Guest post: "As a new parent, I struggled to find reassurance that my feelings were normal"
The Unmumsy Mum
Posted on: Thu 11-Feb-16 10:08:55
(6 comments )
It's funny how social media can get bad press for being antisocial and encouraging us to lose touch with the real world. This couldn't be further from my experience; I have found the online world of parenting to be immensely social and more 'real' than I ever expected. In fact, I think I have sensed a shift towards documenting the warts-and-all experience of parenthood - and it feels like a mini revolution.
As a newish parent, I struggled to find anything to reassure me that what I was feeling was normal. Unlike popular depictions of motherhood, I wasn't necessarily cherishing every moment - so I decided I would write something of my own and pledged total honesty.
I did this on my blog, The Unmumsy Mum, where some posts are difficult to write, but I still feel it's important not to gloss over the tough times. Over the months and years, I've outlined various disastrous outings, photographed the reality of my living space (a total mess), and not given in to depicting a rose-tinted picture of life with my children.
It's been nearly three years since I started the blog which led to a publishing deal. I still believe that total honesty is important because mums (and new mums in particular) can feel delicate. Wall-to-wall social media 'best bits' can leave you feeling inadequate and anxious. The online space that I've carved out unashamedly gives mums a space to say, "today has not been a good day but that's ok. Let's laugh about it, cry about it, and draw a line under it" (rather than thinking "I'm not cut out for this").
I still believe that total honesty is important because mums, and new mums in particular, can feel delicate. Wall-to-wall social media 'best bits' can leave you feeling inadequate and anxious
I own a Facebook page which, with over 355,000 fans, has become kind of a parenting community in its own right. It's great fun - I share the filter-free ups and downs of our family life and I am forever being sent pictures and stories which make me cry with laughter. The many parents who share posts on my page disclose thoughts and feelings way deeper than the usual online interaction of strangers. I think mums (who I've never met) feel they can tell me personal stuff because I have laid my parenting soul bare over the internet. This commands a level of mutual trust - and in some way qualifies me as the parenting Dear Deirdre. (It doesn't, of course, but if typing a message about struggling to enjoy a day at home is a weight lifted for parents, then so be it.)
I can no longer reply to all my messages and initially I found that really hard. I considered reviewing the message function. Should I turn off the ability to message the page? Should I simply stop reading them? I had the same dilemma regarding comments – some posts attract upwards of 5,000 comments and I cannot even begin to moderate those. Should I disable the comment function, too? No, I concluded, on both counts. The page is an ongoing dialogue of humour and support and the comments and messages are what makes it special. Readers come for the comments, the banter, the sense of solidarity and community. It's my page but it is not about me.
Last week I read quite a desperate message just before I went to bed and I put my phone down vowing to respond in the morning. Of course, I then couldn't sleep (I was thinking: what if she's in a really dark place? What if this is the last message she sends?). So I sat up in bed at 2am and typed hundreds of words in a tired slightly jumbled slur. "Thank you," she responded almost immediately, "I knew you would understand".
I've also learnt to deal with negative comments. Promotion for my book, The Unmumsy Mum, has seen a number of online tabloid articles and the response to those is always mixed. More often than not I can shake off the critics and trolls, but very occasionally I have a little cry because behind the social media I am simply Mum to my boys and the self-doubt of not being the best at that role is not much aided by somebody telling you that you don't deserve your kids. The flip side, of course, is that on any standard day the hundreds of thousands of like-minded mums following my page have helped me to feel less like I am failing at the job.
And as for that mini revolution? I hope what I am doing is contributing. Time and again people tell me they feel relieved after scrolling through the posts and comments on my page. "Thank god it's not just me" they tell me. It most definitely is not just them.
By Sarah Turner
I am now off to find your blog and facebook page. :D
Thank you Sarah for your kindness and honestly!
I'm already a follower of your Facebook page and I love it! It really helped me to relax about motherhood and I've banished a lot of anxiety since.
Your right Facebook is mostly a place we share our good news and we rarely share the crap stuff. Welldone for painting a more realistic picture, I think if we are all more honest and open about things many parents will benefit mentally!
I've had a really quick look and your blog looks great! Thanks for sharing. It's really hard being a parent.
As a first time mum with a 7 week baby I have had many moments where I have felt totally overwhelmed and not a worthy parent. Nothing can prepare you for how much you love and want to protect your baby, they become the centre of your universe and as such I think you become extra critical of yourself. Your post makes so much sense and is a real comfort, it's great to be reminded that your not the only one when you have had a bad day.
I hope you're starting that revolution.
I had a hard time when we had DD1 and social media was just full of happy parents who instantly loved their children (or silent ones). I was shocked by what had happened and how I felt and had specialist counselling which was excellent. But the most useful thing that the counsellor said to me wwas, 'that's a reasonable thing to feel in your circumstances and I hear that a lot'. From that I vowed be honest about our early struggles with prospective and fellow parents (if asked, I don't want to drone on).
I adore my DDs and have moved on to a much happier place, so I hope that people can see from me that you do get there in the end.
I eventually concluded that most people were lying about enjoying the early months and wished that DC2 could be given to us, fully attached aged 1. Very happily I found out how wrong I was with having DD2, she's just turned 1 and I wouldn't have missed this past year for anything. As my mother says, 'if only everyone could be a second child.'
I'm off to check out your blog now I'm too!