Like many of you, I buy Grazia UK weekly and while I can’t say I read every page diligently, certain things or articles draw my attention more than others. Sometimes they give food for thought, sometimes I nod my head and sometimes I feel somewhat frustrated by what is being written. Motherhood is one of those sadly divisive subjects and the way I approached my life as a new mum is in certain ways different to how new mums approach theirs now. We all need to move with the times, for better or worse, as it is part of our evolutionary nature. When I read Grazia’s Katherine Ormerod article in this week’s magazine (she recently became a mum to a baby boy), about ‘sharenting’, I felt inclined to share my own thoughts in a spurr of a moment post. Call it a public diary entry on the subject, but please remember that it is only my own opinion and an opportunity for a friendly dialogue.
‘By the time their child is five, the average parent will have shared 2,000 images of them online’
This statistic somewhat horrified me. Thing is, not then, not now, do I feel compelled to share my kids images, where you can see their faces, on social media. They are not ugly, I am very proud of their achievements and milestones, but I just never felt the need to ‘share’ them with a big, wide world on social media. So much so, that some of my friends have gotten ‘in trouble’ with me when they posted our joint pictures with the kids on their social media pages. I always asked for them to be taken down straight away. I value my own privacy and don’t need to gain additional likes because of my kids – you following me on social media should have nothing to do with my kids. I do share parenting advice when I am asked or feel my experience can be helpful and do it with pleasure. I also accept with gratitude advice from fellow mums, as having someone else’s perspective and experience can only help me get better at being a mother to my kids. However, I don’t expect other people to coo over my kids, nor be particularly interested in their wardrobe, pastime or favourite foods.
‘By the age of two, 60% of children have a digital footprint’
There is also the question of safety and privacy. Would my kids be embarrassed in the future by something personal that I felt compelled to share with the world without their consent? Or can I be inviting evil in our lives by sharing their images online? Sadly I have heard some really scary stories from a friend’s husband, who throughout his career in the police force, has come across some horrendous cases of child abuse, which has put me off posting my kids images online.
Even as a young new mum, I never wanted to sit in Starbucks (yep, that was the venue of choice at the time, we didn’t have juice bars or cafes serving avo toast or poke bowls then) and discuss contents of my kids nappies or leaking boobs with fellow NCT mums. My best friend and I ran away to the park instead, kids giggling in their buggies and wind blowing away our already messy hair. Life was good, our mums and girlfriends were our greatest support network and I wasn’t addicted to my Instagram then.
Now we have parallel, perfected lives on social media and I am often bombarded with pictures of cute kids of complete strangers. Do I feel compelled to follow them or their parents? No, I don’t, because I value my life in the real world and would rather smile at real kids in the street. Do I judge those who choose to? Maybe I did in the beginning, but now I am mature enough to know that we are all different and something that works for one mum with her child, doesn’t necessarily work as well for another. Life is about learning and doing what’s right for you and your family. Is it bad, if someone gets paid to dress their kids in certain fashion brands or goes on a family, all inclusive, holiday and writes about it? No, it’s not and it would be cynical to say that most of us won’t say ‘yes’ to an opportunity like that, if it came along. Again, it is about YOUR choices, which you are entitled to make without being judged or vilified for, as was the recent case with Clemmie Hooper, midwife-turned-blogger @motherofdaughters Interestingly, her husband doesn’t get judged as harshly when he posts things about their daughters. I wonder why such duality of attitude still exists when it comes to women rushing to judge another woman’s actions.
Katerine has set up her son’s account within a week of him being born and there she shares her struggles to breastfeed, learning to cope with lack of sleep and other problems new mums encounter. At the time when my kids were small social media was in naissant stages, so we didn’t have those platforms to share advice, instead we talked to each other face-to-face ( or to health professionals) and read books. There is so much more information now available online, but does it help or confuse us? I remember how pregnancy guidelines relating to the diet changed between my two pregnancies, which was confusing enough. Now, the amount of information coming our way is staggering and some of it can actually be harmful, if taken onboard. At the time when you might be feeling vulnerable, confused or overwhelmed by the effect of hormones, during or after the pregnancy, seeing perfected imagery of a well-known blogger with her picture-perfect child can only make you feel even worse.
‘When I did become a mum, I realised that if we omit our kids from our online lives, we’re obscuring the all-encompassing nature of motherhood and creating false expectations for other new mums’
In Katherine’s case, her family is far away and she doesn’t have close friends with older kids in London, so advice on social media offers some sort of salvation and support, which is essential at the time when you are learning the ropes and finding your footing as a new mum (and even with two or three kids, it’s never smart to presume you know everything there is to know about motherhood – kids and life will challenge you with curve balls all the time, take my word for it, as it is based on experience .)
Now, this may seem like a rant of a middle-aged woman, but hear me out. While I stick to my personal choice, I respect the choices of other people. What drives them is another, uniquely personal story and if someone wants to gain followers or help themselves get monetised because they have a particularly cute or smart or funny kid, then well done to them – it’s a skill in itself! Others need support and find it in other mums facing the same dilemmas. I just think it should be helpful to be aware of the fact that our actions and online footprint can have long-term consequences, both good and bad, on us and on our children. In my case, some people questioned whether I have kids in the first place, as they couldn’t see their pictures in my timeline. I react with good humour to it, replying that if they can’t see my kids, maybe it is a good thing, considering their level of hostility. I don’t have to prove anything to complete strangers, let alone the fact that I am a mum of two. As to sharing, some of us are more open to it, others value their privacy. Ultimately we should be kinder to each other and don’t judge each other’s personal choices, online or in real life.