I recently came across an interesting article about three mothers who took a photography course and had a wonderful moment of enlightenment. When criticised about their photographs being cluttered and their composition being less than perfect, the mothers decided to put a positive spin on this perceived shortcoming. Having been saturated with pictures with the perfect filters, happy smiling, clean children, gorgeous mothers and immaculate homes, they decided to create photographs which were a more honest depiction of human life. Called #ShamOfThePerfect, their pictures capture realistic images from their homes, the messes, the tantrums, exhaustion and unadulterated joy of being a parent as honestly as possible and with a lot of heart.
The article struck a chord with me. Raising a kid in the age of the internet and social media has its benefits, but sometimes it can be seriously detrimental to your ego and self-respect. If you want to turn an otherwise sane and confident adult into a puddle of worry and guilt, ask him or her to have a baby. Suddenly, there is a tiny little person, whose personality you are constructing brick by brick with every decision and reaction that you make as a parent.
While I waded through the early days, barely catching up on sleep and managing to get through each day with my sanity intact, I discovered a new phenomenon. The social media supermom. Unlike me, these mothers never seemed to lose their cool or find anything their kids do frustrating. They glowed, took cute photographs, their birthday cakes and return gifts were colour coordinated, and their children were always up to something adorable. In the process they became quite cool too, gathering a fan following, while I just sat wondering how they had the time and energy to do all this stuff. I often asked my husband if there was something wrong with me. Why wasnâ€™t I this large bundle of overwhelmed joy, that all I could talk about was my baby? Was I the only mother howling in the shower in exhaustion after yet another sleepless night? Why didnâ€™t I feel as blessed and delirious to be a mother?
While our mothers relied on age old wisdom, home remedies, but mostly their own instinct, women in my generation are becoming mothers at a time when the internet has taken over the role of doctor, advisor and all things wise. Often the tsunami of information can be overwhelming, making you feel even more inadequate and confused about what you need to do.
Advertising, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and their many cousins only seem to be fuelling this pressure to be perfect, to fit into a certain acceptable mould of how a parent should be. Chilled out, literary, artistic, germ friendly, animal friendly, eco-friendly, patience personified, among the many other qualities trending online. It feels like we are a bunch of maternal personas in the virtual world, seemingly content and cape wearing multitaskers yet needing constant validation of our perfection from people around the world.
How you feed, change diapers, what you read to your child, the music you play, there is always someone doing it better, someone doing it right, or so they would have you believe. The passive condescension does not help matters either. The seemingly harmless remarks range from â€śhow I would never give my child formula, and non-organic foodâ€ť to how and when to wean, nursing in public and working out. Nursery rhymes are now passĂ©, so is anything regular or easy pretty much.
Perhaps, itâ€™s me. Maybe I am insecure or lack confidence. But I honestly believe itâ€™s important for more mothers to share true stories of what it means to be a parent. We owe it to each other to share our failings, our fears, our frustrations and our tears, just as we share our triumphs and glowing happiness. Without adding emoticons, hashtags and airbrushing things with witty words.
This does not mean that we all become manic depressive and promote post-partum depression, but let another man/woman out there know, that itâ€™s okay to not have it together, all day every day. Say to them that they are doing the best they can do, and that itâ€™s okay feel a little less love or a little more tired on some days. You are not failing, nor are you an inadequate parent if your life does not look picture perfect every day.
I donâ€™t judge anyone for taking to social media like a smartphone to Wi-Fi, I admire their enthusiasm, and some of the information is very useful, but the virtual peer pressure is getting exhausting. In an age where we have the freedom (well many of us do) to make decisions about work and family, I have never felt more conscious about my choices, or felt more judged or even defensive at times. Did we raise slogans, burns bras, and start intellectual and political debates, so that one day a group of us could determine, or reinforce through repetition how certain choices were better than others? In this age of insatiable sharing and absorption of content, empathy and transparency seem to have become the greatest casualties. As clichĂ©d as it sounds, if we have the power to influence then let us use it responsibly. To help each other feel empowered by the confidence in our decisions, share experiences, discuss concerns, but stay away from self or selfie created pulpits and halos and the temptation to preach.
Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author