by A Law
There’s no denying that for most of us, social media has become the highlight reel of our lives. We use it to showcase and share our best and most memorable moments and that shouldn’t be something we feel the need to lament. Sadly, the less desirable side has meant it’s also used as a platform for crassly flaunting a life that often doesn’t exist. Indeed, even celebrities succumb toit. Remember the Bow Wow challenge?
Above all, and to the detriment of our mental health and sound perspective, said use of social media has allowed unattainable images and lies to be projected straight to our devices. Consequently, that compels many to compare their own lives to what they see online with little regard for authenticity.
When we think of the polished lives we see on online, we typically think of superficial or materialistic images. What we don’t usually think of is family life and parenting. After all, being a parent and having a family presumably isn’t something we do for the ‘gram. Though sure enough, the sphere of family life is increasingly falling prey to the celebrity-esque, glossy image of perfection that exists online. Perhaps, just as the materialistic posts we’re used to seeing are driven by, these posts also seek validation.
Although one would assume the efforts undertaken in being a parent alone would provide ample validation and more.The notion of applying the gloss of social media to parenting is somewhat dichotomous as the parenthood isn’t perfect. Like most parents, I try to be the best parent I can be but I’m certainly not a perfect dad and and I doubt anyone is. My experience as a dad is punctuated with mistakes that I’ve learned from and it’s surely the same for every parent.
Unattainable standard of perfection
When you become a parent, it’s the most important job you’ll ever undertake but one that you’ll have limited, if any, experience for. But if an unattainable standard of perfection in parenting and family life is increasingly foisted upon us via social media, how much are we allowing a fallacy to shape the actual narrative of being a parent? Interrupted sleep with a newborn baby, dealing with reflux, chicken pox, hand foot and mouth and the burgeoning tantrums as they become toddlers. We’ve had that and more since our son was born and many parents will relate.
Yet how much of that is realised as part of being a parent if the social media narrative is so skewed in distorting that? I appreciate and acknowledge the benefit of social media as a platform for sharing photos and videos of my son and our family as the ‘best bits’, and unapologetically so. Indeed, I’m not suggesting I have any desire to start flooding the timelines of my followers with countless photos of nappy changes. Although if my existing posts were taken in isolation from real life, they would suggest our life as parents comprises exclusively of cute moments, milestone memories and days out.
The perfect “Insta-family”
I’m certainly not seeking to cultivate a fallacy when it comes to parenting; it’s just my highlight reel. Furthermore, beyond the world of social media, I’m able to provide the necessary balance as I’m happy to share the true breadth of my experience as a dad in person and via my writing. Meanwhile, there are an increasing number of posts that present a carefully curated image of parenthood and the perfect ‘Insta-family’, looking like a scene straight out of a catalogue or an infomercial.
These posts appear to be crafted to make parenting look like blissful plain sailing and they go beyond posting your favourite or cutest photos. Instead, they create a depiction that most parents wouldn’t recognise as a fair reflection of even snippets of family life. The enjoyment of being a parent undoubtedly outweighs the hard work, fatigue and anything else that isn’t so glamorous. But particularly as a first time parent, you can frequently find yourself questioning how good of a job you’re actually doing.
Compounded by the omnipresent judgement that exists around parenting, where there’s always someone who wants to put their tuppence in on what you’re supposed to do, it can be difficult to maintain an unwavering confidence in your ability as a parent. Seeing alleged perfect parenting online doesn’t help with that. Such posts can have the effect of feeling that your own efforts as a parent perhaps aren’t good enough; an unhelpful intrusion into our self-esteem and self-perception.
Mental health and sound perspective
Despite the overwhelming highs, parenting can sometimes place a strain on our mental health for both mums and dads and anything avoidable that could trigger or exacerbate that isn’t useful in the slightest. When you see a portrayal of family life that exudes perfection, it can be human nature to subconsciously compare it to our own efforts and unwittingly erode our self confidence in how well we’re actually doing as parents. It serves as an unwelcome, often fictional and unattainable comparison for what isn’t always an easy job in being a parent.
Parenting and family life shouldn’t have a ‘gold standard’ as we shouldn’t be trying to define what perfection is. No parent is perfect and there will always be a learning curve when it comes to the job of being a parent. Our diversity in how we parent should be respected and celebrated; anything detracting from that is a distraction from the hard work that goes into being a parent.
Social media can be great in showcasing family life and the joy of being a parent. However, that needs to be balanced to avoid creating a lie of what parenting isn’t. When some depictions of family life and parenting have been crafted to do exactly that, that’s when the balance hasn’t been achieved. Furthermore, it can have incremental yet damaging consequences on the self-esteem of parents as we do a job that while incredibly fulfilling isn’t always easy. Being a parent isn’t perfect but it is great; we don’t need to curate a false narrative to share that.