Every time I see the hashtag #momfail on a social media site, my heart hurts. Yes, I’m tenderhearted. I do not like to see anyone fail or publicly beat herself up about it. And #momfail is all over the place.
It’s usually captioning a photo of a toddler with pink permanent marker covering half of his body. Or a post stating that the fourth grader has been forgotten at school for the third time. Or even just a photo of a family room that looks like the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane.
Moms, can we change that hashtag, please?
A hashtag of #fail on that particular snapshot of real life is just a negative view of what is just as much a positive event.
Really. Stay with me.
Let me go back to my first example to illustrate.
Years ago, when my oldest children were curious preschoolers, I had miraculously gotten everyone clean, dressed, and ready to go to church five whole minutes before we needed to be out the door.
Feeling rather pleased with myself, I left my 4-year-old daughter and 2.5-year-old son to amuse themselves while I spent a few more minutes in front of the mirror to try to look more than just thrown together. When I finished, just in time to leave, I called to my children to meet me at the front door.
What met me was more than a little bit surprising. My daughter was still clean and dressed. My son, however, was undressed down to his underpants and now sported hot pink spots over most of his body. Another look at my daughter and I found the hot pink permanent marker in her little hand.
“What. Did. You. Do?” I asked, trying to stay calm.
“He’s a pink cheetah,” my daughter replied happily. My son struck a proud pose.
“Why did you draw on your brother??” I asked, still trying for calm.
“Well,” my daughter answered matter-of-factly, “We couldn’t find any paper.”
I’ll admit. At this point I really did have to stop myself from laughing. But then I realized we were late for church and I was now the mother of a pink cheetah. I pulled my son into the bathroom for a brief and pointless attempt to scrub off the spots. Then I just put him back into his church clothes and off we went.
Honestly, no one thinks twice when your 2.5 year old shows up at church with hot pink marker spots on him.
Sadly, this was back before the days of smartphones with instant access to a camera. And in my hurry, it didn’t even cross my mind to document it. There wasn’t even a social media platform to post it on. But if there were, it definitely could have been a #momfail post.
Except, here’s where I switch to what I think is the better hashtag.
If the proverbial glass is half empty, then yes, leaving two preschoolers alone in a house where there was access to permanent markers was indeed a fail.
But, if the proverbial glass is half full, then I definitely learned something. And you bet your boots that when we got home that day, I found any and all pens, markers, crayons, and other writing implements that were within hand’s reach and put them way up high. And I gave another reminder to my budding artists that they were welcome to draw on paper if they asked me for the appropriate tools.
I learned something.
This new hashtag can apply to just about any and every #fail you can think of.
Forgetting the fourth grader at school? #ilearnedsomething. Set an alarm on my phone.
Crooked bowl haircut on the 5-year-old? #ilearnedsomething. Let someone else have the scissors.
Tooth fairy forgot to come? #ilearnedsomething. Tell the 6-year-old the truth and give them a quarter when the tooth falls out.
And here’s a great one recently when I did think to grab my smartphone and take a picture.
Yep. #ilearnedsomething. Don’t try to put a very heavy lasagna in the oven with only one hand. Also, if you just cleaned the floor, you can scoop it all up, put it back in the pan to cook (that kills germs, right?) and tell everyone it’s deconstructed lasagna.
Whatever the “fail,” I can always find something that I learned.
So now, whenever I make a mistake, which is at least 27 times a day, I just shout out my hashtag: #ilearnedsomething! Because I did. And I take that lesson and try to do something productive about it.
You may have heard that Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, said something along the lines of, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I’m pretty sure I’ve found 10,000 ways not to parent a set of twin boys.
But I learned something.
So please, for all of us, let’s change the hashtag.
No more #momfails.
Let’s change it to: #ilearnedsomething
QUESTION: Can you think of a time when you posted (or would have posted) #momfail and identify #ilearnedsomething instead?
CHALLENGE: The next time you post something that you would have labeled #momfail, change your hashtag to #ilearnedsomething. It’s ok to share those crazy parenthood moments on social media, but rather than call it a #momfail, spread a new perspective with the hashtag #ilearnedsomething!