The Trap of Toxic Positivity

Do not fall into the toxic positivity trap. It is so easy to do, especially, with social media showing us a constant stream of “perfect, smiling families on fun, fabulous family adventures.” Or, living in “perfectly decorated, clean, homes, making the cutest crafts together.

As mothers, we tend to get pressure from every direction.  There is the pressure to be a perfect mother, pressure to have, and maintain a perfect house, pressure to be a good spouse or partner, and pressure to make every family moment special. If you work outside the home, there’s pressure to work like you don’t have a family. We can feel pressure to still be attractive as we age, or after carrying multiple children.  There’s pressure to join the PTA, pressure to get your children to all the extracurricular activities, and pressure to eat and cook only healthy meals. With all those pressures comes all the mom guilt when you fall short.

Over and over again, on social media and in real life, I have seen parents who openly talk about the challenges of parenthood and family life get comments like “What happens when your child grows up and reads what you’ve said?” Or “Why did you have kids, if you don’t even like them?” And “Your pessimistic take on parenthood is going to scare young people off of parenting.” 

Often, we feel like we can’t talk about these pressures, the guilt of not living up to the pressure, and the stress associated with parenting in general. We are expected to, at least appear, as though we adore our children, ALWAYS. During hard moments we are told to remember that time goes quickly and before we know it they will be grown. We, ourselves, expect to ALWAYS feel blessed by our families. This is toxic positivity, and it delegitimizes our overall experiences as mothers. It hurts our mental health and teaches our children unhealthy coping mechanisms. It promotes the idea that things can be rotten on the inside, as long as it’s pretty on the outside.  

So how do you avoid the trap? Here’s a few things I do: 

● Limit social media exposure. Unfollow any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, and follow the accounts of parents who are trying to be real about their family and parenting experiences. 

● Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, and practice saying, “I appreciate the (advice, suggestions, invitation) but I don’t feel like that’s right for our family. ” Just because your neighbor is in the PTA doesn’t mean that you have to be. Just because your nephew participates in 3 sports doesn’t mean your children need to. 

● Remember that your presence and love are more important to your children than the perfect holiday scene or an over the top family vacation. If it’s going to make you exhausted, overwhelmed, or too distracted to enjoy your time with your family, then it’s not worth it. 

● Realize that parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. You will have bad days and make mistakes.  Show yourself the same grace that you would give a friend.  

The truth is, we do adore our children, and we are blessed by our families. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t also feel overwhelmed, frustrated, exhausted, unappreciated, and guilty. And guess what? That is okay too. Those feelings are equally valid as the positive feelings we have about motherhood.  Just like with so many other things in life, the lows of parenting help us to appreciate the highs.

Below are pictures of me with my boy in our matching Easter outfits, as well, as the multiple takes it took to get just one decent picture. Only the three of us made it to Easter dinner this year, but that was ok, because the entire family had a good weekend.

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Lauren Eber
Lauren is originally from the Laurel Highlands area in Westmoreland County. However, she lived in West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia before returning to South Western Pennsylvania after having her two youngest children to be closer to family. She and her husband have a blended family, each have a teen daughter from previous relationships, and at the ages of 39 and 40, they added two boys to their family. Lauren shares custody of her daughter, with her daughter’s father, who lives in West Virginia, while she, her husband, stepdaughter, the two elementry school age boys, and their three legged rescue dog now live in Mount Lebanon. In addition to being a mom, Lauren works full-time as an interior designer at a local kitchen and bath design center. She also enjoys reading, crafts, drawing, spending time in the mountains, writing, photography, watching the Penguins play, and eating vegetarian wings at The Double Wide Grill. She loves connecting with other moms and feels it is essential for moms to have a community of other women who support and encourage them on their parenting journey.