For as long as women have been having babies, “Mommy Guilt” has likely also been around and flourishing. Years ago, my sister-in-law hosted a big Italian celebration at her home, a mere two days after giving birth via c-section. A few years later, when I had an emergency c-section with my own son, I was a hot hormonal mess, leaking all sorts of gross fluids from a myriad of orifices at two days post-op. I hadn’t slept in days, and could barely walk, let alone plan an extravagant event at my home for all my closest family and friends. That was the first time, of what would add up to many times in my mothering career, that I felt inadequate, unsure of myself, and — for lack of a more descriptive term — like a crap mom.
The advent of social media has simply added fuel to the Mommy Guilt fire. The Internet is the actual oxygen that Millennials breathe, and honestly, I still feel like it's had a largely positive effect on society as a whole. (Eh, we can debate how much that’s true later. Let’s assume the internet isn’t the Trojan Horse that will ultimate lead to our collective undoing.) So many good things have come from social media: It enables family and friends to connect despite vast distances, while the rest of ~The Web~ opens the door to a wealth of information, job opportunities, and even the potential to help save lives.
However, there are two sides to every coin; For every Instagram, there's something on the other side of the camera. Now, our private fears of inadequacy are exacerbated on a daily basis by an onslaught of social media posts. In other words, there are many ways that social media can make you feel like a really crappy mom because there are near-infinite platforms upon which other moms can show you how crap they aren't being. It helps a little to tell yourself that, no, their lives are not as perfectly put-together as their social media presence would make them appear, and yes, even Perfect Internet Mom Friend is probably riddled with doubts about herself, but even those known truths bring little comfort when it's 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, your house is a full-on mess, the kids are all staring at screens, and you're cruising Instagram, waiting to feel inadequate.
Man, who's feeling awesome about themselves right now? Whew. Here are some of the big ways social media makes us feel like junk about our parenting. They're just out there, waiting out there like ever-present land mines that threaten to derail even the most stable confidence.
What People Post On Social Media Are Their Highlight Reel
There is a reason you never see bedhead or spinach-toothed selfies. Social media platforms showcase our highlight reels — not the behind-the-scenes footage. So your newsfeed will likely be chock full of pictures of little Juniper's straight-A report card, status updates about Foxly who has been potty trained since shortly after birth, and odes to 3-year-old Bowie, who hopes to master both the cello and Mandarin before his next birthday. All the other moms will seem perfectly manicured in every sense of the word. They will post about going on beaucoup date nights with their adoring partners, they’ll seem to have houses straight from the pages of Dwell, and they will have a billion family photos with exquisitely put-together outfits. They won’t show their laundry mountain, sink full of dishes, or the couch that the toddler redecorated in sharpie this morning, it can make you feel inept, to say the least.
Oh, the love/hate relationship I have with Pinterest! If I had a dollar for every time I’ve pinned something, fully knowing that I would never follow through with it, I’d be rich enough to not have to DIY any Pinterest projects at all, for I could afford to hire someone to do them for me. When I do follow through on that “amazingly simple” recipe for corn dog muffins, and end up nearly catching the oven on fire, my confidence as a mom, wife, and aspiring chef all take a hit. Not to mention the punch in the gut I get when trying to plan a budget-friendly birthday party for one of the boys, and coming across pictures from some of the stupendous, over-the-top parties depicted on Pinterest. How are you people pulling this sh*t off? What wizardry do you know? Where do you get the time, and the money to make me feel this small? If I could just convince my husband that the kids don’t really need a college fund, then they too could have a Winter Wonderland birthday, with a real penguin flown in from the Arctic.
These days, posting a seemingly harmless picture of your child’s back-to-school lunch to social media, can result in immediate backlash about the gluten-full Goldfish, the inhumane turkey sandwich, and the yogurt riddled with yellow #5. If you’re not posting a bento box lunch with organic cantaloupe flowers and broccoli palm trees, then you’re better off not posting at all. I completely understand the trend toward organic/non-processed food and certainly want what is best for my children. However, I’m going to let them indulge every once in awhile and I don’t think a Goldfish ever killed anyone. (But don’t quote me on that one, lest the "I Can Google Any Study In 3 Seconds To Disprove Whatever Parenting Claim You Just Made Mom" comes after me.)
Parenting Articles. Dear God, All The Parenting Articles.
Most of the parenting pages I have “liked” have inevitably come back to bite me in the ass. A few times a day, I stumble across a parenting article that swears I am doing everything wrong and irrevocably maring my poor children. Because I had 2 emergency c-sections, instead of an unmedicated birth in some birthing pool with a dolphin, they will be scarred for life. Because even a drop of formula has crossed my baby’s lips, he is no longer destined for greatness. Since I never pureed their baby food from organic vegetables, grown in my garden, I have set them on the path to obesity. Logically, I know that this is silly. Both of my boys are happy, healthy, and thriving. However, there are a super abundance of articles trying to make me feel contrary.
Social Media Is A Time Vortex
Some kind of creepy Twilight Zone time vortex stuff happens the moment you log in to one of your favorite online hangouts. A few minutes here, a few minutes there, and before you know it, the time has added up to hours online. Social media can be an amazing tool for moms who might otherwise feel isolated and occasionally bored with the monotony of life with little ones. However, it can also lead to not being present enough and that’s a downer. I’m embarrassed to admit that there have already been a few times that my 4-year-old has asked me to put my phone down and pay attention to him. And that sucks. I want my kids to know that they are my number one priority, but I also want to feel connected to the world outside these four walls. I suppose the moral of the story, is everything in moderation (because moderation is such a simple, attainable goal that all humans are wired to achieve effortlessly, of course).
Everything You Can Do, They Can Do Better
After spending hours researching backdrops, purchasing outfits, wrangling children, and finally snapping that perfect back-to-school picture, someone else will undoubtedly do the same thing in a way that blows my lame-ass picture out of the water. Perhaps they have custom artwork, matching monogrammed backpacks and lunchboxes, or a live owl wearing Harry Potter glasses hanging out in the background. But the picture you were so proud of, just moments earlier, now seems totally uninspired. The reality is that social media will never fail to give you the impression that someone is able to do whatever you’re doing, in a more glorious manner; that they are devoid of your weaknesses and faults. (Can I say the words "highlight reel" just one more time?)
Though you may never see the posts about moms who haven’t slept or showered in days, because they’ve been dutifully tending to everyone else’s needs, or serving Cap'N Crunch for breakfast alongside way too many episodes of Paw Patrol, just know that it's happening in other houses too. It’s not just you, and it’s not just your family. And know that, social media or not, behind all those great kids, are moms that are constantly questioning if they’re screwing them up.
Images: Jeff Djevdet/Flickr; Giphy(6)