WORD TO YOUR MOTHER: The Kind of truth that’s Kind
How many times have we as mums scrolled through our phones with the fixed stare of an alert meerkat, sensing an attack, surveilling the little squares for validation of where we’re doing it wrong?
‘Should have taken more pregnancy photos, bump exposed but serene’. ‘Need more Scandinavian storage’. ‘Need that blended walls and woodwork look for a streamlined effect’. ‘Definitely need an over-indulgently stocked floating bathroom shelf”. ‘Succulents and cheese plants they look nice’. ‘A well-organised craft cupboard’. ‘Expand the mind’. ‘Better clothes for the kids, better hair for the kids, better kids’. ‘Better photos’. Why am I so bad at remembering to take photos? And babies bathing in the sink. I never did that. Is that a thing? There may be a quiet, whining but distinctly recognisable voice somewhere that feels remote, distant, until suddenly it’s shouting high pitched and pained to press the green button, or the iPad’s out of battery, or you play Onchao, or I want dry Cheerios and you realise, my God I really am doing it wrong, and while you’re paralysed with Mum guilt, your own look at you with a disapproving stare like they’re in on it too. When searching Instagram feels like a perpetual pink and gold hole from which there is no escape, is it time to release the ejector seat?
Whilst simultaneously being sucked into an advertisers’ paradise that divides and conquers, us Mum scrollers find a conflictingly positive message within. Every other square seems to be saying we’re all in this ‘Muthahood’ game together. I got your back Mama. You got this. Well… Have I? Have I really? Because the driver’s seat feels way out of reach. The conspiracy theorist in me questions, are we in fact being lulled into a false sense of security with all this talk of community just to keep us scrolling? Or, like Nike who recently cashed in on Martin Luther King Day with their latest drop, are these Mutha-lovers capitalising on community because it’s fashionable?
I stepped into the social media sphere two years ago never having bought into Facebook because I liked life private, but like many wiser before me, Instagram saw quivering, dithering, self-deprecating me coming. Despite dodging the daily pit-falls of comparison, self-loathing, guilt and Imposter Syndrome, I’ve actually grown tall and strong through the women I’ve connected with. It’s not easy meeting like-minded in the flesh. In fact most people in real life are nothing short of a disappointment. Some ‘Mutha’s’ I’ve met in a virtual capacity have literally changed my life’s course and in navigating the waves of uncertainty with a crew of voices behind you that share your values, principles and outlook can make you feel a little less lost at sea. Through one of my formally virtual friends (now real life) I’m reassured, ‘succulent plants are the most pitiful of plants, they look after themselves… who wants a white-washed life when colour brings the fun… so you haven’t got all the photos, you’ve filled your kids’ minds with indelible pictures, unfiltered and real’. And relax. At least for now.
You are who you surround yourself with, whether that’s real or virtual, and I thank providence, the stars, lady luck – whatever it is that aligned our lives – for the women who have showed up in my life in recent years: the kind who will stop your mind from spiralling and feed your thoughts with light. The kind who’ll hold back your hair, not carry on the night when things get messy.
On reading @mamas_scrapbook profile it hit me hard. Being fixed on validation from those who don’t matter can be our big fat Achilles’ heel: friends, family, colleagues, the followers, the following, the eyes at the check-out, the eyes at the school gate, the eyes beyond the school gate, weighing up, scrutinising, passing judgement: eating habits, the kids’ behaviour, the state of the house, ageing, reading levels, school projects, screen-time blah, blah, blah. The problem with ‘like me, like me, like me’ is that it can lead to relationships that are bad for your health.
When the vetting process breaks down the formation of toxic relationships, whether real or virtual, is inevitable. You may not see it coming but it will reveal itself and in a bad bad, not good way. I’m taking the advice of Anna from @mamas_scrapbook (Instagram) to open my heart only to those who will lift and inspire; who will cushion and care; and keep in mind, only those who are kind may apply. I’ve never been to a mother’s networking meet-up because.. because of fear, of not being liked funnily enough, but the new ‘Word to Your Mother’ event curated by ParentFolk has my kind of kind people speaking some truths.
Couldn’t we all use some truth in our lives? A gentle reminder the perfectly manicured living space is a paid sponsorship with Furniture Village. That just out of shot is the partner, balanced on a chair bribing/threatening two small children not to photo-bomb Mummy in the free-standing bath. That everyone has washing piles, discarded MacDonald’s toys, unopened post, dirty dishwater, recycling bags; a half-mangled dog’s bed. That everyone’s sh*t stinks.
A reminder too that even underneath the hardest of skins there is a fragile piece that needs handling with care.
You can find @mamas_scrapbook and @northerndoughco speaking about POWER (and how to claim yours back) at Morning Noon Night, Wirral, on February 10th. At the WORD TO YOUR MOTHER event hosted by @parentfolk
Words & thoughts by Emma Jenkins @Square_Pegs