June 12th, 2015 I posted a chap-lipped, bags-under the eyes, selfie on Instagram of me and my 1-month-old baby and wrote the following for all the social media world to see:
I told myself I wouldn’t Instagram spam with baby pictures, but someone recently told me new mothers do this as a way to document moments. Tonight was one I don’t want to forget. Being a mom is the hardest job I’ll ever have and before I was one I took that for granted. Nights can be the hardest part but tonight she wouldn’t stop smiling at me and all the exhaustion and stress faded away as she wore herself out and fell asleep on my chest. I fell in love all over again (sparkling heart emoji) goodnight everyone.
Before she was born, I swore to myself I wouldn’t be one of those moms constantly posting photos of my kid on Facebook and Instagram. I didn’t want to walk around with a phone in front of her face. Didn’t want to be caught taking a selfie during an afternoon in the park or complaining about a hard day on-line. Most of my friends don’t have kids and I didn’t want to annoy them by posting pictures of mine all the time. Of course I think she’s the cutest, funniest, best kid in the world, with impeccable style, but why share everything?
Then she started to get bigger and do funnier things. We began to do more activities together and those outings were fun. Her personality began to show and there I was, trailing behind her with my iPhone ready to capture the moments.
I worry I take too many pictures, I worry how much she likes the dog face Snapchat filter. I don’t want her to think of me as the mommy behind the iPhone. We are living in a different age of parenting than our parents. If they wanted to take pictures of us, they had to carry a bulky camera. Never mind if they wanted to capture home videos, it wasn’t as simple as reaching in your back pocket, it was a piece of machinery that required operating.
There is little research telling us whether iPhones and iPads will damage our kids. Though they are so engrained in our day-to-day life, the technology is fairly new. We do know it may be harder to get them outside and off their screens once they are old enough to have one, but what about us? Are we hurting them by taking so many pictures and sharing them with the world? Is it wrong to whip out our phones during the funny moments we don’t want to miss? Will she be embarrassed by what I’ve posted when she’s older? These questions plague me often.
I do know that I post pictures not to share with the world, but for me. Those pictures are a collection of my treasured moments with my child. They help me capture the joy of motherhood on the tough days, because even on the tough days where you don’t think you can do this, those small moments in between help you remember that you can. My Instagram serves as my collection of those small beautiful moments, all in one place. Our parents may have curated photo albums but our smart phones help us capture the every day — to find joy, beauty, and laughter in the mundane. They help us keep those tiny little moments we want to etch in our memory.
Sharing moments also helps us connect with other moms. Though the curated sun-drenched photos of kids running through a field may make you grit your teeth when you look down at your paint-splattered floor and realize you haven’t left your house in 24 hours, your post of a hard day may encourage other moms who are also struggling. Other moms may encourage you when they see your post. Instagram and Facebook help us to build community and meet other moms. You can plan a meet-up with moms you have never met and create a community. When the days seem hard, you can post in a mommy Facebook group about your struggle and have several moms tell you they are going through the exact same thing. You can befriend the moms whose lives you admire through a screen.
The power we yield with our smart phones is also a curse. We must remember to look up and take in what’s in front of us because our babies are turning to children and our children to adolescents. The pictures on our screens do not have that baby smell, or the soft touch of their skin. They don’t coo or make that exact face that you laugh at every time but can never seem to catch on camera. The pictures we will have forever in “the cloud” but those hugs and kisses and pats on the back with tiny hands, those we can never get back. So mamas, get your camera phones out, but hold your babies tighter.