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Raising Children in the Age of Perceived Perfect Parenting

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It’s time to get real about parenting.

Story and photo by Karalyn Holden for Hello My Tribe, In collaboration with Hello My Tribe

I recently had a conversation with my mom, and I asked her what it was like when she was a first-time mother back when there was no social media to boast about her child’s every accomplishment. Did she have a support system? Did she have other moms she opened up to about the struggles of being a new mom, or when she grabbed lunch with another friend, was it all, “My kid is awesome,” and “Isn’t being a new mom so amazing and exactly how Hollywood portrays it?” Imagine, there were no iPhones to easily pull up a video of your child and humbly brag that she walked by 10 months old or can stack blocks really high.

As a first-time parent in this technological world, I find it very intimidating to raise my daughter under the microscope that is social media. Yet there I was, as soon as my husband and I decided on her name, securing her private Instagram handle and sharing my journey into motherhood on my public account.

Nowadays, there is so much useful and positive content out there for parents, from breastfeeding support groups on Facebook to numerous blogs and inspirational social accounts where one can get information about kid-approved recipes or decorating a nursery. However, as with most things on social media, there is a dark side. I like to call it “perceived perfect parenting.”

If you are like me, you follow several mom bloggers, as well as your own friends, on social media. If you are also like me, sometimes you watch your toddler smash oatmeal in her hair or shove a crayon up her nose. You may also attempt to take her photo and every time, she is either running out of the frame or scowling because she obviously wants to make life that much harder. During those times, you can’t help but think of a certain mom blogger you follow. Her children are always perfectly groomed and look straight at the camera for photos. They always eat their steamed broccoli and salmon filets. As a family, they travel the world and have the most fabulous and photogenic time. It’s then that I question why my child doesn’t do these things. The mom blogger must be a better parent or have more well-behaved children.

Here’s the problem with parenting in the social-media world: Perceived reality is the new reality. We are all guilty of it. Regardless of whether we have children, social media allows us to shape how others view our lives. Sometimes I lie in bed while my daughter naps, staring at the ceiling, utterly exhausted from her refusing to eat the meal I cooked and her new tantrum-throwing phase, yet I post a sweet photo of her from a week before with a caption like, “This little lady brings me so much life! #momlife.” I watch the likes and complimentary comments roll in, and half convince myself of that false reality. Sure, that caption is true some of the time, but often, it feels as though she drains the life out of me.

Those mom bloggers with hundreds of thousands of followers, their children throw tantrums too, and I am willing to bet that in order to get that perfect family photo on a dangerous-for-kids-but-beautiful cliff overlooking the beach, they have 100 other not-so-great photos from that same moment. Also, most of those bloggers get paid to post those moments. Let’s remember those parents who only post the perfect moments may need those likes and positive comments to lift them up after a rough day too.

There is no end in sight to this new reality, so all we can do as parents is lift one another up and support the joyous yet sometimes rocky journey. There was no hiding behind an Instagram filter when our moms embarked on motherhood, and the only way to tilt reality back then was to put the best developed pictures in the photo albums. I know I am making more of a conscious effort to post my family’s real reality, and I encourage you to try as well. We love seeing another mom post about her baby’s advanced palate, but don’t we also want to see those moments when that same baby spits her food out and throws it to the dog? Let’s come together and change perceived perfect parenting to real parenting. We are all doing our best in this crazy new reality of ours as new parents. We shouldn’t let perceived reality of other moms and dads discourage or shame us into thinking we are lesser parents to our children.

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