We can't berate, judge or label a certain Insta-mum because she makes us feel a certain way.
If someone asked you which "insta-mums" you follow you probably wouldn't bat an eyelid before listing off a couple of women that you follow on Instagram. Some of them might be celebrities, others are bloggers and a lot of them are influencers (we didn't really need that electric baby wipe dispenser after all). A small number of them are people you've met in real life. A friend of a friend perhaps. The one thing they all have in common is that they are sharing their experience of motherhood on social media. They're insta-mums.
I'm kind of laughing writing the word insta-mum. A family member referred to me in this way recently and I felt a bit funny about it. I started a blog when I was pregnant five years ago and it sort of morphed into micro-blogging on the Instagram platform. It would seem that this has made me an Insta-mum (can I say Insta-mam?).
As it turns out I follow lots of Insta-mums too. Some of them inspire my menu for the week, some of them are genuine friends of mine and others I'm following because everyone else is. For the most part following these accounts adds to my life and betters me in some way. The ones steeped in friendship speak for themselves but the others help me - they add value to my day and I would genuinely miss them if their accounts were deleted tomorrow. It wasn't always this way though.
Do the Insta-mums you follow help or hinder you? In an ideal world we would all only follow accounts that make us feel good.
We would focus on following the motherhood journeys of like-minded women or women who inspire us in some kind of way. For example, I've started following a couple of Insta-mums (although many of them would shudder at the thought of being referred to in this way) who live quite sustainably. By following those accounts I am inspired to make changes within my own home and family and I feel like this can only be a good thing.
Have you ever resented an account that you are following, though? It's embarrassing to admit it but I'll take one for the team here and say that I have. I've followed accounts that use the hashtag #motherhoodinspired or #mumlife only to realize that the accounts actually negatively impact my mood.
A couple of scrolls, swipes and insta-stories and I'm knee-deep in insecurity.
These accounts impact my self-esteem and it's entirely not their fault. They are showcasing the life they are living and it just so happens that this triggers certain insecurities for me. It's rarely due to superficial things because I'm not a very "showy" person.
For me, it's the mother who seems to be able to juggle it all effortlessly. She's in the gym and looks amazing, her house is like a new-pin and her children seem to go without nothing and still remain impeccably well-mannered. This is a trigger for me and for this reason I've had to unfollow those accounts.
Your trigger might be something to do with appearance, finances or romance. We all have deeply personal reasons for feeling insecure about a certain topic or situation and it doesn't make us flawed or broken. It simply makes us who we are. However, with this in mind, are we "minding ourselves" by ensuring that the media we are consuming is adding to our lives and not pushing us into a darker corner?
The Insta-mums we follow, the TV shows we watch and the music we listen to can have a huge effect on the way we feel. The way we feel in turn impacts the way we interact with people which affects our relationships. Before we know it, the mindless scrolling on the Instagram accounts we don't like following is profoundly affecting the lives we are living.
We're liking, eye-rolling and screen-shotting another person's life while sinking lower in our own.
This might all sound a bit over the top but it's an important topic. As a mother, we are already a vulnerable party. Motherhood is rewarding and beautiful but it's also incredibly high pressured. It's hard. If you find yourself with a rare few moments to yourself during the day and choose to use that time scrolling through Instagram (no judgement here, I do the same), are you tapping into something helpful? Do you leave that experience feeling better about your life or worse? Are you compelled to do something different and something that will bring positives into your life?
Or is it sucking you into a negative space where you're inner critic is taking to the stage? Are you criticizing your decisions and the lifestyle you live? Are you spending money you don't have on things you didn't know you needed until now? Or are you uplifted, empowered and feeling part of the gang?
I'm no preacher. As I said above, I am a blogger. I willingly share my motherhood journey on Instagram but I also consume so many other journeys as a "follower". I love how inclusive and inspiring social media can be. I've genuinely met some amazing friends through Instagram but I've also fallen prey to toxic behaviour online. I've found myself following accounts that completely overwhelm me. Accounts that make me dislike who I am and who make me question if I am enough. Or if I've done enough - today or in my life in general.
I find myself wondering if I too should have visited that place or bought that product because perhaps that is the thing you do when you have your s*** together as a mum.
And you know what the amazing thing is? These are the very accounts that the person sitting next to me is completely empowered by. An account that makes me feel small could make my best friend feel like a giant. The content that triggers me could inspire my sister or my next-door neighbour. That is the beautiful thing about social media. It's got something for us all. The problem is that it's an all-you-can-eat buffet and with that comes a tendency to over-consume, over-indulge and over-analyze everything in front of us.
It's unrealistic to expect that every social media interaction is going to enlighten you. It's escapism at the very least and a lot of us need that to quieten our own minds and get lost in something other than our own responsibilities. Within that, however, we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and part of that is ensuring that the media we actively choose to consume doesn't make us feel bad about ourselves time and time again.
And remember, it's not them - it's us. We can't berate, judge or label a certain Insta-mum because she makes us feel a certain way. This is our stuff. Our responsibility. Our choice.