Crazy Busy Guilty author Lauren Sams on why new mums shouldn’t look at Instagram.
Whenever a friend has a baby, I buy them a bottle of champagne for their baby shower gift (babies get enough presents. Also, all those sh*tty plastic toys you’re given? Your baby will never use them. He will play with a cardboard shoe box you left lying around and he will find it endlessly fascinating. Champagne is an infinitely better gift and will be way more appreciated – trust me on this one). And when I wrap the bottle of French bubbles, I always attach a card that says, “My number one piece of advice after you have the baby: don’t look at Instagram.”
First of all, Instagram gives the impression that everyone, everywhere, is having a great time, which can be hard to stomach when you are breastfeeding a newborn at 2am and he suddenly sh*ts and spews all over you simultaneously. Looking at people living their #bestlives, drinking fun cocktails and wearing lovely new clothes (that don’t have spew or sh*t on them) and meeting new people and going to awesome places is really, really depressing when the most exciting thing on your agenda is waiting for the mailman to arrive.
But second, Instagram is a place where parents go to show off. And I should know: I’m a parent, and I’m so bloody proud of every tiny little thing my kid does (she learned to blow her nose! She turned the pages of a book! She’s a genius!) that I post adorable photos of her way too often. If you didn’t know my kid, if you only knew her from my Instagram feed, you would think she is a full-time Delightful Angel Who Never Sass Talks Me. You would think she is a Child Genius Who Will Probably Become Prime Minister. You would think she is perfect.
Instagram isn’t just a place to find ice cream cones posed alluringly against brick walls (guilty: I post those pics, too; I am The Worst); it’s also where parents show off the most serene, beautiful five seconds of their day, as if their whole lives are like this. Just like we only ever Instagram a selfie where we look amazing (no double chin, no pigmentation, no bad hair days, no visible bra line!), parents only ever Instagram their kids when they’re not sh*tting their pants or wailing because they’re overtired. I mean, of course nobody wants to see anyone sh*tting their pants, but when we elide huge parts of our lives and only show the shiniest, best parts, it’s the modern equivalent of bad 90s Photoshopping in magazines: we’re investing in something that is not real, but we’re pretending that it is.
My new book, Crazy Busy Guilty, explores the idea of “perfect motherhood” (which, BTW, does not exist) and the ways that social media plays into this. Professional mummy bloggers who post pictures of their perfect children, or their kids’ nutritionally balanced lunchboxes, or their kids’ colour-coded bookshelves do us all a disservice. They make us think that this is what motherhood is, or should be. They give us crazily unrealistic expectations. At best, we laugh at this stuff. At worst, it feeds into post-natal depression.
My protagonist, Georgie, is unprepared for motherhood and she doesn’t have a lot of friends who are mums. So her gateway to the world of mums is social media, and in particular, Instagram. She sees mums posting pics of their babies holding those insufferable “I’m 1 Week Old Today” and “Today I Rolled Over For the First Time” signs, and wonders why she hasn’t thought to do that. She sees mothers posting pics of organic superfoods they’ve pureed for their kids and wonders why she hasn’t done that yet. She sees pics of mothers pushing their babies as they go for a run and wonders why she isn’t going for a run with her newborn. She doesn’t feel like part of a community of mothers when she sees these images: she feels ostracised and guilty for all the things she thinks she should be doing, and isn’t.
Of course, I totally understand why people (and mums in particular) post perfect happy snaps of their kids on social media: because there’s so much difficulty involved in being a new parent that, if you don’t cling to the rare perfect moments, you’ll want to start drinking even earlier than you already do. And those rare perfect moments, when your baby is smiling at you, and their pants are clean, and you feel like an amazing parent? They are perfect moments, they really are. You’ve got to record them for posterity, otherwise you might think they never happened at all.
But if you’re a new mum, please take my advice: don’t look at Instagram. Don’t even think about it, not for the first few months, at least. Or if you do, know that it’s all a lie – nobody’s baby wears Country Road Kids that often – you can mark my words that there’s some Target mixed in there, too. No child’s nursery is perfectly tidy 24/7 – or if it is, you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s a paid cleaner somewhere out of frame. And nobody’s baby is perfect all the time, just like nobody is a perfect mum all the time.
And you, my friends, should drink to that.