Parehthood doesn’t come with a valencia filter.
The desire to keep up with the Joneses is hardly a new phenomenon, but social media, citizen journalism, mouthy celebrities and the hefty impact of advertising means the bar set by the Joneses these days is incredibly high.
Heidi Klum was parading about in her underpants on the Victoria’s Secret catwalk just five weeks after having her baby, while fellow angel Miranda Kerr told us all how she selflessly gave birth drug-free and that breastfeeding was a cinch. Gwyneth Paltrow proudly showed off her warped sense of reality by declaring nine-to-five office jobs much easier for mums than the gruelling hardship of being paid millions and millions of dollars to work for a couple of weeks a year on a movie set.
Then there’s genetically blessed Gisele Bundchen who credited a combination of martial arts and yoga for helping her lose the entire 27 grams she gained during her pregnancies before comparing women who gain weight while pregnant with garbage disposal units. When Queen of the sanctimommies Giselle further enraged mothers everywhere by declaring the need for a “worldwide law” requiring all mothers to breastfeed for six months, we lesser mortals universally agreed there should be a similarly widespread law that makes genetically blessed, wealthy and completely out-of-touch celebrity mothers shut their perfectly made-up traps.
With celebrity parents pontificating about their superior child-rearing skills while rocking their perfect post baby bodies without any mention of their army of nannies, personal chefs and live-in trainers, it’s really no surprise we’re seeing an increasing trend in mothers being riddled with self-doubt.
A new study commissioned by child protection agency Barnardos Australia, indicates that mothers are becoming increasingly self-critical with only six per cent saying they’d give themselves a 10 out of 10 in their role as a mother. That means a staggering 94 per cent of us think we’re not living up to acceptable standards.
Social demographer Bernard Salt says manipulated media portrayals of motherhood aren’t helping the cause.
“Expectations are elevated. In advertisements mothers appear glamorous, their kids are well behaved, things are always going smoothly, we don’t see the other side of parenting, not many people are loading a photo of a kid throwing a tantrum over breakfast or of themselves looking frazzled and struggling to keep up.”
While Giselle and co certainly aren’t stroking our egos, 60 per cent of mothers say their biggest critics are themselves, and social media is as much, if not more, to blame for our increasingly unrealistic expectations of motherhood. Studies worldwide show the passive consumption of other people’s carefully cultivated organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, kale-infused, hand-crafted, perfectly coiffed and manicured social media feeds only result in an increasingly negative perception of our own lives. And, as a result, we’re developing a warped sense of what’s normal.
Those glossy feeds full of smiling children, homemade gourmet feasts and perfectly presented homes without so much as a cushion out of place are painting a false portrait of parenthood. If social media streams depicted real life they’d be strewn with images of breakfast cereal smeared across the table, grubby children throwing epic tantrums, piles of unwashed clothes and sinks full of dirty dishes, because the truth is, while motherhood can be pure joy, it can also be messy and fraught with chaos.
We’re comparing our own unedited experiences to other people’s heavily curated highlight reels and, while we know that what people post online is more often than not an artificial reality, it’s creating an environment where people feel they need to be able to achieve the same.
Instead of looking to social media, we’d be better to look to our kids when questioning our parenting skills. The time, love, security and sense of worth you give your children are what make a mother a great one, not a perfectly decorated home or Masterchef-worthy bespoke macaron tower. Your kids won’t feel neglected if the organic kale and unicorn poop salad you served for dinner wasn’t plated prettily or if the painstakingly uncoordinated cushions on your couch are sitting a touch too far to the left.
If those social media glamour mamas and celebrity sanctimommies we are all so busily comparing ourselves to were paying as much attention to their kids as they do to Photoshopping their latest selfies, they’d be up for Mother of the Year. Because all you need to be the world’s best mother in your children’s eyes is to offer them you, in all your perfect, unedited glory.
Images via Instagram.com
Comment: Do you think Instagram mothers are creating an unrealistic idea of motherhood?