Picture Perfect Parenting (or: Social Media for Mothers)
I never used to understand people who said that social media made them feel bad. They would talk about the perfect lives their friends were portraying on Facebook or the beautiful coffee dates bloggers were sharing on Instagram and feel like they were failing in comparison.
I didn't get it.
My Facebook has never been full of glamour or bragging. My Facebook used to be full of people whinging about their work or their neighbours or the weather or the seagulls. Nowadays, my Facebook is full of George Takei and running updates (I am never going to be jealous of people's running updates). Most of the holidays my friends take are in rainy parts of the UK and very few of them can afford fancy new shoes.
My Twitter is a bunch of people I've met through blogging chatting about roof repairs. You are all absolutely awesome but I've been through many, many home emergencies and I'm never going to envy you your leaky chimneys.
And as for Instagram, it used to be nothing but blurry snapshots of necklaces, coffee art and kittens - people were capturing brief, pretty moments in their lives but I wasn't so naive as to think that they were all swanning around, Disney princess style, with bluebirds in their hair and flowers springing up in their footprints. It didn't fool me into thinking they or their lives were perfect.
But motherhood seems to have changed all that.
I got a little taste of this while I was pregnant. I had connected with several other bloggers whose babies were due around the same time as mine and I enjoyed comparing their pregnancy notes to my own.
But while I was more or less housebound they were out Instagramming blue and pink cupcakes at their baby showers, extravagant gifts at their leaving dos and pineapple curries on their "last" childfree dates with their partners. While I was having to ask other people to construct my baby's crib they were tweeting about painting murals, installing new bathrooms and, you know, walking up and down the stairs unaided. I'll admit to feeling a little bit of envy.
This was tempered by the knowledge that, while they struggled to work with morning sickness, swollen ankles and alarmingly high blood pressure, I was sitting at home reading, online shopping and eating a great deal of cake.
I could see enough good in both situations to not convince myself that their lives were more perfect than mine.
It's harder now the babies are all here, though.
So much of early parenthood is spent feeling overwhelmed, wondering how to do things, worrying that you're getting it wrong. Sometimes all it takes is one Instagrammed wine glass for me to forget that the other new mothers are all having their moments of self doubt and panic, too.
When I look at Instagram, I see other parents taking their babies on excursions (and forget that that's easy when you have a car); I see other parents eating fancy desserts (and forget that we also manage that when we buy them ready made); I see other parents with peacefully slumbering infants (and forget that my baby spends huge amounts of her time sleeping cutely, too).
It's easy to assume that all the other parents have got it sussed - that they're all perfect earth mothers, drifting through sunny meadows with their babies held aloft, picking berries with which to cook complicated meals.
But they're not.
And nor am I.
We're all dealing with dirty nappies.
And, yes, some of their babies will do some of the new tricks sooner than mine does (I say that but my child is a super-advanced genius who has so far hit every milestone two weeks earlier than average. Other than the sleeping through the night one, godammit!) but, then, some of their babies are not as calm or as sociable as mine is. They're all different little kids; their parents all get different deals.
And it's easy to forget that I'm not Instagramming any of the tough stuff, either. My Instagram is all baby cuddles and sunshine through the treetops as we go for family walks. Life looks perfect in an online photo album.
And, actually, ten weeks into parenthood... well... I don't want to say "perfect" is entirely accurate (did I mention the lack of sleep?) but nowadays I know that I've got it pretty good.