Monday, September 23, 2013

When Facebook is the Enemy

Last week was one of those instances where I let Facebook get the best of me.

I did what I know not to do - I compared my life with what others were posting.

I know - know - that Facebook is a highlight reel. You can't compare your outtakes to what someone else has chosen as a highlight. Most of the time I don't. I know better. But this time, I did.

Madison had just had her dentist appointment. She screamed her entire way through it. No, that's not quite right. She started off with polite resistance.

OK, hop on up in the big chair and take a ride!

Um, no thank you. I don't want to.

Come on up and you can wear these cool sunglasses! And do you like berry or bubble gum flavor?

I don't want anything. No thank you.

I think the hygienist was a little thrown - most toddlers who refuse probably aren't super polite about it. But once we lifted her into the chair, she started the bloodcurdling screaming that remained throughout the cleaning. I spent my time in the office keeping a tight leash on Reagan - who was running and exploring - and letting Madison squeeze my hand while I helped hold her poor little mouth open and kept trying to talk her down from her fit. It was exhausting. And afterward I was really frustrated.

So my kid hates the dentist. Not shocking. Despite my attempts to make these visits as upbeat and positive as possible, the fact is that I hate the dentist too. I may not scream my way through appointments, but I do the adult version and simply "forget" to make them for myself.

But what really got to me was that I felt like I had the only tough kid. Many of my friends with three year olds - and what seemed like my entire online moms group - had dental appointments recently and my feed was stuffed with smiling preschoolers sitting in exam chairs, beaming. Naturally, accompanied by the caption of

Best kid ever! No tears, no cavities and a big smile after her checkup!

Hard to think that my post would have been

No big girl dentist pictures because she screamed down the office and I was simultaneously corralling her sister while prying her mouth open! Best day ever!

So I said nothing on Facebook. And felt defeated. Why, oh why was my kid the one who couldn't make it through a basic checkup without completely falling apart? Why couldn't I post a success story with adorable pictures of my smiling big girl?

Then I remembered a story one of my friends told me. She and another friend of hers (one who she primarily kept up with through phone and Facebook) had their babies around the same time. As is typical for new mothers, they didn't talk on the phone much those first few months. They commented on each other's pictures, but beyond that weren't really in touch.

She told me they finally got the babies together when the babies were about 4 or 5 months old, and were able to really talk. In asking how things were, the friend said,

"Well, now that she's finally over her colic, things are much better. But for a while, things were just awful. I don't think she slept more than an hour at a time and the screaming was constant".

My friend told me she was in shock. She'd been following Facebook baby pictures for months and never got any indication that her friend's early days of motherhood had been anything but ideal. Smiles, rolling over, playgym pictures....yes. Complaints? None. She was sure that her friend was sailing through those newborn days, while she was bogged down in blowout diapers and infant reflux.

She told her this and her friend replied,

"Why would I post those moments? I'm just glad they're over!"

Facebook for moms is the mommy brag book. When our kids do something that has us convinced that they are the smartest, sweetest, most advanced kids in the world, we document it.

Look who is already pulling up!

Six months and crawling - can't stop my kid!
We share pictures of crying and spit up - when it's cute. 

Awwww....poor kiddo is just exhausted!

Too cute! Guess she doesn't like THIS new toy at all! 

But when we're seriously doubting? We don't. We go radio silent. It's very rare to see anyone posting about how their kid is having an incredibly hard time potty training, or walking, or hasn't slept in what seems like days.

It's so easy to get discouraged. If I compared only to what most of my mom friends post, I'd think I was the laziest mom ever. I don't take pictures of our busy boxes or Madison reading her books, but I have friends that do. It's hard to feel confident when you're having a tough day just trying to keep everyone from melting down, and someone posts about the amazing project they just completed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it's wrong to post successes. Heck, I do it all the time! Mommy brag book, remember? When I'm proud of the girls, I'm going to share it. It's the 2013 version of the call to Grandma to show off the milestone...except now Grandma's on Facebook too.

I'm not saying we should post those moments that feel like failures either, if we would just rather forget them. It's not always fun to write about how your kids screamed for the hour before dinner when your patience was at zero - especially when you're looking at pictures of kids snuggling with their siblings on the couch, sharing an educational and fun craft while mom puts the finishing touches on a gourmet meal and has time to Facebook as she's doing it. You don't want to post about how you can't get a picture of your kids together because you are having a hard enough time handling two kids, let alone setting up a photo session for them.

But it's important to remember - especially for me - that you can't compare your outtake reel to someone else's highlights. You don't know what's lying on their cutting room floor.

You don't know that a mom is posting pictures of a sleeping baby because it happens so rarely that she's thrilled to have one calm one for the baby book.

You don't know that the mom bragging about her kid's accomplishments in one area is seriously worried about them in another.

You don't know that those kids spent the entire afternoon in and out of time out, and finally gave their poor mom a break to escape to the delightfully relaxing task of cooking dinner.

You don't know that someone is sharing a dentist success because so far medical visits have been a nightmare, and it feels good to share a win for once.

You don't know the ins and outs of someone's life - even with all the social media oversharing.

And you can't let it bog you down.

Is it just me? Have you ever looked at someone's Facebook page and felt like their life was better/easier/more fun? Do you use Facebook as your highlight reel?
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