Last fall, I got a call from my ex-husband. “Our wonderful daughter has lice,” he told me. What followed was combs, shampoos, emails to the school nurse and extensive conversations with the Fairy Lice Mother’s Clinic.
At 5 a.m. the next morning, I sat on my bathroom floor combing my head for nits—and on my phone for entertainment. After accepting Instagram follower requests from some new mom friends I met at my 7-year-old daughter’s school, I began scrolling through photos of their smiling families at the pumpkin patch.
These are the kind of moms that other moms think are good moms. The kind of moms who pose with their kids’ chalkboards on their first day of school. Those that make a French-braid of hair too tight for any parasitic insect.
At that moment, I felt like a dirt bag mom. The type of mom who doesn’t have enough to brush away the lice or commemorate the passage of time with a giant mylar balloon. As the lice eggs grew on my head, the seeds of comparison sown in my mind grew into a full-fledged form of shame.
The next day, as I sat at my desk answering a lice FAQ text series from other classroom parents (no, they don’t carry diseases, and yes, children can still go to school), I slipped deeper into my “I’m a shitty mom” sinkhole. A whirlwind of thoughts began to rise and familiar narratives began to spin. Maybe if I didn’t work so much, or if I didn’t fail at marriage, or if I used the right organic baby shampoo blessed by Jessica Alba, none of this would have happened.
And then, in the same sitting, I found myself impulsively opening my Instagram app and double-tapping a friend’s photo of her kid’s elaborate baking project. As I asked myself when was the last time I measured dough with my daughter, and my iPhone has never been able to capture an entire life in portrait mode, I looked back at the game I was playing. When I feel less than, the idea of diving into a virtual reality that will instantly support this narrative is wildly appealing.
As it turns out, seeing everyone else act beautifully all the time is taking a toll on many of us. a a recent study Studies have shown that ingesting images of “ideal motherhood” on social media can have negative effects on mental health.
“I see thousands of families through my work as a pediatrician and have found that this unrealistic view of parenthood is widespread,” Dr. Whitney Casares – Founder & CEO Modern Mamas Club, which offers an app for moms—shared with me. “Being bombarded with curated images can set women up to feel like they’re not measuring up or that they’re somehow doing it wrong because that’s not what they see in their lives.”
Jenny Yip, a board-certified psychologist, told me, “When you have mom influencers creating content that portrays motherhood in a perfect way, it all adds up to a flawed way, it’s hard for others.” creates an unrealistic expectation.” “Anger is what builds up. There’s actually a term for it now called ‘mom rage.’ We have this anger because we’re being ripped apart in every direction.
When I started asking other parents if this deep sense of unworthiness was something they experienced, I quickly realized I was not alone in the shame-scrolling.
“Looking at other moms’ Halloween Pinterest projects made me cringe because my sons were just about to wear [clothing brand] Carter’s skeleton pajamas as a costume,” Maura, a mother of 8-year-old twins, told me. “I felt so inadequate and wondered what happened to my creativity. I couldn’t accept that I was a full-time working mom with two kids to take care of, and that all my creativity was being challenged by how we could make our home safe and attractive.
“So many Instagram accounts suggest I focus solely on breastfeeding as a new mom,” my friend Julia, 16 months and 5 years, recently shared with me in an email. “The message was—it should be done in a bralette and look like you’re having the time of your life. I drove myself crazy pumping exclusively for six months, and I still felt low because I didn’t feed him directly from my breast. It took a literal piece of my nipple off and pumped bloody milk to make me stop. I can’t entirely blame social media, but it did affect how I felt There was a lot of impact.,
The truth is that humans have been making this type of comparison since the beginning of time, and it has helped us assess our abilities to survive within social hierarchies.
“Social comparison is a natural mammalian brain function,” Loretta Graziano Bruning – founder of Indoor Mammal Institute, which offers books and other resources “to help you make peace with your inner mammal”—told me. “In the monkey world, you know not to reach for a banana near a stronger monkey because you might get bitten. When you find yourself in a stronger position, it gives you that good feeling of serotonin release.
so it’s no wonder Perfectly Curated Parenting Posts Can Feel Painful When It’s The Opposite Of Our moments of extreme unfiltered reality. And, as the experts reminded me, that’s why it’s especially important to manage your social media use and sometimes step back.
“Social media isn’t going away for most of us, so it’s important that you try and algorithmically create a better online experience for yourself,” Casares said. “Remember to step outside of that world and ground yourself in what is true. Take a break from it all and immerse yourself in real relationships with other parents.
She said: “Working to build a positive self-perception and being okay with parenting is an ongoing journey. When you see things online that make you feel like you can’t measure up, I recommend Let me try conscious self-compassion based on what you do. [psychologist] Kristin Neff, Ph.D.Casares also recommends that “pause for a moment and think about why these feelings of inadequacy are coming up. Is it true, or is it because you’re being fed a fantasy? Then, talk to a friend who Who can assure you that you are doing a good job.
I called my mom a few days later with an update on the lice. As she casually pulled out tips based on her experience combing my hair as a child, I marveled at how beautiful it was that this woman had once done something so gross and loving to me.
These aren’t parenting moments that translate well to Instagram Reels, but that doesn’t make them any less admirable. She sure as hell never arranged seasonal photoshoots or established a brand, but she took really good care of me. And that’s what I was doing for my daughter as well.
After talking to professionals and the people around me, I’m much less alone in my feelings of motherhood. WWhile I haven’t given up social media completely, I have set screen time limits on my apps and curate a feed that makes me feel less inferior. And I’m learning to fact-check those inevitable moments of comparison.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing parenting highlights with those around you, and sometimes there’s nothing wrong with feeling like garbage after watching them. But perhaps we can accept that this gritty, downright dirty job of parenting is too phenomenological to lend itself entirely to the whims of an algorithm.
Katie Neve is a freelance writer and mental health advocate based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been featured in publications including Elle, Newsweek, Glamour, and Business Insider. She is currently a writer at Bend Health. A national health care provider. you can follow him on instagram @kathryn.e.nave,
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