8 tips for new moms struggling with internet perfection

Tired mom with new babyI was lucky.

I was lucky when Lily was born that Instagram didn’t exist. That Twitter was just growing legs. That I hadn’t yet created a Facebook account.

Because, as a new mom struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, seeing a whole world of blissed-out moms with perfectly dressed (and sleeping!) babies, gorgeous nurseries and designer gear surely would have sent me over the edge.

Reading about this new mom breaks my heart and rips open old wounds. Because she suffered in silence from a debilitating illness. But also because she worked so hard to maintain the appearance of perfection.

And I can’t help but wonder how big a role the internet played in her ideal of perfection.

There really is no such thing as perfection in life, much less when you’re slogging through the newborn trenches. But the internet tells us it’s out there. It’s everywhere, actually. And why can’t you — exhausted mom with leaky boobs and matted hair and a screaming baby — attain this perfection?

It’s ridiculous.

And even if someone else’s reality actually does include glorious hair and makeup, a baby dressed in the latest on-trend clothes who can sleep anywhere and a home that looks like an Anthropologie catalog, that doesn’t make your experience any less amazing or beautiful.

So I have some advice for any new mom feeling defeated by the “perfection” of the internet-Joneses. Some stuff that helped me when my second baby was born and I was hooked to my brand-new iPhone.

These aren’t easy. But they helped me, and I hope that even just one will do the same for you.

  1. When baby is sleeping, nursing or in your arms just hanging out, put down your phone and try to close your eyes. I know the urge will be strong. To check Facebook. To send a snap. To get the perfect dreamy-light-cozy-moment photo for your Instagram feed. But trust me, there will be tons of other moments to capture. If you have to, take a quick pic, then put the phone down. You can post it later, after you’d had a little rest and your partner is taking care of the baby.
  2. Quit following any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. I still do this.
  3. Follow accounts that are REAL. Like @womenIRL and @kidsaretheworst. And any of these. Because many of those mom bloggers/social media influencers claiming to “keep it real” are still posting beautiful, unattainable images of perfection.
  4. Build lasting, helpful, meaningful connections through the internet. It can be a wonderful place for new moms. There are all sorts of communities of women in your shoes, and you can find them in Facebook groups, Twitter meet-ups and blogs. It’s beyond comforting. It’s validating. And can be life-saving.
  5. Try to resist FOMO. I know it’s hard. But the most important thing in the whole world is happening right there in your arms.
  6. Let in those closest to you. The woman who wrote that article above was the mother’s best friend, but even she was being kept behind the curtain of truth. Lean on your partner, your family, your closest friends. Let them see and hear and feel the real stuff. My best friend traveled 600 miles to spend time with me when both of my babies were just a few weeks old. She got puked on, screamed at and saw me at my very worst. But I needed her more than anything, and her presence was the best gift. Let your people help. The whole village thing really is true. And they don’t give a shit about perfection.

AND if you think you may have a perinatal mood disorder like postpartum depression, talk to your doctor. As soon as possible. Get the help you need. For me, it was medication, therapy and the most amazing support group. And Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International are wonderful resources. You are not alone. None of us is ever alone.

Sophie Lately

Photo of a little girl on the beach

On her goals for the future:
> Actually when I grow up I’m going to be a veterinarian and also a digger and a builder.

After I told her she ate a good dinner:
> My face was so hungry and my heart inside my tummy was saying “I’m so hungry!”

General wisdom:
> My brain helps me think of everything.
> That’s not a nice thing to say. I’ll keep it in my mouth.
> Guess who’s the boss? My brain.
> 8-years-olders don’t know everything!
> Life is what’s important for ya. Not the cereal Life, but life.

After a kiss:
> Inside your mouth did you smell my mouth breath?

Throwing a penny into a fountain:
> I wished I love you and I wished for the earth.

On love:
> All of the love things people give me, they sink into my heart and my heart grows bigger and bigger.
> I love you a hundred and a million.
> Hugs are for love.

On Christmas night:
> This is the most awesomest day I ever did!

Doctor = “dop-ter”
Iron = “i-run”
Jesus = “Jeez-its”
Remember = “buh-member”

Saying goodbye to our Bella

Bella didn’t just love the beach. She could never get enough of it.

The sand, the waves, all the birds to chase.

Here she is in her element, during our wedding week 12 years ago:

photo of black lab playing at the beach

Her ritual never changed. From the moment Bella caught the scent of salt air, she’d claw her way across the boardwalk, dragging us up and over the dunes with a leash extended as far as it could stretch.

And once that “clink” separated leash from collar, she’d bolt for the water in a flurry of sand, flapping ears and maniacal tail-wagging. Back in her young-gal days, she could jump several feet off the ground to fetch a piece of driftwood or snag a waterlogged tennis ball from the air.

So I never doubted where Bella’s final resting place would be.

Ocean Isle Beach. The west end, where Tubbs Inlet slices it apart from Sunset Beach.

When the tide is really low, the water recedes so far back you can practically wade between the islands. That was always Bella’s favorite time to sprint through tide pools and terrorize seagulls trying to rest.

Yesterday was cold and windy and beautiful. My favorite kind of winter day on the beach. And the tide was really low when we set out to say goodbye to Bella, which I took as a good sign.

The clouds had just started smothering the sun, but it didn’t matter. We walked to the point, separate but together, our little family spread out across a vast expanse of sand and shallow pools.

Sophie darted in and out of the water, scooping up sea foam, pants rolled up above her knees. Lily carefully combed the beach for sand dollar pieces. I followed Marc to the very edge of the sand, head down, tears stinging my eyes.

The wind caught my first scoop of ashes, causing it to splatter onto the wet sand. Which was awful and upsetting. So I shed my boots, rolled up my leggings and waded out to ankle-deep territory. The cold water stung, which made me cry even harder, but finally — gently — I spread a handful of ashes into the ocean. The tide quickly lifted and scattered them.

Marc stayed quietly nearby, hugged me when I most needed it, and spread a handful of ashes. The girls each got a turn too, then scraped little tributes to Bella into the sand after watching their dad carve a heart around the letter B.

photo of dog images carved into sand photo of a heart and the letter B carved into the sand at the beach

By the time we finished, the sun had completely disappeared.

But later, as I walked back down the beach with a soaked Sophie on my back, I turned around and saw this. A glorious sliver of golden sky over the inlet.

photo of beach and sky

And I didn’t feel like crying anymore.

We love you, sweet Bella girl, queen of the waves, sand and seagulls. Rest in peace.

Christmas Day

I wake to the sound of Sophie’s door creaking open.

7:15. Not bad.

Quiet little feet pad across the hall. She crawls into bed with us, but despite my best efforts, there will be no more closing of eyes. After a few minutes of forced snuggling, I cave and agree that she can go wake her sister.

The girls bolt down the stairs, Marc and I on their heels, and dive head-first into their stockings.

Then this. Lily discovering that Santa brought her #1 gift.


And Sophie, hugging her new book (they get one special picture book every year at Christmas and on their birthdays. I hope to send them each off to college with a treasured collection).


And Marc, front and center, battling through cardboard and plastic and countless zip ties, wearing the necklace Lily made him.


And then, poof, it’s over.

We crowd under the tree for a family photo. “Mommy’s Christmas wish” I tell the girls. They oblige, clutching favorite toys to their chests.

After assembling and charging and playing with new toys, and devouring french toast casserole, and more playing, we head down the street to Nonna and Papa’s house, where homemade tomato sauce simmers on the stove and Perry Como’s voice drifts from the living room.


This is one of my favorite shots — Sophie’s face when she discovers cash in her stocking.


Sweet cousins.



I get out from behind the camera for a moment (and I’m so happy I did).





So much love. And laughter and comfort. And full bellies. And happy, happy kids.

Another Christmas Day, gone in a blink. I’ll confess: I’m always a little depressed on December 26th. But the traditions and the memories — and the gift of slowing down for time together — fortify us for the new year ahead.

That’s the good stuff. I’m holding on tight.


Sophie is fiveMost every morning, she climbs quietly out of her bed and up into mine. I don’t even have to open my eyes to situate her in just the right spot, tucked under my arm, her legs curled against my belly.

She loves to go to school, but does not appreciate the value of routine. Especially when her toys beckon to be played with and her teeth have no interest in being brushed.

She is VERY independent and is constantly flexing those muscles. Which, while frustrating a lot of the time, is also quite awesome. Because she is courageous – fearless, really. Like when she told Marc to take the training wheels off her bike and wobbled and scraped her way around our cul-de-sac until she could ride on two wheels like the big kids.

Spaghetti and pizza are her favorite foods. Along with pretty much anything sweet, especially “vacation” cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Speaking of spaghetti, one of my favorite Sophie-words is “sa-lahn-ya,” which means lasagna.

Others I can’t bring myself to correct:
“calapiddar” = caterpillar
“buh-member” = remember
“mur-ee-oh” = burrito

Her big sister is the center of her universe, and she wants to do pretty much everything Lily does. All the time. She also is the only one who can get Lily really laughing good. The deep-down-in-your-belly-eyes-watering laughter.

She tells really bad jokes, takes great pride in styling her hair ALL BY MYSELF into a side ponytail and gives really good kisses (with sound effects).

She loves to build — with Legos, magna-tiles, tanagrams, her old baby blocks — and makes the most amazing creations.

She is the light of our lives. A hilarious, clever, brilliant ray of sunshine.

Happy birthday number five, sweet Sophie Muriel.

Lily lately

Lily hikingLatest questions for Siri (she calls her “Serious”):
What does cheese taste like?
How does a clock work?
Where do flowers come from?
What color is your hair?
Is Beyoncé your favorite?
Where do porcupines live?

On the rare day that her little sister doesn’t drive her crazy: 
I think I’m going to marry Sophie!

On trying an egg sandwich:
I’ll try it someday soon. And I mean when I’m 99.

After vacation: 
I am SO not ready to go back to school tomorrow. I’m going to miss waking up and having a cartoon in my face.

On her superhero creation, “Super Tootie Girl”:
My toots are really stinky and I toot on the bad guys and they pass out.

In the backseat of the car: 
Ugh! Sophie, you are so complicating!

On worst-case scenarios:
Imagine if you were allergic to cheese puffs and chocolate. What a life that would be!

On best-case scenarios: 
Wouldn’t it be so nice if you could wear yoga pants to work with a pillow strapped to your head and your jammy shirt and slippers?

When driving through a college campus, noticing that the buildings were named after people:
So that means one day there could be a Lily Maxine building!

When exasperated from being sick so often: 
Me: Are you tired of me asking you how you’re feeling?
Lily: I’m just plain tired.

Counseling a sobbing Sophie through a strep test: 
Guess what Sophie!? When I go to college I’m going to invent a strep throat laser beam in science class. So then they won’t put that horrible stick down your throat any more!