I recently had a conversation with my mom and I asked her what it was like when she was a first time mother, and *gasp!* there was no social media to boast about her child’s every “first” and newest accomplishment. Did she have a support system? Did she have other mom’s where she opened up about the struggles of being a new mom, or when she grabbed lunch with another mom friend was it all, “my kid is awesome,” “so is my kid!” “isn’t being a new mom so amazing, and exactly how hollywood portrays it?” Imagine! There were no iPhones to easily pull up a video of your child and humbly brag that they walked at 10 months, or can stack blocks really really high!
As a first time parent in this technological world, I find it very intimidating to raise my daughter under a microscope that is my social media following. Yet, there I was, as soon as my husband and I decided on her name, securing her private Instagram handle, and sharing my journey into motherhood on my public account.
Nowadays, there is so much useful and positive content out there for parents, from breastfeeding support groups on Facebook, to social babysitting sites to find a date night sitter, to numerous blogs and social accounts to gain inspiration for anything from baby fashion, cooking for your child, and decorating your nursery. However, as with most things on social media, there is a darkside to all of this, and I like to call it Perceived Perfect Parenting.
If you are like me, you follow several mom bloggers, as well as your own friends on social media. If you are also like me, sometimes you watch your toddler smash oatmeal in her hair, or shove a crayon up her nose, or you attempt to take her photo and EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. of them is her running out of the frame or scowling because she obviously just wants to make your life that much harder, and you can’t help but think about a certain mom blogger or friend on your feed. Her children are always perfectly groomed with no stains, and looking at the camera for a photo! The kids always eat their steamed broccoli and salmon filets! They travel around the world as a family and have the most FABULOUS and photogenic time!
Why doesn’t my kid do these things? She must be a better parent or have better behaved children!
Here inlays the problem with parenting in the social media world: perceived reality is the new reality. We are all guilty of it. Regardless if we have children or not, social media allows us to shape how others view our lives. Sometimes I lay in bed while my daughter naps, staring at the ceiling, utterly exhausted from her refusing to eat the meal I cooked and her new tantrum throwing phase, yet I post a sweet photo of her from a week before with a caption like “This little lady brings me so much life! #momlife” I watch the likes and complimentary comments roll in, and half-convince myself of that false reality. Sure that caption is true some of the time, but often it feels as though she likes drain the life out of me before she fills me with it!
Those mom bloggers with hundreds of thousands of followers? Their kids throw tantrums too, and I am willing to bet that in order to get that perfect family photo on a dangerous-for-kids, but beautiful cliff over looking the beach, they have 100 other not-so-great photos from that same moment. Also, most of those bloggers get PAID to post those moments. Those parent friends who only post the perfect moments of their child’s journey? Let’s remember that they may need those likes and positive comments to lift them up after a rough day of mommy-ing.
There is no end in sight to this new social reality, so all we can do as parents is lift each other up and support the joyous, yet sometimes rocky journey. There was no hiding behind an Instagram filter when our moms embarked on motherhood, and the only way to tilt reality back then was to put the best developed pictures in the photo albums. I know I am making more of a conscious effort to post my family’s real reality, and I encourage you all to try as well. We love seeing other moms post about their baby’s advanced palate, don’t we also want to see that sometimes the same baby also spits their food out and throws it to the dog? Let’s come together and change Perceived Perfect Parenting to Perfectly Real Parenting. We are all just doing our best in this crazy new reality of ours as new parents, we shouldn’t let perceived reality of other moms and dads discourage or “mom-shame” us into thinking we are lesser parents to our children.