A couple weeks ago, I was that mom.
The one filling your news feed with cute kid pictures, celebration (ala the world series), and general happiness…while actually having the worst week EVER.
Now that the election is over, I think a lot of us are WISHING for more ponies and rainbows on Facebook. Today one of my friends literally asked people to share pictures of their dinner, pets, or any plants they’re currently keeping alive, just to get a break. But if and when the political posts wane, we’ll be back to seeing one another’s everyday lives. And it’s occurring to me that what I post doesn’t seem to mirror my real life.
Here are a few posts from my truly terrible week:
…and what was ACTUALLY happening?
Four out of five in my family got the flu. Not a 24-hour bug; a lingering, life-sucking stomach flu. Appointments were canceled, sick days were taken, floors were mopped. I managed to mess up my lower back at the same time, and the combination of flu and back pain was, somehow, almost as painful as childbirth. One night my daughter was up crying till 3:30am (not AT 3:30, TILL 3:30), about something unrelated. That picture of my son rolling over? It was at a doctor’s office.
And yet what do I post? Ponies and rainbows. The Cubs at Disney World. (Let’s be real, the Cubs’ victory was a shining thing of beauty in my life that week. But I digress.)
I didn’t realize I was posting a fake happy universe over top of our mini-nightmare…and yet that’s exactly what I was doing.
People I saw in real life knew things weren’t great. It just didn’t show up that way online. So here are a couple insights I’m taking away from my horrible week that appeared to be awesome.
Fun, happy pictures don’t equal a fun, happy life.
My family has been in a really challenging season, and sometimes social media sends me into a tailspin. I can’t count the number of holidays, sunny Saturdays or weekend nights I’ve seen people share pictures of all the fun they are having and just felt terrible…because, for example we haven’t gone anywhere besides doctor’s offices in a week, or I’m drowning in a pile of dishes, feeding supplies and dirty laundry, etc. Sometimes it feels like everyone is out there living but us.
The truth is, we are all living very real, messy lives with ups and downs. Your fun fall picture doesn’t mean your life is infinitely easier than mine. It means you had fun at a pumpkin patch. We need to beware of comparing our lives to the glimpses of others we see on social media. That’s not their whole life; it’s what they’re choosing to share with the masses right now.
Fun, happy pictures don’t make us fake; being fake makes us fake.
People say social media makes it easy for us to carefully craft the image we share with others. I get this, and I can only speak for myself—but I really don’t try to build a false image of myself online. Even so, you see cute pictures of my kids and fun family outings, because it’s fun to share them. My far-away relatives love it. (You do, right??) And let’s be real: You don’t need to see a picture of my family with the flu, and I don’t want to share it with you.
The truth is, choosing what we do and don’t post online can be complex. It’s a personal decision and many factors impact what and how we share things, especially as we parent our kids. I love sharing glimpses of our messy life at times. Here is one of the most thoughtful reflections I’ve read on navigating this—although it may be more apt for a special needs parent like me.
I’m being fake if I look a friend in the eye and lie to her about how hard my life is right now. I’m being fake if I pretend those pictures I post are our whole story. But I’m not being fake if I share a few fun things online and can still have an honest conversation over coffee with a friend.
As moms, we can love each other well by asking each other how we’re really doing; by asking what’s going on behind the posts; by not assuming everything is how it appears on Instagram. Because we all have ponies and rainbows to share at times; but ponies live in smelly stables, and rainbows come after storms. Life can be such a stinky mess. Let’s be there for each other in those places, in person, in real life.