Extra Pulp: The Pinterest Problem

Pinned down by Pinterest expectations, Laura Anders Lee asks: What’s a mom to do?

David Vallejo

For Halloween, my 7-year-old son, Anders, always chooses an obscure character rather than your run-of-the-mill Darth Vader, Batman or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. One year, he insisted on being Francesco Bernoulli, an Italian race car from the Cars sequel. Of course, he didn’t choose Lightning McQueen or Tow Mater, for which there are ample costumes. “Scroll through Target.com and choose any one of their 200 costumes,” I said. “Then we can just press that red order button, and it’s free shipping right to our door tomorrow. C’mon, buddy, anything you want!” He refused, mind made up, leading me to my biggest fear: DIY.

I searched “Francesco Bernoulli” for do-it-yourself ideas on Pinterest to find that hundreds of moms had constructed actual vehicles for their sons using cardboard, Styrofoam, old seat belt material, glow-in-the-dark adhesive fabric, and working wheels that took them the whole of October to make. One mom advised, “And don’t forget the homemade gas can for collecting treats!” (What happened to buying an orange jack-o-lantern bucket for a dollar?!) In all the after photos, the boys were positively beaming, no doubt proud of their talented and dedicated parents willing to do anything to make their Halloween an ultimate success.

I am just not a do-it-yourselfer. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I can’t sew a button. But I know a nice dry cleaning place that does, and I can hem a pair of pants in an emergency using iron-on tape. I’ve made it by just fine in my adult life so far, until pesky Pinterest came around, exposing my ineptitudes. Other moms can finally show off their craftiness like never before, and I’m the plain Jane with store-bought supplies and quick and easy recipes. This time of year is the worst, and my Pinterest problem only escalates through the holidays.

After Halloween, over-the-top Thanksgiving ideas start popping up in our feeds, suggesting we moms add even more to our to-do lists. So we’re supposed to take care of our children, our jobs, our households and our out-of-town relatives, while also finding time to create an elaborate fall centerpiece, turkey-shaped treats and homemade pumpkin-flavored everything? And don’t forget photographic evidence to parade on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.

During the rush of Christmas, apparently we moms are supposed to make homemade gifts, not only for co-workers, neighbors and teachers, but for every child in the classroom. Last year, my 4-year-old son, William, came home from school with a shrink-wrapped basket filled with pencils, puzzles, games, candy and homemade cookies from a classmate. The contents looked like what would be in his stocking from Santa. The next day, William brought home several more Christmas presents from friends. I checked the school handbook, and it didn’t mention a gift exchange. Yet here was this silent code among mothers not only to provide gifts but to outdo themselves and seemingly one-up every other mother at school.

Just when I think my Pinterest problem is over, Valentine’s Day rolls around. Once a sweet and simple holiday, Valentine’s entailed popping into the drug store on Feb. 13 to grab some cards and candy for the class. Today’s moms burn the midnight oil making gourmet treats and hand-crafted personalized cards for preschoolers. Bouquets of flowers made out of tissue paper? Homemade scratch-off cards with hidden messages? Vegan cookies painted with icing to resemble Necco Sweethearts? No way. I’m taking my boys to CVS, where they can select cards of their favorite character du jour—and they will be excited about it!

This Halloween and throughout the holiday season, I’m keeping things simple. Yes, I admit this decision is partially because I have neither the energy nor the skill for complicated. But while I admire my genuinely talented friends who enjoy a creative outlet, I also believe that for other moms, there is a real Pinterest problem out there that’s fueling an unhealthy competition. We can and should create memorable and special holidays for our children without exhausting ourselves or making other moms feel less than the amazing parents they are.

For Halloween, Anders was Francesco after all. He wore a race car driver head set and a Cars 2 T-shirt I found online. I did fashion a red, green and white spoiler for the back of our red wagon out of cardboard, tape and some poster paint. He was happy, and I was happy—and that is all that matters. Nobody is going to pin it, but I’ll tell you where that pin can go.

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