Back in August I deleted Facebook and it was liberating. Occasionally I find myself wondering what’s going on and I sometimes miss having access to support groups but for the most part getting rid of it has been awesome.
I am still however, an Instagram addict. I like Instagram, it’s short and sweet and you can see what you want to see quickly and efficiently. Although, their new algorithm means I miss some posts and seeing things out of order can be a little annoying for this A-type personality. But nothing’s perfect – unless you’re a well curated mom with a huge following.
You know the mom I’m talking about. The seemingly perfect mom with the perfect kids in the perfect house. They have their sh*t together and everything is neat and tidy. Their food is grown in the backyard or at least produced locally. The kids’ toys are wooden and were bought from a teeny tiny shop. Those little squares of perfection have you feeling hopeful that you too can achieve a certain level of bliss until you look up from your screen to see your crumbling baseboards, your floor strewn with plastic toys and an empty pizza box sitting on the counter. That’s when you realize you are not perfect, you never will be perfect and your life is a disaster.
But here’s the thing: those moms are not perfect either. They’re just really good at hiding their reality. They are great photographers. And you know there’s a plastic toy somewhere in that house. Some of the perfect moms that I follow have recently come to realize that it just requires too much work to appear flawless. And thanks to Instagram’s new stories feature some have even panned the camera over from their perfect shot to show you the mountain of laundry waiting to crash onto the big plastic red fire truck.
It’s hard to be a mom. It’s even harder when you are led to believe that you are doing it all wrong. I myself am very susceptible to the idea that these photos are meant to point out my “failings”. It’s silly but I’m sure I’m not alone. I’ve unfollowed moms that have just taken it too far, especially those that are now trying to sell their slice of perfection to me. But I get it, if companies we’re offering me money to take a picture of their product I’d probably jump on board too. I’ve got student loans to pay!
In any case I’m trying to be better at enjoying Instagram with a grain of salt. These are perfect pictures, not perfect lives.
Unfortunately a few weeks ago one of the mom’s I follow announced that she was no longer going to feature her children on Instagram, not just in sponsored ads but altogether. She wants to respect their privacy. I get it. But I immediately starting wondering if I was being disrespectful to my children. I’ve never shared pictures of them on the toilet or the like but were pictures of them having fun at the beach disrespectful? This mom got in my head.
Before we had kids Joey and I talked about sharing pictures online. At the time I only had Facebook and it was private only to family and friends but I occasionally blogged. We decided we probably wouldn’t share photos for various reasons. But then we found out our first born would have Down syndrome. After Leila was born I wanted to share her with the world because when we received our prenatal diagnosis there was not a lot of support. But after googling for information (none of which was provided to me by genetic counselors or doctors until after it was too late to abort!) I came across some beautiful blogs. These moms and dads shared the good, the bad and the ugly but mostly they shared their beautiful children’s faces. It was comforting and gave me a lot of hope.
So I shared pictures of Leila and as soon as I got my first iPhone when she was 6 months old I started an Instagram account and I shared pictures of her with the public. I felt a responsibility to show others that Leila is not a mistake, she is not a burden and that she is the BEST thing to ever have happened to me. And maybe just maybe someone’s doctor just called to say their unborn child has Down syndrome. And it’s likely the doctor’s office made it sound like an awful thing. Maybe that person will search #downsyndrome and maybe Leila’s beautiful face will pop up. Maybe. And that’s enough for me.
Plus Leila and I have done some work with Changing the Face of Beauty, an organization that is trying to get more people with disAbilities into advertising. We try to teach others about Down syndrome (there are some people who still think they go live in a home after being born!). We like to share information about Ruby’s Rainbow, an organization that gives scholarships to individuals with Down syndrome for higher education (yes they CAN go to college!) and we like to Spread the Word to End the Word. If we were to go private I couldn’t advocate for Leila and others like her. Right now I am in her voice.
Well like I said this mom got in my head. And I was probably more than a little fed up with the holiday perfection from everyone’s feeds. The holidays are tough around here, no family nearby and with Joey’s job this time of year I feel like a widower. So I made my Instagram account private and I removed 400+ followers. I almost instantly regretted it but let it go on for about a week before I went public again.
Why do I let other women dictate how I should live my life? Their way is not my way. I have to share Leila and her entire crew. I’m sure that was not this mom’s intention to make others feel like they were doing it wrong, as I said before I’m susceptible to reading posts as if they’re directed towards me. But I think a lot of us look at those perfect little squares and they make us question our choices and the things we buy. And sometimes that’s a good thing. I’ve found a lot of little shops that I absolutely adore but sometimes in a moment of weakness it can make you feel awful. Just remember their way is not your way.
You do you and I’ll do me.
So please if you don’t already (or you used to – ha!) follow me on Instagram @ashbaddour