It’s a(nother) wild morning at the Chapman house. The big two got up at the appointed hour, but I had a hard time falling asleep last night and a proportionately hard time getting out of bed this morning, so I started the day feeling a little behind as my 6- and 7-year-old chatter away happily and relentlessly. Just when it’s time to get the small two up, I hear a knock at the door.
Whoops! The home visit I thought was scheduled for tomorrow is actually today, and I meet the educator in my workout leggings with a very foul-smelling diaper in my hand. I greet her with the wild-eyed feigned enthusiasm of a mama desperately wishing she’d gotten up early enough for coffee. “HELLO! WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE!” I get a fresh diaper on the littlest and we start the appointment—definitely not tomorrow.
This woman is here because my youngest, at two, has lots of words but almost no consonants, so communication with her is a comical and frustrating guessing game that sounds like the Witch Doctor song: “oo ee oo ah ah.” By the time the speech intake is finished, my kids are done. I have given 45 minutes to this stranger, and they are tired of seeing my attention on anything but themselves. Four small people with big voices each demanding my immediate and undivided attention is a little more than this uncaffeinated and unfed mama can handle.
I do the obvious thing: open Instagram.
Ahhh. That’s better. Look at the happy toddler! The pretty flowers! The unicorn costume my friend is making for her preschooler! Well-lit snippets of other people’s lives float past me rapidly, allowing me to tune out the increasingly insistent voices of my children. It’s relaxing. For a second. Then the shrieking begins.
This always happens: I’m overwhelmed, so I tune out, so they get increasingly loud and possibly destructive, so I dive deeper into ignoring them, and the cycle continues until I have to handle a situation. I don’t remember who did what to whom, and it really doesn’t even matter. I’m pretty sure there was a round robin of minor violence in my living room, and it required my actual attention.
Once all four guilty parties are separated and settled, I get back to my screen. Oh, excellent! There are beautifully lit baked goods! And some GOURDS! Why are gourds always so perfect? Oh, look at that lovely, clean living room with the plants that I would certainly kill. It just screams “hygge.” I am pretty sure no part of my house will ever scream hygge, given that I don’t have the foggiest idea how it’s pronounced. Oh well.
On I scroll, filling my eyes with image after image of inspiration and lovely décor and happy children and beautiful light. What started off as a relaxing way to cope with the overstimulation of my home gives way to a gnawing dissatisfaction with my life. My house is messy, my lighting is yellowish, my children are annoying, and I don’t have time to read a beautifully-styled stack of books with a monogrammed mug in my hand in a comfy chair with a fluffy blanket next to a living houseplant. I don’t even have any of those things besides the stack of books, which, pardon me, I need to go rescue from a toddler.
I recognize this feeling. It’s not Instagram’s fault; it’s mine. Social media is just a tool—sometimes a handy one—but it can’t actually cure my crazy. It’s some pictures and words on a screen. Yes, those can inspire and bring joy, but perhaps fixing my actual life is a little too much to expect?
I put down the phone. My youngest picks it up and begins a conversation consisting strictly of vowel sounds. She’s a mystery to me—a glorious, endearing mystery. I look around at the rest of my children. They’re maddening and wonderful and ridiculous and hysterical (in every sense). My oldest two are… naked? But why??? Okay. Whatever. “Girls, put on your clothes and go outside. It’s lovely out. What?!? YES you have to wear underwear.”
I begin the long process of bringing calm into my house rather than trying to cheat by importing it through my phone. I choose to be present to monitor and correct my three-year-old’s series of questionable choices. I read books to the little two. The girls come back in with chilly fingers—it’s too cold to be without gloves, but too early declare defeat by digging them out—and we get lunch. My messy, noisy life remains (complete with crappy lighting), but the discontent has nearly evaporated.
It turns out the remedy for my overwhelm isn’t found in pictures of other people’s calm. Those pictures are fine for me—until I begin using them as an escape. I’m slowly getting better at recognizing the escape and subsequent malaise as a reminder to stop and celebrate my own life. Instagram can wait.
Robin Chapman is a full-time imperfect Jesus lover, wife, and mama to four babies six and down. When she isn’t buried in children or hiding from them, she enjoys reading, photography, and sharing stories on her blog, where she’d love to connect with you! You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram… or perhaps hiding in her bathroom with some coffee.