The online world of parenting has firmly shifted into the realm of being ‘real’. The more raw you are, the better. Where there used to be a martyr rivalry, there is now a competition for who can appear the most neglectful without actually harming your children.Women are applauded for admitting that they can’t do it all. On the surface this isn’t a bad thing. No one is perfect, and the belief that it is can be detrimental. Most of us are able to look at those who are being raw and say ‘that’s nice, but not for me.’ What about the women who are struggling? Does this movement really help them?
Last year I was talking to my psychologist about the increase of parents showing the intimate moments of their life. I mentioned *she who must not be named or feel the wrath of her bandwagon* and I realised that the things that she was promoting as being a normal part of being a mother, were my signs that my mental health was slipping.
I don’t like to admit this, and I am ashamed of it but my house is a mess. It’s not untidy, it’s a mess. How messy my house is, is a perfect measure of my mental health. The worse it looks, the worse my depression has gotten. How many women are looking around at their house and thinking that they are overreacting about their depression because the *real* movement tells them that’s how parenting should be.
My personal hygiene also slips when I am unwell. At my worst I would go a week at a time between even having a shower, I rarely brushed my hair and my clothes were rarely clean. I had an agreement with mental health services that I needed to be clean in order to have appointments. Yet I see women with millions of followers gloating about this exact same behaviour.
I worry that women are seeing these posts and not seeking help for behaviours that could be red flags for depression. The pendulum of what is usual feelings has swung too far. We’ve tried so hard to make mental illness normal that we have now become blind to it.
It’s a different kind of stigma. Where once, what stopped women from seeking help was feelings of shame that they were abnormal, now the feelings have been turned on their head. Now women are believing that these behaviours and emotions are just part of being a parent. They are worried that by admitting, that they are struggling that it makes them less.
With the threshold for what is usual behaviour being stretched and expanded, women are waiting longer to make that first step to help. I’m concerned that these posts are allowing depressed and anxious women to live in state of denial while they continue to get more unwell. I worry about the impact that this has on their life and their families.
In theory I can see how the sharing of these intimate details is helpful. It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone in our darkest moments. It helps to find our tribe, to find women who share our brand of sarcasm and who have similar parenting values.
However when that search is done in desperation, to find someone who validates feelings they don’t understand it becomes dangerous. It becomes unhealthy when the thoughts of these online personas stop women from seeking the help that they need. I don’t know if the answer is a scaling back of the things we share. I don’t know if the good they do outweighs the bad.