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Valentine's Day used to mean handing out drugstore cards to classmates. Now parents are under pressure to go all out. Is it too much?

Valentine's Day used to be simple. Now parents are feeling the pressure. (Getty Images)
Valentine's Day used to be simple. Now parents are feeling the pressure. (Getty Images)

Back in the day, Valentine’s Day consisted of rectangle cards with cartoon characters and cute phrases. Maybe the school threw a pizza party … maybe. Nowadays, the holidays (like many others that take place during the school year) have become a full-blown extravaganza with custom cards, elaborate boxes to hold said cards, mini gift bags, personalized party favors (think bath bombs, slime kits, etc.) and more. But is all of that really necessary?

What L’Oreal says: Last year, I neglected to purchase valentines for my daughter’s class and I felt like such a Bad Mom. Granted, my husband and I gave gift cards to her teachers, but I had no idea we were expected to bring valentines for 1-year-olds. They can’t even read the cards, let alone eat the candy!

Nevertheless, I resolved to do better this year. On my most recent Target run, I tossed a 12-count bag of cheese puffs in the cart and called it a day. Could I spend time making one of those Pinterest crafts like this one, where you take a picture of your kid holding an invisible balloon, cut a slit in said picture and insert a lollipop? Sure, but here’s the thing: I don’t feel like it and no number of momfluencers is going to make me feel guilty about it.

Crafting is simply not my ministry. Never has been, never will be. And two years into this parenting life, I’ve come to accept that about myself. I’m not the mom who’s going to make the handmade cards or bake homemade cupcakes for the bake sale. My pantry isn’t labeled and color-coded. And I don’t make heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast. Who cares?

I recently started reading The Good Enough Job by Simone Stolzoff and in it he refers to “good enough” parenting, a concept pioneered by British psychologist and pediatrician Donald Woods Winnicott in the 1950s. Winnicott’s theory was that sufficient parenting was more beneficial to the child and the parent than perfect parenting.

“The roots of a good enough parent has its roots in attachment theory and it’s such an important part of maternal mental health and child development,” says Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist, podcast host and mom of two. “Being a good enough parent helps our child understand that we are two separate people and we’re not always going to be able to meet all of their needs, and that’s OK.”

For a recovering perfectionist such as myself, and one who tends to compare myself to other moms I see on the Internet (including some real-life mom friends), permission to be a “good enough” parent is just what I need, especially for the school holidays, Spirit Week and the like.

To help cope with the stress, Bren suggests interrogating where the perceived pressure to have a Pinterest-perfect holiday may be coming from anyway, whether it’s our mom groups, social media or the PTA.

L'Oreal Thompson Payton has advice to give. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Chuck Olu-Alabi)
L'Oreal Thompson Payton has advice to give. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Chuck Olu-Alabi)

“A lot of times it’s a distorted perception of pressure that doesn’t actually exist, but we’re putting it on ourselves and that’s helpful to recognize because then we can challenge that perception,” she says. “You might ask yourself, what would it feel like if I bought the CVS valentines? Or show up to school with a lollipop taped to a Post-it note? Can I challenge myself to be imperfect and good enough? Then I’m taking back control over these false beliefs.”

But if the call is coming from inside the house and it’s your kid who’s applying the pressure, Bren recommends using the moment as a learning opportunity.

“What are they really wanting? Do they want to keep up with the other kids in class, or do they want to spend time with you making a craft?” she says. “Then you can make an intentional decision. Maybe crafting isn’t your love language, but it’s important to your kid so you decide to make it a priority. It becomes less about being the perfect Pinterest mom and more about spending quality time together.”

If, however, you’re unable to spend the time (or the money), Bren advises being honest and supporting kids through their disappointment. In either case, she also encourages parents not to beat themselves up over their perceived shortcomings.

“Instead of narrowly focusing on all the things you’re not doing, can you instead zoom out and look at all the things you are doing?” she says. “We all do stuff that is super-parenting, but it’s not realistic to expect us to do all of the things in a super-parenting way. You have to be intentional about where you’re investing your time and energy.”

And if the DIY crafts are your jam? More power to you. As Amy Poehler wrote in her book, Yes Please, that’s good for you and not for me. Although if I’m being honest, sometimes I wish it were me.

“Sometimes when we aren’t the crafty Pinterest-loving parent, we can perhaps as a defense mechanism bash the ones that are and we have to remember that some parents are doing this because it is their love language,” says Bren. “And it’s a good thing to model for our kids to celebrate the things that other people do differently than us.”

About Ask L’Oreal: I’m a mom, journalist, motivational speaker and the author of Stop Waiting for Perfect. You can think of me as your personal cheerleader and new mom friend who just happens to love calling up doctors and experts to help guide my answers to your questions. Reach out to me on Instagram or X (Twitter), or email with anything you want me to weigh in on.