It’s the first day of Grade 5 for Samantha Kemp-Jackson’s 10-year-old twin boys and there’s a lot going on in her house — the rush of the early-morning wakeup, the re-acquaintance with packing lunches, the boys’ nervous energy and the inevitable back-to-school blues. But all Kemp-Jackson is thinking about is getting a good photo of her sons. “Every year I’ve had to bribe and cajole my boys into some semblance of a smile because I know I need those pictures,” says the mother of four. “I’m trying to get the shot, not only for myself, but for all of my friends and family who have come to expect the requisite ‘first day of school’ posts.”
While it’s well and good to post because “it’s an easy way to keep friends and family updated” (according to 59% of our survey respondents) and “because my kids are so damn cute” (41%), there’s an inevitable downside to all this content. Most women seem to be happy sharing the lives of their children online while simultaneously struggling with unhealthy comparisons and shame on the very same medium: 82% of women in our poll say they compare themselves to other moms on social media and 35% admit they always or often have any insecurities around being a mom that stem from social media. Some of the reasons social media makes mom feel bad, according to our survey results: feeling like other families have more fun (38%), that their bodies aren’t as good as other moms’ (39%), that the meals they eat as a family aren’t as “healthy and yummy looking” (30%), and that they don’t feel as happy as other parents seem to be (24%). Online, there’s always someone doing it better than you.
It doesn’t help that there’s an overflow of moms with public profiles — it used to be you’d only compare yourself the moms on the playground, now there are millions to stack yourself up to. “I had a friend who posted, ‘Up at 3 a.m. with my kid and we made muffins!'” recalls Parry, who in addition to being a professor, is a mom of two. “When I’m up at 3 a.m., the last thing I’m doing is making muffins with my kid. I’m thinking, ‘How am I getting my kid back to sleep?’ When you’re exhausted, it’s easy to think: ‘I’m not making muffins so I’m a bad mom, or I’m a bad woman, or I’m failing at this.'”
Parry may not have liked the way her friend’s post made her feel about her own parenting, but she still hit the like button. Liking parents’ posts on social media may now be a friendship necessity. In fact, our survey found that most women under 35 notice when their BFFs don’t like their pics of their children. The problem with this, according to our experts, is many women — you guessed it — internalize this as criticism and feel bad about themselves. “We post to garner a lot of likes and comments. And when we don’t get it, when there is radio silence, we wonder, ‘What’s wrong with us? Are we doing it wrong? Is there something wrong with my kids? Are they not cute enough?'” says Kemp-Jackson.
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