in their day-to-day. With childcare plans out the window, parents who can work remotely now need to create systems that allow for them to work on top of parenting and household duties. And that doesn’t include the parents who are now their own school administrators.
“The color-coded COVID schedule has by now made the internet rounds and has spurred plenty of ire as well as admiration,” said one reader, mother of two. “But the main complaint in my circles isn't the idea of a schedule. (Schedules are great! My kids go bonkers without a schedule!) It's the holier than thou specificity of this schedule. 10 a.m. Sodoku cards? Getting the kids to wipe down the toilets? Please. I'm lucky if everybody in my house is wearing pants, let alone participating in brain games.”
One momfluencer I follow, with over 1.4 million followers, posted an adorable photo of her daughter in the midst of coronavirus with the caption, “Best therapy = a smiling baby.” On an Instagram grid that’s deliberately color-coded in dusty pink, a lighthearted comment like this can actually feel like a hundred knives to many moms thinking, “Well, my therapy is when my kid takes a nap.”
Noelle W., a friend who’s pregnant with a 2-year-old toddler to run after and a cat named Marge who is not too pleased with the quarantine, told me that she’s anxious, too. And on top of that, she’s anxious about being anxious. As she and her husband figure out how to stagger schedules so they can work remotely and parent for the best outcome, it’s not just the parenting-related stuff that’s adding to her stress casserole: “One source of my anxiety is people doing these home workouts—these people are, like, getting snatched, and I'm in tears.”
Parents are already under so much scrutiny—from their own communities, from social media and from themselves. Of course, nobody (OK, most people) don’t post their color-coded schedules or picture-perfect children to make others feel bad about themselves. But there’s something wired in us that makes us feel like it’s all a comment on our own shortcomings.
Jenny St. Angelo’s, another friend and mother of an 18-month-old told me her mantra in these strange times, “My philosophy is the same as before we became ‘Inside People’: I'm doing the very best that I can, and if I try to measure my motherhood by anyone else's yard stick I'm going to be miserable.” Maybe we should all follow suit.