If you look at any of my social media profiles, most of what you'll see is kid related. Why? Because I'm the parent of a 2 year old and a 5 year old and, as anyone who has kids that age will tell you, they take up the vast majority of your physical and mental energy. However, I make a concerted effort to
not post about them and, moreover, put up pictures of myself sans littles. I won't apologize for posting pictures of myself without my kids, and I'll make no efforts to stop.
I don't actually post a ton of
pictures of myself at all. In fact, posting too many pictures of any one subject is something I find sort of boring and tiresome on social media. (For the love of god, Sherry, we get it. You like taking pictures of your food.) I'm also not someone who inherently sees selfies as a bold, feminist political statement. (Though, depending on the selfie, they absolutely can be.)
But I do see social media, and what I post when using it, as an opportunity to reflect the things that are important to me. One thing that is tremendously important to me is the idea that mothers can and should always
maintain a sense of themselves outside of their relationship to their children and role as a mother. As such, I try to lead by example, and show that, yes, I make myself a priority in my own life. Because It's A Complete Non-Consideration For Men Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney
Can you, in literally any plausible universe, imagine a man being judged because he doesn't include his kids in his pictures? Or a man thinking to himself, "Well, the last few posts I've done don't have Billy or Sally in the picture. I should really include them in the next one. I don't want anyone to think I don't love my kids or am a bad father!"
Absolutely not. Fathers are not judged primarily through the lens of their fatherhood. Once a woman is a mother, on the other hand, everything she does, says, or is will be viewed as a reflection of her motherhood. Moms are mothers first, women second, and most people don't really consider anything beyond "first." It's the same phenomenon that brings us "working mothers" and
not "working fathers" or "unwed teenage mothers" and not "unwed teenage fathers."
It's bullsh*t, is what I'm saying. I'll have none of it.
Because It's A Good Reminder To Myself To Remain Balanced
I think it's useful to try to see yourself from a number of different angles. (Metaphorical angles, but I guess, like, selfie angles, too, because why the hell not?) Seeing myself outside of myself, via social media postings, is an interesting way to look at how I'm balancing the many aspects of my life. Am I posting a lot of snarky negative stuff? Has it been non-stop pictures of my kids for the past three weeks? Have I posted anything personal or am I mostly fixated on what's going on around me? Throwing in some pictures of myself, and
reflecting on myself, is a good way to maintain a healthy perspective. Because I Refuse To Cave To Accusations Of Selfishness... Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney
Because having a life and thoughts separate from (or not inexorably related to) your children doesn't in any way, shape, or form
make you "selfish." Selfish, I find, is a word lobbed at mothers who have in some way differentiated themselves from some sort of mom robot. It's evolved into a word used to condemn women for ever doing something for themselves.
[A note about this picture: I do not have a private jet. I do not regularly ride on private jets. This is a long, fun story, which I shared on social media.]
Because I Do Fun Things I Want To Share Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney
Guys! Look at this awesome Halloween costume I made with things around my house! I'm Hester Prynne! How do you expect me
not to share this?! My kids have nothing to do with this, and I'm not going to stick them in the photo to somehow justify getting a picture of me up there. (Granted, my daughter might have made an interesting prop in this case, cosplaying as Pearl, but still.) Because There Are Important People In My Life Who Aren't My Kids
I treasure pictures taken of
me and my friends, the closest of whom I've been bumming around with for 20 or so years. It's awesome to go through my feeds and watch our progression from the time we were tweens to now. So when we get together, oh, you best believe there will be pictures. I'm not holding back just because someone might maybe, possibly think I should be home with my kids or whatever.
"Why not just take the pictures and not post them?" you might ask. Because when I post, say, parenting stuff without qualms and cloister away any semblance of a social life, it sends a message that I
should at least pretend that these moments aren't also really important to me. No thanks. Up they go. Because It's A Good Signal To Other People (Especially Other Moms) That Mothers Are Multifaceted & Often Interesting Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney
I don't pretend I'm some particularly influential figure that people look to for inspiration. I do, however, believe that representation is important, even (maybe especially) within a community. So when my online community sees that I'm making myself a priority, maybe they'll also feel like they, too, can make themselves a priority. (Or be open about the fact that they already do.)
Because I'm Not Going To Edit Out Important Aspects Of My Life That I Want To Share Just Because It Doesn't Conform To An Acceptable Ideal
I know some moms who live in fear of judgment of other moms and, sadly, I understand why. It's not just men or some nebulous concept of "society"
judging us: it can be our neighbors, acquaintances, relatives, and even friends (using that last term loosely here).
Now, I have
no doubt that some of the things I do, say, or post about are judged or at the very least side-eyed by some people who follow me on social media. I just don't care, at least not about their disdain. I am interested in being authentic and emphatic about the fact that, yes, I am a mom, but there's a lot more to me and I no one can make me ashamed of that. Because My Kids Might One Day Have Access To My Social Media Accounts Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney
I've often mused on the fact that, for the most part, we no longer live in a photo album world. My kids won't go into the attic one day after I'm gone, discover an old collection of yellowing photos, and start leafing through. That's sort of sad, but then I think about what they might do instead.
In the future, my kids could reasonably check out Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. and find not only pictures of me in perfect condition, but links to my friends via tags, jokes I made, rants I ranted, articles I read and commented on, and conversations I had. They'll know the things that were important to me. They can have a well-rounded picture of who I was as a person, as I saw myself. If I only portray one facet of who I am, I do them (and myself) a disservice. I particularly think of this in the macabre sense of "When I'm gone." And hey, this could never happen. For all I know we could live in a computer-less zombie apocalypse scenario in a month. But, as a former history major, I like to think of recording things for posterity.
Because When You Achieve A Perfect Cat Eye You Memorialize That Moment Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney
I mean, God, people: look at that. I had never before executed such a
perfect cat eye, and I haven't done it since. This was a complete and total fluke and I cling to this moment — the afternoon of October 31, 2014 — with the ferocity of a hungry lioness latched onto a gazelle's jugular. Not only did I post this picture, it was my profile on every one of my accounts for months.
God in His heaven could not make me apologize for posting this.