On an average day on my Instagram (when I actually remember to use it), you’ll see a fair few pictures uploaded that portray a happy, idyllic parenting lifestyle. Pictures like these –
So to the untrained eye, I look like I’ve got it all figured out. Sixteen weeks in and I’ve cracked this parenting lark, no trouble. I have a happy smiley baby, who never cries, deals with everything life throws at her, and is fiercely independent.
Except for when I don’t.
What I don’t share pictures of is when she has her jabs. The screams that go so high, she doesn’t make a noise, she just scrunches up her face and shakes. The long, lingering sobs. The hiccups, even after she’s fallen into a sore, hot sleep.
I don’t share pictures of her teething. Her bright red cheeks, the dribble that just pours out of her mouth, the tears, the way she clings to me for dear life once I’ve finally rubbed baby bonjela on her poor little gums.
I don’t share pictures of her when she’s overtired. I don’t show her wriggling around in her cot, with D and I going crazy, trying desperately to coax her to sleep. I don’t show her pushing the dummy out in frustration, even though it’s what she really wants, and then crying until she gets it back again.
I don’t show her in her sudden moments of what seems like absolute agony, when all she can do is scream and cry, and she wants to be held close, but she doesn’t, and the sling doesn’t comfort her, and neither does a snuggle, and she won’t sleep, and even her beloved toys, the toys who can always be relied on to calm her down, can’t help.
What you see on my Instagram are snapshots of our lives as parents. You see the relaxed feeds; not the ones where she’s trying so hard to hold the bottle herself that she pushes it out of her mouth and cries from frustration. You see the fun playtimes, not the ones where we desperately try and get as much tummy time in as possible to strengthen her muscles, because she hates it. You see her at her best; her cheekiest, her snuggliest.
In a way, that’s a good thing. The last thing SB needs when she’s feeling poorly or clingy is a camera being shoved in her face – that’s just common sense. When she needs me, she needs my full undivided attention – I can’t be picking whether to use Toaster or Brannan filters while she is screaming for me, desperately clawing at my t-shirt and hair to try and find some comfort.
But also, am I not giving a false impression to other parents? Do people view our Instagrams as the story of our life, or just a snapshot? I do worry that if someone saw my Instagram, and saw streams and streams of pictures of the good times, it would only compound the natural loneliness when the hard times hit.
We’re very lucky – it is rare that SB cries (but when she does, she doesn’t half go for it!), and she is a very laid-back, happy, healthy baby. But even still, my Instagram feed – and every other social media feed other than my blog, actually – is an inaccurate representation of my life as a parent. Maybe we shouldn’t feel ashamed of Facebooking about our sick-covered t-shirts, or Tweeting about our lack of sleep, or even posting pictures on Instagram of our grumpy babies (once they’ve been comforted, of course).
It breaks yet another parenting taboo – you don’t have to enjoy every bit of it. So many people said to me before I had SB, that this would be the biggest adventure of my life. They were right – and at first, by ‘biggest’, I thought they meant ‘best’. I thought they were telling me that I would enjoy every moment of it… but they weren’t.
Having a baby is a part of life, and, just like life – it has its ups and downs. There’s no taboo about posting on Facebook to say that you’re bored, or Tweeting that you’re upset, or posting an Instagram picture of a relative who has passed away. Parenting is one of the only aspects of life where to post something about the bad bits on social media, is seen as tantamount to saying that you aren’t enjoying it, rather than what it truly means – that this is, like any other part of life, a rollercoaster.
There will be times when your baby is an absolute dream. She’ll sleep through the night, feed like a pro, giggle on cue and smile constantly. You will probably adore these times. There will be times when your baby won’t sleep, will refuse to eat, will frown constantly and cry so often, you could swear it was the soundtrack to your life. You will probably hate these times.
And that is okay. That is perfectly fine. Becoming a parent doesn’t mean you switch your feelings off, or that your own life is now dedicated to convincing others that you are the best parent, and everything is a breeze. It’s fun, it’s tough, it’s natural, it’s difficult, you’ll smile more than you did before, but you’ll probably cry more than you ever have before too. Guess what? That’s okay too.
So right now, my number one piece of advice for new mums would be to never compare or judge yourself by the standards of Instagram mums. You aren’t seeing a perfect life; you’re seeing a perfect moment.
There are 86,400 seconds in a day. That picture you are looking at right now only captures one of them.