Wouldn’t you love to feel even more inadequate as a mother? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have all of your worst fears about your competence as a parent confirmed? How would you like to have every person you have ever known be able to tell you what you are doing wrong? Don’t you want to see how all of your friends have their lives in perfect order, but you have not even showered today? Does this all sound too good to be true?
I realize I have just made social media seem evil, and that is not my intention. I, too, love checking my feeds many times a day, keeping up with what’s going on in the neighborhood or connecting with friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I am certain I have lost weeks of productivity scrolling through pictures of smiling babies and cute puppies or clicking on links to ridiculous BuzzFeed lists. It is mind-numbingly entertaining stuff, and how else would I be able to avoid work?
On one hand, social media can be a helpful tool for business networking or simply maintaining long-distance friendships. It is useful for keeping family members who don’t live nearby involved in my life. I love to see pictures of my nieces and nephews, especially when I don’t get to see them in person as often as I would like. Social media has also opened up a whole new platform for mothers to get their questions answered and their experiences validated.
There is a wealth of information available to us moms and a million studies to support whatever it is we choose do with our children. Though just as we can use social media for good, there are just as many (if not more) ways it can work against us. Did I mention all those weeks of lost productivity?
All it takes is scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook to realize all the little ways I am not quite cutting it as a parent. Every perfectly filtered picture posted is a glimpse into someone’s life, someone who is seemingly a better wife, mother, human being than me. And it doesn’t stop there. There is no shortage of links to articles or posts detailing everything I should or should not be doing.
Many years ago, prior to the onslaught of social media, mothers only had to deal with the opinions of their close friends and family and maybe an occasional nosy neighbor. Nowadays, moms are subjected to the opinions of hundreds, thousands or even millions of others. There are a billion mothers across the world struggling every day to do what is right by their children. A billion mothers who only want what is best for their kids, but are constantly being bombarded with messages outlining their failures.
What I have come to realize, though, is there are several truths you must be aware of and a few guidelines you should follow when on social media.
- Don’t believe everything you see. Nobody’s life is perfect. That sweet, smiling little baby may have just pooped all over mom’s new shirt 15 minutes ago or spent the entire night before crying. That cute puppy probably just peed on the carpet or chewed the strap on his mom’s new Kate Spade purse. And that perfect kitchen in your dream home? It may have a mortgage payment the owners are struggling to afford.
- Be honest. The posts I love and appreciate more than any other are those where I know people are being REAL. I love to read how another mother struggles with taking her children to Target. I feel less alone when I know there is another mom whose child throws tantrums at dinnertime. Don’t worry, you can still post all those perfectly posed pictures where everyone is smiling and hiding their frustration. Just add in a post about how many takes and how much yelling it took to get said picture.
- Pick those people whose advice you trust, and ignore everyone else. You know what they say about opinions, right? People will often put their two cents in whether you ask for it or not. Just smile to yourself and move on. And if you pose a question on Facebook, do so at your own risk. You will likely get more comments than you know what to do with and be left more confused than when you started.
- Don’t go down the rabbit hole. If you are attempting to be productive, stay off social media. Set aside a block of time where you will NOT check the computer, tablet or phone. I can’t even count the number of times I planned to just check my newsfeed only to wind up two hours later with still nothing done. You are always one click away from getting sucked in, so just remove the temptation all together.
- Stop criticizing yourself and trust your instincts. This is the last and most important item on my list. Always know in your heart that you are doing your best, even if your best today meant cereal for breakfast, mac ‘n cheese for lunch, and Subway for dinner. If you opted against the zoo today and instead watched soaps while your son played with Play-Doh, you’re still a good mom. Every day you get up and love your kids is a good day, and it doesn’t matter that you may have spent the entire day in your pajamas.