First, a disclaimer: This topic is something about which I have no first-hand performance knowledge. I am not a mom, and thus I don’t stay home with kids and feel inspired to take pictures of them and share. Also, is mommygrammer a word? If not, but it I mean all the moms who share steady snippets of their life at home with kids on social media.
While not qualified to participate, I do have a lot of friends who have the privilege of being stay-at-home moms and I follow them on Instagram, am friends with them on Facebook, and receive a steady stream of pictures that show sleeping babes, park dates, craft time, and a plethora of cute outfits. Thus, I speak today not as a fellow mommygrammer, but as someone whose social media feeds overflow with them.
I have very mixed feelings about children on social media. I share this now partially to keep me in check if we are blessed enough to have kids of our own sometime. As a generation, we are eradicating any possibly of our children having ownership of their own cyber-presence someday. Yes, someday everyone will have that embarrassing childhood photo that their parents shared early on and they may just all cancel each other out in terms of being a liability. But they will still be there, robbing our children of some element of their privacy. I also have some qualms about the ethics of blogs that make a profit largely off of sharing the intimate private life of their family and children. Should our children’s first steps make us money? Should they be celebrities that benefit us before they can even speak? But then again, I’m not in that situation so I really have no place to judge. Parenting is hard enough without random Internet strangers calling down judgment.
But what I am talking about here isn’t the big-time mommy bloggers far removed from me. I’m also not talking about the obvious abuses of social media where you share overly personal moments or painful moments that should be kept private. I’m talking about the routine and respectful daily pictures of my friends’ kids, or the children of the very few bloggers and Instagrammers that I follow that I don’t actually know. I’m talking about the almost familiar faces that make me smile during the day because I recognize miniature versions of my friends’ features. I’m talking about the laughter that some of their captions bring me, words that point out the humorous moments of parenthood. I’m talking about the reality that they share, the honesty and candor that they bring to parenting. I’m talking about the joy that social media can give in letting us watch our peers learn to be parents.
Don’t get me wrong – there are times when I scroll through my phone and roll my eyes at all the babies that are filling it up. I groan and swear that when I am a parent, I will limit the images of my offspring to a respectable number, or at least to varied poses. But really, if the rest of us are taking pictures of our shoes and brunch, why shouldn’t people who have CREATED NEW LIFE document it? (Plus, let’s be real: we all have the power to instantly and anonymously stop seeing something or someone on social media that bothers us, so we really can’t complain. )
But what I really love most of all is how social media has, in my opinion, given us a window into what mothers do all day. If mainstream culture and media is to be trusted, being a mother is a burden, one that limits women from achieving our potential or significantly compromises our professionalism. I am all about women going after what they want, but that means recognizing that society functions best when people have diverse desires. May those who want to be lawyers and doctors and professors do so. And may those who want to pack lunches and plan outings do so too. And may all of us stand in support of each other.
Furthermore, I cannot reconcile the negative and empty view of motherhood with what I see on social media, especially Instagram. I see mothers (and fathers!) who take their children to libraries, plan crafts, get down on the floor to play games, and explore. I see mothers intent on their task of teaching the world to their children, of helping them learn how to approach and love it, how to live in it and how to live among others bent on the same task. I see mothers whose days are full, not just of laundry, diapers and tasks, but of joy, play, instruction, and love. I see mothers proud of what they are doing and able to share it in a unique way in this modern world.
So Mommygrammers, keep it up. You are re-instilling value and beauty in something that our culture sometimes marginalizes. Someday, I hope to join you. Until then, I will just content myself with pictures of my feet or the occasional brunch and leave you lots of love. Oh, and you better believe that whenever I get to babysit one of your littles, they risk being neglected because I am so obsessed with taking photos of them. Seriously, how do you get anything done when they are so darn cute all the time?
I love this, Hannah! I got nervous when I saw the title, and thought, “please don’t let this be a rant against sharing cute baby photos!” And it wasn’t. I love the idea that one sweet photo can help redeem a vocation that so many people in our culture see as drudgery and subjugation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 🙂
Michal, please post a million pictures of your girls when they’re here. Seriously. I promise never ever to grow tired of them.
Liz, I promise! 🙂 I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself, but I will feel better doing it knowing friends like to see them. 🙂
P.S. I just read the post you linked to and my HEAD ALMOST EXPLODED. I can’t finish.
I didn’t click the link until I read your comment. To each his own but…didn’t finish either. Too annoyed.
I am still unsure, but the linked post by Amy Glass strikes me as so extreme, I wonder if it is satirical. Here is a post she wrote two days later that, I think, supports the theory that her first post was satirical (like Jonathan Swifts’ A Modest Proposal advocating the eating of children during the famine).
(I say this having read both of these several days ago)
Thanks Kristen for sharing that!
I kind of assumed as much, but I still found it interesting. Regardless of what most of us say about women having the choice, we still ACT like that article, or the other extreme, that of moms shaming professional women. In fact, I have seen just as much counter shaming from the stay-at-home side as from the working side. Basically I just think that any sort of women-vocation shaming is destructive and ridiculous. : )
This is beautiful! Yes, there is absolutely the permanence of the internet to consider with pictures and posts of parenting (says me whose two year old has a blog of nothing but pictures), but there is also the ability to share with friends and family all over the world (I love seeing birthday party pics of my friends’ two girls as they are stationed in Japan).
Also, I’m struggling with the choice of career vs family as we are trying to conceive our second child. Society brought me up to believe I could have a career and a well cared for family. After two years with a husband, dog, and toddler, while working 20-30 hours a week in my profession, I can confidently say I’m not sure how parents with fulltime jobs and more than one child do it. My struggle is one of what will make me happy and what our family needs when we have three children (yes, I consider my dog my first). Will there be enough time between afternoon pickup and bedtime to spend with two children to assure them of my love and their importance to me? How will my career suffer if I take a few years off to give my family more attention? I’m so excited to see some real thought about how society is bullying women into one direction or the other, depending on the source.
Too many people view parenting as having only one answer -they way they did it. Different things work for different families and society needs to get that you are right -we need variety and people with different interests and perspectives. The right answer is really what works for each family, and sometimes for each child within the family!
I’m sorry to rant so, but your post was just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you for it, and for writing about soul mates, which led me to read your blog.
I totally agree about everyone only viewing parenting the way they did it. Every child is different, every family is different, and I just think we need a whole lot more GRACE!
I love you. And thanks for making us feel like the little instagrams we take throughout the day are meaningful to more than just us. You’re a good writer, keep it up.
Girl, you just keep it up and post as many pics of your baby and his insanely long eyelashes as you want.
Thank you for this, Hannah! I thought of you this morning: I was lining up chairs to block Susanna’s path into the kitchen and suddenly envisioned the barricade in Les Miserables. Granted, my barricades are pretty much the opposite of any of those built by the French, seeing as they are intended to keep the rebels out, but the irony made it all the more amusing 😉
I LOVE this. Please march her around and sing at the top of your lungs, as if there was any other way of singing Les Mis.
I like facebook and instagram because it allows me to keep up with happy moments of people I no longer see often. For instance, the high school buddy, former coworker, friend from my college sorority that I was close to at one stage of life and still care about but am not close (in relationship or proximity) anymore. I am not close enough to be invited to their wedding or live too far away to come to their baby’s baptism or sip and see, but I do still care enough to want to celebrate with them. Thats why I love seeing some baby pictures and some wedding pictures, etc. We may not be best friends now, but we were close at one point and it makes me happy to see them happy and see their blessings!
I agree about the oversharing though. I’ve had friends comment specifically about their child’s sins and misbehavings on facebook or blogs (more specific than the “we’re going through the NO phase”) and I often wonder how those kids would feel about their shortcomings being published. I also hate when nudy baby pics are posted. Pics of kids in the bathtub are adorable but shouldnt be posted on the internet!
Also, as much as I hate overshare posts (what do I do about leaky diapers? I’m x cm dialated and on my way to the hospital…), I do love kid pics, because lets phase it, babies in costumes or hats or tutus are pretty adorable!
As a blogger, I wonder how I will incorporate our kids if and when we have them..obviously there will be some presence, but I want it somewhat limited.It’s a good thing to be thinking about NOW.
It’s so true — when we were planning our wedding the only way I could even track down half the addresses was with Facebook. The reality is that it is the only “fixed address” for many in our mobile world is Facebook. : )
Eye – to – eye with you on this one, Hannah! I love other people’s babies, but there are a few people that I just think go too far. And a few people that I wish would post more. There’s a happy medium out there.
So true… too many and I stop thinking they are as special (as they really are!) and too few and I get so sad.
This. Is. Perfect. Ever bit. What a well written post, Hannah. I’ve been reading for some time but I had to come out of the woodwork and tell you what a great job you did there!
Thanks for speaking out! : )
Love this. And I would like to have the splendid baby in the photo. Because that child looks like a delight.
It’s Suze’s baby, so obviously she is PERFECT and so cute that it is ridiculous.
I’m not a full time Mom (just a bonus Mom) but I really really appreciate this post. I also wonder about a child’s exposure on social media, but I do appreciate that social media avenues have also opened up a new line of sight into the “what do SAHMs do all day.” Thank you for pointing that out.
Bonus mom? I’m sure you are still a vital mom whatever your role!
Great post, Hannah! As a soon-to-be mom, it’s an interesting topic to think through, and in light of all the media attention this topic has been getting, it’s a valid question to address!!
Pingback: Mid-Week Mash-Up | just footnotes
I haven’t posted many pictures recently, but when I do share them, it’s because my family really wants to see Susie growing up, and they all live far away from us. I also have wondered about how Susie will feel seeing all of her pictures online when/if she gets a Facebook account herself someday, assuming Facebook is still around at that point.
I always love when Susie pictures show up, and I think you do a good amount. (Sidenote: I still have a Christmas card sitting out to mail you… I AM THE WORST.)
haha–I’ve been that late done that before. Don’t feel bad. We’ll enjoy it whenever we get it! 🙂
Thanks for the shout out to stay-at-home moms. I had one. I was one. And I’m ever so thankful.
They are just the best.
I really appreciated this post, Hannah. I have really struggled not to over-share lately…Callan is going through so much and changing so much, I just want to write and write about all of it. But I have to remember that’s what my friends, family, and church are for…I can call my mom or have a friend over for tea, rather than post online. I hope that there’s nothing that Callan will be really embarrassed by, later…he at least can’t accuse me of posting naked pictures. 🙂 It’s nice to read that someone other than another stay at home mom appreciates the pictures and anecdotes.
Keep it up- you’re doing great!!!
Nice thoughts. I obviously blog about my kids (though not for money) and it’s a tough line to walk and I don’t always think I get it right. But on the other hand sometimes it’s good to say these things out loud.
Also, I don’t post a stream of pictures on Facebook and instagram of my kids but I do take a lot of them and mostly it’s because I’ve already sung itsy bitsy spider a lot and it gets boooooooring and taking pictures and videos of them singing it is at least a different kind of interaction and one that doesn’t involve so much jumping up and down. And at the end they love to watch themselves on video so I get a mini break. It’s just hard not to document them a lot is all I’m saying, but you do have to watch the sharing part.
Ha! I can only imagine how entertained they would be! I am sure that I will be DYING TO OVERDOCUMENT my own some day.
I like this Hannah, it raises good points about how much is online about our kids and I also liked the thought that it sheds light on ‘what us mothers actually do all day!’. I think that as parents our first duty is to live and protect our children from harm and with online presence being what it is, it takes some serious right and wisdom about how to go about it with that in mind. For us our Facebook photos are set with high privacy so that only our friends can see pictures of our kids, and when I blog, I’ve chosen not to mention their names, or my husband’s for that matter, and only share pictures in profile or without clear views of their faces. It works for us. But that said, I love spending time with our children and if sharing some of the pics of our lives can encourage some people to lose the fear of ‘how boring/mind-numbing parenting would be’ then I’m for it.
Totally true and admirable! Keep it up!
*love (not live)
* thought and wisdom
Sorry for the typos!
Pingback: Seven Quick Takes- hippie milk, the last straw and Baby Bunching | For Want of Wonder
As a baby-boomer old mom, the plethora of online pictures amazes me. Seriously – how do you moms have time to constantly post pictures? — or read the zillions of blogs? Is as much time spent actually playing with the child or doing things within your home and church or even your own personal spiritual development as mental energy spent planning the next blog post? Do you feel that your day is incomplete without perusing your friend’s newest photos? A picture, no matter how cute, is not as precious to a child as time spent with them. Sometimes I get the feeling there is an unconscious belief that an event is only note worthy if a photo immortalizes it. The genuine and good desire to share snatches of your life with friends and family can inadvertently morph into an elitism viewpoint of each mom feeling compelled to have the most unique and creative activities with the cutest and smartest child all on display for accolades.
I admit – part of this is sour grapes because I’m a technology nitwit and posting pictures is laborious to me. And I plan on being totally hypocritical whenever I have grandchildren; I will whip out my phone or laptop with every ping hoping for a moment-by-moment update on their adorable doings. However one thing is certain: Nothing will ever compare to being with your child (or grandchild) in person rather than on screen. Human contact, real person memories, trumps anything on the internet.