My best friend tells me to check out Something Navy on Instagram — and I really wish she hadn’t. I flip to this mom’s profile as I eat ice cream on the couch in my Mounties onesie, my hair tied up in a rainbow striped Forever21 headband, relishing my boys having finally fallen asleep. I was going to shower; I didn’t. One of the boys had accidentally peed on my feet earlier in the evening, prompting me to look down at my wet toes and wonder if I should perhaps, at some point, put polish back on them. But now I can’t stop scrolling through an onslaught of gorgeous photos of this mother of two who runs a “contemporary lifestyle destination & brand” and is one of the top reasons that I may soon experience Death By Instagram Mom.
Some photos are just of Arielle, looking radiant in her to-die-for outfit of the day. Others are of Arielle and her children in their to-die-for outfits of the day, looking like they always go to sleep at the prescribed bedtime in what I can only imagine are to-die-for pajamas. I can’t see, what with her gorgeous shoes, but I imagine Arielle’s toes are always perfectly polished.
“Why would you do this to me?!” I write my friend.
“Just wait until Hamptons season,” she says.
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There goes my night — and the next few months down the wormhole of Instagram mom–ing. Here’s the plain truth: Social media mothers are killing me. Not the ones who are making their own yogurt and baking superfood filled muffins, though I am doing neither of those things. Still, those moms I’m able to appreciate, albeit with a grain of salt. It’s the moms in the perfect skinny jeans and high ruffled heels I can’t stand. It’s model moms who are making me hate myself one perfect flouncy dress, graphic tee paired with tailored jeans, and matching mommy-and-me bathing suit at a time.
I want to be a more fashionable mom, but I can barely keep up with my three-year-old twins in flats. Are these women managing meltdowns at the grocery store in stilettos? Do their kids never tantrum mid-aisle because they are not buying more Bear Paws today and so they must carry them under their arms for the rest of the shop? (“We have them at home, I said! Yes we do! We do! Please get up! GET UP! How about a banana?”).
I’m jealously horrified by these perfect, beautiful Instagram moms. And I can’t look away.
What is it really about these stunning photos that pains me? Why do I feel such an ugly inadequacy deep in my chest looking at them? I have been trying to decipher the root of my fixation. Is it just vanity? A lamentation for a time when I carried a purse instead of a backpack? Have I somehow equated good mothering with great on-trend kimonos? Certainly, I wouldn’t want my boys to care so much about how others dress. This isn’t a lesson I want to teach them. I want them to care about empathy, people’s character, what’s on the inside and, you know, all those other fundamental lessons about humanity and how to be in the world. Except…you can be both stunning and have a beautiful heart, right?
“Why don’t you just unfollow them,” my husband suggests. Which is honestly so dumb. Like self-esteem is that simple.
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22 weeks baked… Recently had our 20 week scan, still as incredible third time round. ✨ You all keep asking if we are finding out the babies gender, both our boys were a surprise and for us it was the most exciting time not knowing leading up to the birth, so we are doing the same this time round… (although Stanley is convinced it’s a girl… Otis doesn’t care, just insists on kissing baby 20 times a day) Tell me, did you find out? And what do you think guys, Girl or Boy? Maternity underwear by @loveintimo This stunning 📸 by @nicolepasphotography #22weeks #overhalfway #babynumberthree #melbournemum #annamac
I think perhaps I am using my appearance as an indelible reflection that represents this precious time in our lives: the time when my boys are little. When they run to greet me at the end of the day, when they insist on holding my hand while we’re walking down the sidewalk, when their problems can be solved with a hug and a kiss — and I want their reflection on this time, and mine, to be a good one. I want my boys to look back at pictures and videos and know how much this time meant to me — that these years were important, and that I dressed for the occasion, so to speak. I don’t want them to see my weariness.
As we don’t get to see each other as often as we like, my best friend and I often exchange pictures. I send her one of me and one of my boys.
“How thick my neck looks,” I write. I used to have such a thin neck! That’s what I notice at first: tired eyes, a chubby chin, a few gray hairs at the roots. It’s a picture of my son and I lying side-by-side on the floor together, laughing. Looking at it, I can’t help but giggle again.
My faded T-shirts and my unremarkable jeans don’t matter. That’s not what my son will see when he looks at this photo. Instead, he will see — I think — the joy and the love in our eyes. He will see a mom who can’t help but look at her son and smile.