Quarantine Taught Me To Say Goodbye To Modern Mom Culture

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Quarantine Taught Me To Say Goodbye to Modern Mommy Culture
Scary Mommy and Hermione Granger/Getty

I used to be like many modern moms. Long walks down the aisles of Target while sipping a mega, steamy coffee drink, and getting “just a few things” was my jam. I would hunt for the latest Dollar Spot must-have item, like the tiered white tray or snowglobe lights, as if it was my job—even though I didn’t have any real purpose for them. I referred to my shopping trips as stress relief, or as modern moms call it, “retail therapy.” However, these came to a screeching halt when the global pandemic hit.

It’s been almost four months since one of my “necessary” trips where I would inevitably spend way too much money and come home with three essential items and at least six impulse buys. I mean really, what would I do with a tie-die, cropped sweatshirt? I don’t even like sweatshirts, and why did I pay for half a shirt? Since quarantine, I’ve realized that I’m happier having let go of my participation in modern mom culture. As it turns out, overpriced coffee drinks, oddly scented candles, and pricey makeup (that only gets used a few times) aren’t my vibe.

I love a great latte as much as the next mom, but I am no longer springing for a $6 caffeine fix on the regular. I used to hit up the drive-thru once a week to treat myself. After all, I deserve it, right? But my iced latte was just that: tons of ice and a splash of latte. Seriously, I was paying for a cup of ice with a splash of caffeine. Shouldn’t ice be free? We opted to buy a nice coffee machine and well-made drink tumblers. We DIY our caffeine buzz now.

I can’t bring myself to spring on a fancy skincare line, makeup, or any creams that are supposed to fix under-eye bags, fine lines, cellulite, and sun spots. What’s wrong with $7 lipstick and $10 mascara? I’m only buying these if they’re on one of those sales where you spend so much and get a $5 gift card. I’m not splurging on collagen-this and CBD-that at $45 for .5oz, plucking them up “just because” and “why not?” No, just no. Oh, and what I do get is via drive-up — no more lingering in the aisles.

I’m also looking at the obsession with essential oils or candles like, what? I have four children who are home for the summer—all day, every day. I’m not going to be burning or diffusing anything—and posting how blissful our life is on social media. I can barely remember what day it is, let alone to blow out a flame. Who wants to spend the day trying to keep their kids from burning the house down? If you love essential oils, good for you. (Sidenote: if there’s an essential oil that can make 2020 magically better, I’ll buy it. Otherwise, no.)

Now some people, including my own sister, feel better when they get up, dressed, and ready, even if they are spending the day doing laundry and changing diapers. That’s cool. I’m not dogging on anyone who needs to “feel” normal during a pandemic. Mental health matters. If you want to give your hair some beachy waves, apply eyeshadow, and wear a cute outfit, go for it. I’m going to do this some days, just from the items I already own. Taking a “quick” trip to a store for retail therapy only gets me some random items and a huge credit card bill.

Modern mom culture extends to the kids, too. Have you seen the babies and kids on social media? Yes, they’re in quarantine too and dressed like they’re going to have a picnic on their yacht. Who dresses their children in white, from head to toe, for a day of play? The fabrics are completely absurd. Lace? What is their kid, a freaking doily? One bite of a PB&J and that outfit is ruined. Oh wait, they don’t serve their kids PB&J. They eat organic salads and drink sparkling water from real glasses—without complaining. (My imagination runs wild sometimes.) I can think of zero reasons to buy cute outfits. All dressed up and, you guessed it, nowhere to go.

My kids are not only wearing the same three outfits over and over, because they have their favorites, but they’re swapping clothes with each other. It just doesn’t make sense to buy kids perfectly coordinated outfits that take my entire paycheck when we have real needs to meet, like groceries. During quarantine-summer, we eat mountains of food, enough to rival a football team.


All my shopping is online these days. I’m uninterested in going to the store, following the arrows on the floor, while simultaneously reminding my kids what six feet means and to stop touching their masks. Thanks, but no thanks. Not going into stores means no impulse shopping. This whole quarantine stint has drastically reduced my mommy-culture desire, and it’s awesome. I feel like a new woman.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but being a modern and cool mom is too damn expensive. I’m perfectly happy with my $9 bottles of local wine (blackberry—yum!), my decade-old pajamas (they don’t match), and my grown-out, un-highlighted (or is it low-lighted?) hair. I’m completely immersed in summer with four kids and a job. I don’t give one flying chicken about my forehead wrinkles. Right now, it’s all about simplicity and staying healthy. What once mattered (or what I thought mattered), has been brought into the light—and kicked to the curb.

The reality is, the things I used to splurge on a few months ago were all steeped in privilege. The pandemic gave me a much-needed wake-up call. Excessive spending to fit into some sort of mold that many moms buy (pun intended) into, isn’t fulfilling. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional “treat yo’self,” but I’m over the checklist that puts me in the cool mom club.

This article was originally published on