You Can Stop Pinterest Parenting Now

My own Herculean efforts once went into trying to capture the last day of preschool. Then I realized that maybe the “bad” pictures are better after all.

Stop letting Pinterest ruin your life. Seriously. Stop it. Here are a few things Pinterest is good for:

  • Gathering party theme ideas
  • Finding dinner ideas
  • Storing reference photos for your next cosplay project

Things you should not be using Pinterest for:

  • Letting strangers make you feel like a terrible mother

I’ve been seeing an increasing number of blog posts and social media statuses about how inferior someone feels because of the Perfect Pinterest Moms they’ve put themselves in invisible competition with. Why? Because your life isn’t hard enough already? You need to win a non-existent cupcake decorating contest with no prize?

The most recent was a fellow GeekMom sharing this blog post, which humorously shares the agony of trying to take Pinterest-perfect, Instagram-ready, first-day-of-school photos, complete with a painstakingly decorated chalkboard noting the child’s grade, basic favorites, and anticipated career. Here are a few of the comments on that post:

“I spent two hours making signs. For three minutes of pictures.”

“It’s a struggle each year, as she get topped out on how many attempts it takes. Look here, smile, hold the sign, put your skirt down, where are your shoes, put down your lunch, smile, where’s the sign, etc. I’m usually sweating by the time we’re done.”

“This morning I had a full-on argument with a FIRST GRADER that no, you will not wear whatever you want today.”

“Isn’t the sign supposed to make the pictures better and not way, way harder?”

To that last one: yes. Well, no, perhaps that was not the explicit intention of whomever started this sign madness, but that is indeed what it should be for. I promise that when your little MacKenzaryaowyn graduates from high school, you will have no idea whether the pink shirt year was first or second grade. So sure, the sign has a purpose. Visiting ten stores to find the perfect vintage-look chalkboard that reminds you of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, spending two nights making it, and then trying four different locations around your house until it’s all just perfect—these obsessive steps do not have a purpose except to make you crazy. And if you’re like me, they can sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.

Would doing all of that in any way enhance your kid’s first day of school? Oh, did you forget? The first day of school is about them, not you. They are not embarking on further education so that you can show every stranger on the internet what a great mom you are because you found exactly the right lighting to commemorate that your child got on a bus successfully.

Gave them a healthy lunch or money to procure it at school? Sent them with the appropriate supplies in their backpacks? Made sure they were dressed in something reasonably weather-appropriate? Congratulations, you have succeeded in your role for the day. In no way will any of your Pinstagrambooking improve that experience for them. It’s just going to make you late for work.

Of course, that’s merely one day. Let’s talk about the real Plague of Pinterest: birthday parties. Not long ago, a friend linked to this screed against children’s birthday parties. This is clearly a woman who gains no joy from the party experience. And her kid isn’t even four! I don’t know what vicious celebration demon from Party Planet forced her to throw elaborate parties for a child who wouldn’t even remember them, but she was clearly scarred by the experience. Number six calls out Pinterest specifically, but we could apply this vague social pressure to most of the line items.

Here’s the thing. Some of us genuinely love making first-day signs and perfectly arranged Elmo fruit plates and cake pops that look like animals and weird things with Mason jars. And that’s cool. (Full disclosure, I may be one of those people from time to time.) But this is the important part: Some of us want none of it, and that’s OK. Totally, absolutely, 100% OK. You are in no tiny way an inferior mother because you didn’t hand-engrave invitations to your child’s first birthday at which you served 365 canapés each hand-designed to reflect a day of his life.

Upon pondering all this, I thought, well, surely our own mothers were plagued by something similar, except from magazines they actually paid good money for. I mean, I’ve seen Family Fun and wondered who thought it was “fun” to pull random crap out of the trash and “upcycle” it into “art” projects I’m just going to have to throw out in secret later.

So I dug up a 1988 issue of Working Mother magazine. Inside I found articles about… wait for it… being a working mother! (Favorite title: “Why would your man want a stay-at-home wife?”) Then there was a story about the wonders of microwave cooking for a busy mom and a Luvs ad featuring a baby sleeping on his stomach. (Also a plea from The Potato Board that you consider potatoes to be a vegetable.) Today’s mom-mags instead contain two pages about simultaneously pinning fall footwear trends and eating Greek yogurt while commuting, one page reassuring you that day care is good for your kid, and 30 pages about how to compose adorable bento box lunches customized for each child and making them seasonal sensory bins despite the fact that you have a full-time job.

So screw Pinterest. And Instagram. (Can we laugh for a moment at the massive amount of time and effort going into photos for something called Instagram?) And the “better” moms you’re friends with on Facebook. And all of the blogs of all this BS. If you want—genuinely want—to hand-craft your kid’s childhood into picture-perfection, do it. Absolutely do it. But if instead you feel like by doing that, you’re missing out on actually experiencing that childhood while you’re stuck behind a camera, then stop.

Drop the camera. Run with your kids, and remember that when you’re that involved, there’s no time for photos. And isn’t that really better?