LTYM Chicago 2016 Cast Spotlight: Mollie Ottenhoff!

by Melisa on April 5, 2016

We are delighted to share the first Cast Spotlight post of 2016 today! Our first feature is Mollie Ottenhoff, who is raising a son and a daughter with her husband in the western suburbs. Mollie is sharing a little about herself with you, in her own words:

I’m not a perfect mom. I just play one on Facebook.

Mollie

I’ve been in several conversations lately about social media, and its power to allow people to portray a self that is not reality. This selfie culture, where we can post only the things that shed ourselves in the best light, tends to breed a feeling of incompetence. People’s lives look perfect in a news feed. When you hold that up next to your reality where your son is currently sitting on your daughter’s head—you start to feel like you don’t measure up.

The statement at the top of this post is not actually true. I don’t even play the perfect mom on Facebook. (I posted recently about how my son has taken to playing all the players of Chutes and Ladders on his own because I think it’s so boring and refuse to play.) I do not play a perfect mom ever—I’m not sure I could if I tried.

Mollie 2

Someone asked me the other day why I write my blog, and I didn’t have an answer except that I love to write. But a glimpse back through my posts, considering which have been my favorites, told me another story—I’m looking to find a common reality. One of my favorite blog responses ever is when people tell me, “It’s so real!” I am looking to make people nod their heads and say, “I’ve been there!” I want to whisper, say, or sometimes scream the message to both myself and others—you are not alone. I want to prepare the pregnant and parents of newborns for the fun, wild ride ahead. (I also want people who have never been parents, like the woman who rolled her eyes at me at the grocery store to know why I am still purchasing the groceries, even though my daughter is screaming her head off in line.)

Often in my posts I look for the funny in the bad, or I look for camaraderie in the worst. I’ve written some about the good—about life parenting moments, like the birth of a baby, or when siblings become partners in crime, or embarrassing myself cheering for my son in soccer. And I’ve focused on the bad—I’ve felt very vulnerable posting about my mistakingly taking my son to a party for “girls”, when my son took me to the edge of my patience, and the day I lost my son and found out about it later.

I’ve never been one to compare myself to other people, mostly because I am confident that I am operating at maximum capacity—I’m doing 100 percent of what I, individually, can do. Like everyone, I’m good at some things (writing, making banana bread, parenting), bad at others (sports, baking anything else, parenting). Sometimes I don’t compare myself because I don’t notice. (This has led me to have no sense of style. Thankfully my husband is stylish, so he helps me keep from looking like a total slob. He tells me what matches, what not to wear, and my current holdup—how to wear boots with jeans or leggings.) But this social media nonsense does show a constant stream of good that makes me occasionally question whether my house is the messiest, or my yell is the loudest, or my son is the only one who pulled his pants down on the last day of school (something for his teachers to remember him by?). Thankfully, quite often, my conversations with my sister, other moms at the playground, and comments to my blog posts remind me that parenting is a glorious, messy business for everyone.

I hear about people feeling bad about Facebook. And it makes me sad, that we are affected by this online layer of reality that hovers somewhere above actual life. Don’t get me wrong—I want everyone’s cute pictures of their kids, the creative, the funny. I want to see the crafty things you did, and the fun games you played, and how you had the best time. I love experiencing your happy times with you. But I want the perception of the viewer to change. I want people to see the picture at the top of this post and know that probably with 5 minutes of the picture being taken, someone was face down crying on the floor. I want the conclusion to be drawn that came out of one of my conversations on the topic—that we are all the same. We all take a million tries to get our Christmas picture right, have to sit on our phones and computers in front of our kids, and live in totally messy houses.

And those bad things that we all have—that is what is real. This social media layer is up in the clouds, and life is down here. And we are surviving this beautifully ugly, terribly awesome, sufferingly joyous ride called parenting together.

I guess the main point of what I’m saying is this: the next time you are wondering how you are doing, and possibly comparing yourself to how other people seem, consider your reaction to the following statement: when we die, whoever has the best Facebook feed wins.

Mollie 3

Mollie 4

We hope to see you in the audience of the Fifth Annual LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO show on Sunday, May 1 at 2:00pm, at the beautiful Athenaeum Theatre. Mollie and ten other delightful Chicagoans are joining Tracey and me on stage to present some awesome motherhood stories; you don’t want to miss it! Tickets are on sale right now, HERE.

tracey April 5, 2016 at 8:01 am

Love the last photo!

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