Mommy Pressure: 1st Birthday Recap and Coping with Mommy Expectations

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This curious, rambunctious, and sweet boy turned 1!

I had been pinning things to my Pinterest board since January for Rigel’s first birthday. I could see it all in my mind, the perfect red, white, and blue decor to go with a Captain America theme. Rigel surrounded by his little friends from library story time. Family in town to watch him smash his first birthday cake into delicious, delectable bits. And then Covid-19 happened. I was pretty convinced initially that it all would have blown over by his birthday on July 2nd but as we all know, it hasn’t.

As the weeks led up to his birthday, I felt paralyzed trying to decide what to do. Have a drive-by birthday party? But what if it rains? Set up in the garage so neighbors and friends could drop by in a socially distant way? But it’s really hot. Just do a Zoom call with friends and family? I couldn’t decide. In the meantime, I finalized a menu complete with Rigel’s favorite foods – grilled cheese sandwiches cut into stars, marshmellow and berry kebobs, pigs in a blanket, guac and chips. I had planned to bake the cake. I was so committed to baking a gluten-free cake for Rigel that I had practiced in April by making a cake to celebrate our Anniversary — it was tasty but the frosting could have used some work.

As the day got closer I found myself feeling like nothing was ready. I was working again at this point. Doing some freelance work which meant I could be a little flexible with what times I got my work done but we were running up on a deadline. The demands of my husband’s job meant that he couldn’t help very much during those days, except for the day before where he got off work early and instead of coming straight home got distracted with some of his own hobbies. You can imagine how much that stressed me out being the type A personality that I am.

Rigel’s socially distant & Zoom 1st birthday.

The day of the party, which we ultimately invited only about 8 people to, only one of whom attended and had the rest watch over Zoom, I was seriously behind schedule. I had to go to three different stores to pick up the remaining supplies (stuff I had hoped to get done the day before). My husband thankfully had the day off so he could watch Rigel while I went out to finish these last minute errands. But it just wasn’t enough time to prepare my overambitious, Pinterest worthy first birthday. I ended up buying gluten-free cake mix in case I got crunch for time to make the cake. Thank goodness I did because otherwise there would have been no cake. When I got back from the errands I spent three hours in the kitchen, making the grilled cheese sandwiches, baking the cake with the cake mix, and then decorating that cake. It was probably not the time to be a perfectionist. I didn’t have the kind of time that I wanted to decorate the house. Didn’t make all the things I originally wanted to make for the menu. We had star grilled cheese sandwiches, red white and blue kebobs, guac and chips, cupcakes for the guests, and Rigel’s smash cake.

Decorating Rigel’s cake — cutting it to the wire.

As I watched Rigel paw his cake all I could think was, this just wasn’t good enough for my little boy. I could have done better. I should have planned better. I was sad that none of his friends could come. I missed my friends and family back home in Florida. Rigel on the other hand was happy as could be eating his chocolate cake, playing with his new toys, and talking to his new friend Captain America.

Rigel smashing his Captain America cake and enjoying the chocolate.

I couldn’t see that though all I saw was that I had come up short as a Mom. The next day I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. I checked out. The pressures of trying to be a Mom, with the added stress of trying to be a Mom during a pandemic, finally got to me. I felt like a failure. I was tired. I wondered why no one came to our socially distant party. I wondered how much longer I could go without letting my son spend any time with other children. I even wondered if I was a good enough Mom for him.

It was a few days before I really snapped out of it. I had to remind myself that whatever I see on social media from other Mamas is often not the whole story. Even if I strive to be honest and real about motherhood, I know not everyone else is doing the same thing. I got to thinking about my son.

Time passes fast when you’re having fun!

At 12 months old Rigel is walking, vocal (and trying to verbalize), he’s stubborn, he’s happy. He loves meeting people. He likes to dance. He likes playing catch and tag with me. He laughs all the time and has the best laugh ever. He’s really strong and really sweet. He can tell when I need hugs and gives them freely and often. He’s curious and loves to figure out how things work. He’s fearless and yet cautious at the same time. He always looks like he’s considering his options before he does something. He likes to climb and dangle upside down (you can thank his father for that). He’s a healthy little boy with a strong gut that can handle even his father’s asian inspired dishes. He’s more than I could have ever hoped for even with 100 Pinterest boards. He’s the little boy that the Lord knew I needed. I never thought I could love someone else so much.

He was so happy despite everything I thought was wrong.

And that’s the thing Mamas, we put all this pressure on ourselves to throw the perfect party, to give them the perfect food, to educate them the perfect way because we love these little people so much…literally more than life itself. But all they need is just happy Mamas that are present and play with them. That means doing the tiger voice that they love for the one millionth time and playing peek-a-boo until you can’t peek or boo anymore. Because they grow up really fast. And when you’re dropping them off at college, trying not to cry because your baby is all grown up, you’re not going to think about the party that didn’t have the perfect decorations, or the family pictures that didn’t turn out the way you wanted to; you’re going to think about the time your little one snuck into the cupboard or your kid’s face when you got them their first dog, or that time your camping trip got rained out but you all danced in the rain.

So while it’s great to want to make things pretty and put together, Mamas it’s okay to not have it all together as long as you’re happy and your kids are happy. Remember when you start feeling overwhelmed by something that you *think* you’re doing FOR your children about what your little one might be thinking as you’re stressing about it. Are they wishing Mommy had time to play right now? Are they wishing Mommy would stop to watch the neat trick they learned? Does it hurt them when Mommy gets irritated because something that they don’t understand didn’t go according to plan? Will they remember the stuff or how it felt to be around Mommy when they grow up? After you’ve answered all those questions proceed to pin with caution.

We’re all doing the best we can, especially on the first go around. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves with all the Mommy Expectations. Let me know in the comments if Mommy Expectations ever got to you and how you dealt with the Mommy pressure. And remember I’m always around if you need someone to listen and remind you that we’re all a mess, even the ones that LOOK like they have it all together.

Sending Mommy hugs,


Author: Grace G.

New Mom and Retired Lawyer trying to share the ride.

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