If you’re a new mom and you want to feel terrible about yourself, log on to Facebook. For optimal self-loathing, log on in the middle of the night while your baby is screaming in your face and pulling out your hair instead of doing what any decent human being would be doing, going to sleep. You’re sure to find a photo of your friend’s newborn sleeping peacefully in his crib with a caption like “my little angel.”
Or you could log on while your baby is nursing on your cracked and bleeding nipple. You’re sure to find a photo of someone you know nursing their baby while sitting on a blanket in the park under a tree with leaves just beginning to turn red for fall with a caption like “bliss.”
Or, better yet, log on when your baby has just pooped all over his last clean outfit and is lying there on the changing table naked as you realize that the reason you still smell poop is because it’s in your hair. That’s when there will definitely be a photo of a friend’s baby dressed in her cutest frilly dress and flowered headband captioned “fresh as a daisy.”
This, more or less, is what happened to me. I gave birth, brought my son home, got to work being his mom and discovered that this was, by far, the hardest thing I had ever done in my entire life. By a long shot. But, if Facebook was any indication, all the other moms I knew seemed to be doing just fine. Great, even. Their lives were a constant parade of orderly houses, smiling babies and home-cooked meals. Was I the only one having a hard time?
A sample Facebook post from my life back then might have read: “I am sitting on the cold, hardwood floor. Both my baby and I are crying. I think it’s nighttime but I’m not sure. Why won’t he go to sleep?” Or, “I think I’m about to have a panic attack. The baby has been screaming into my face for the last half an hour. He just scratched my eyelid and threw my glasses on the floor.” Or, “He just spat up all over me. I’m alone. Spit up is dripping down my shirt and pooling in my bra. I’m probably supposed to change his clothes first, but I’m going to scream if I don’t get this shirt off of me right now.”
Of course, I didn’t post any of this on Facebook. I was too ashamed. Everyone else’s life seemed so put together. It’s not that people weren’t posting about the crying, or the lack of sleep or the spit up. It’s just that they were playing them for laughs. “How can I mind that he won’t sleep when he gives me this face?” accompanied by a photo of a tiny, grinning cherub. I minded, even with the face. But, usually, the face was red, contorted and screaming. The cherub face was a rarity.
But here’s the thing: it was a rarity for them too. It’s not that people are lying on Facebook, exactly. It’s just that they’re shaping the truth. That one time when all the laundry is actually done and the baby is sitting on top of the folded clothes looking like some kind of advertisement for detergent is the time that we think, “Hey! I should post this to Facebook.” But the other eight million times when the laundry is dirty and strewn all over the floor and the baby is in the process of peeing on the one clean stack of clothes, we’re not so keen to pull out the camera.
But why is that? Aren’t we all in this together? It’s hard. We all know it’s hard. Why are we trying to prove to the world that we’ve got our acts completely together? The only people we’re fooling are the new moms, like I was, who don’t know any better. And we’re making them feel terrible. I’d like to think that’s not our intention.
So, maybe we should come clean. Maybe we should write a few of those pajamas-all-day-matted-hair-bleary-eyed posts every once in while. Just so that everyone knows we’re human. I think that’s a great idea. We should totally do it.
You go first.