Picture Perfect Parenting
If there is one thing that I know about motherhood, it is that motherhood is hard. It is a time consuming, diaper changing, spit-up wearing, tantrum controlling, heart crushing, sleep needing job. It is the furthest thing from glamorous, effortless, or picture perfect. So why is it that so many parenthood social media accounts portray perfection? How did that woman get her four beautiful children to smile adoringly at the camera all while wearing colour coordinating outfits that don't have any spit-up, paint, or dirt on them? And don't even get me started on that mom who has the immaculate house - sun beaming in from every direction - and showcases her perfectly curled hair and flawless makeup while she carries a baby on her hip.
A quick scroll through my own Instagram account would yield a collection of "picture perfect", hyper-posed, hand-picked moments of my life. Everything from my daughter elegantly modelling her dance dress, to my son's newborn professional shoot, to my husband lovingly eating ice cream with the kids posed against an idyllic yellow wall. Add a few lyrics or quotes as captions, an occasional emotional outpour, or even one or two humble brags and you've described 99% of my feed; the highlight reel of my life. Of course, I'm no social media mogul, so I don't have the luxury of a photographer or DSLR quality images, but I am still curating a feed that is made to look a certain way, depicting the highest highs of my life.
I sometimes ask myself why there aren't more "real" photos on my Instagram. And in all honesty, it is simply because I don't want them there. I use Instagram as a photographic time capsule and years from now I want to see and remember the good moments. I take pictures that freeze significant instances in time that one day will be distant memories. I'm not sorry that I am actively choosing to pick my favourite pictures and memories to archive so that one day I can look back and reminisce about the "good ol' days". Twenty years from now, I want to wear rose coloured glasses and see the beauty that was our life, in this frame of time, without thinking about the never-ending mess, the tantrums, or the dark circles that are permanently under my eyes during these early years.
As a consumer of social media content, I do worry about the negative effect that these beautiful parenthood feeds have on new moms. We are bombarded with the perceived perfection of others. This can leave us feeling as if we aren’t living up to the expectations. The bar is set unattainably high. The downfall comes when we allow our imaginations to be distorted by this false sense of reality. When we start to actually believe that what we are seeing is more than just a snapshot of life. Moms already feel the responsibility of ensuring their children thrive and excel in relation to their peers. Social media becomes a measuring stick when parents demonstrate only the peaks, and not the valleys, of proud parenting achievements. We need to be hyper-aware of the fact that all of us, to some extent, are faking it. An Instagram feed doesn't tell the whole story. Pictures are cropped and filtered so that the negatives of life aren't in frame and we are left with only the very best bits.
As producers of social media content, we have to be cognizant of why we are creating a post. Is it to share a beautiful moment, or are you seeking validation? It is incredibly important that social media isn’t a place to simply feel liked, seen, or appreciated. Your worth, value, and importance are not tied to the number of likes you get, the praise you are given, or what others think of you. Check your heart; if you are simply looking for approval from others you are bound to fail. There will always be more - more likes, more followers, more praise - and if you are always chasing a superficial number you will never be satisfied. Don't get me wrong, I definitely love getting likes on Instagram. Anybody who says they aren't in it for the likes but has a public account and hits the hashtag limit is lying to you. But you have to be doing it regardless of that. If nobody liked the post you were going to make would you still post it? Are you being authentic and accurate? If the answer is yes, then post away and hashtag like it's going out of style.
There are always seasons of life that require simplicity. Take time to deactivate, recharge, and step away. Ask yourself how much time are you spending on social media? How much energy is put into a single post or caption? Am I missing out on what is right in front of my eyes? Remind yourself that there is a simple beauty to the everyday moments, unseen by any "followers". They generate no "likes" and are "shared" by only the people living in those moments. If so much time and energy are spent curating perfection then you will miss out on these magical, fleeting moments that give life its true meaning. When you begin to feel that the digital world is taking precedence over the real world it’s time to log off, recharge, and step away.
If and when you decide to reconnect with your love affair that is social media do it with positive intentions. Make your social media platform a place that reflects exactly what you want. Follow others that leave you feeling better than when you came and leave behind those who make you believe you aren't performing up to a certain standard.