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.
Really interesting post, Tegan. I think there’s definitely a fine line. How can women tell when their behaviour goes from being what’s considered normal to something to be concerned about? I believe posts like this that raise awareness of mental illness and symptoms of depression and anxiety are part of the answer.
Don’t get me started on the ‘real’ parenting movement. Glad to see you back to blogging. Happy New Year!
This is really interesting and something I have certainly not thought about. I don’t follow those people I think you are referring to, and I guess it’s for some of the reasons you have outlined. You’ve given me a lot to think about.
As always you make me think Tegan. Your posts make me walk away and ponder for days. In a good way ….
This is such an interesting post. Thanks for pushing me to think. My thoughts – I see where you are coming from and think a lot of it comes back to knowing yourself and others knowing you enough to recognise signs of change. Our baselines are all different so no matter what external standards people try to put out for us only those involved would know.
A woman who has always been polished and had an immaculate house could go either way- becoming extra obsessive over tidying and cleanliness or if people saw her in yoga gear with a ponytail they might raise an eyebrow.
The extrovert who no longer goes out.
The artist who stops painting.
And so on.
So for some the movement has simply taken the pressure off when compared to the Pinterest perfect over involved parenting way.
As usual I am an advocate for the Middle ground. Let’s not brag about drinking wine at 11am nor bash those who have wine while kids are awake in the house…
Thanks for the food for thought. Xxx
I’m all for solidarity, for honesty and keeping it real. I’m not into shock value for the clicks. Posts that carefully examine mental illness are much more helpful.
I think there is a real risk that projecting to be proud of their normal (and in extreme situations frankly I would assume this is more of a call for help than genuine self-acceptance) means that other parents who are struggling will think it’s normal to be so overwhelmed (or whatever it is they are feeling) and not seek help.
It’s like being tired. Sometimes we just are. Other times we need our damn iron checked!
I am really glad I read this as I hadn’t thought about this and I think you are completely right. It is helpful to know we can’t do it all but I also agree that for some it is far more than just that and can be far more serious than just your Mum bun for 3 days. I personally don’t like being over the top about the not coping because it isn’t true for me, I’m not perfect but I don’t want to dramatise it. I do think it is certainly important to somehow make sure that women who need help don’t feel it is just normal and seek help if it is required. Thanks for making me far more aware
Great insight Tegan. I’d love to know what your doc made of it because I can really see where you’re coming from. Depression definitely let my household descend into chaos when my mum passed away.
Gosh you have wonderful insight and I like others have said, am always made to think more deeply where I read your words.
Yes, I too am concerned at the so-called ‘normalising’ or one-upmanship or whatever it is…about being a parent (ok, mostly the mums) from what I read on-line.
It has become noticeable to me in the recent years that FB becomes the go-to for anyone who has a problem or issue that actually needs a professional for the advice. I am thinking those who put images of kids’ bodies with something wrong and theyre asking FB??
Back to your topic. You display such good understanding of how things are for you but I can also see that when the mental illness drags you into its clutches further it is harder to do what ‘you know needs to be done when you are well.’ I am fortunate to be able to ask my hub (from time to time) how he thinks I am travelling when I start to feel a wee bit unsure. However, not everyone has a trusted person nor perhaps even wants to ask someone.
In the end, good professional help – talking help not always medication if it is not warranted- is the way to go and I know that is how I am best helped but I also do as much as I can to learn about how I can help myself.
Love to you and I hope your son’s return to school went well.
I’ve not seen this type of “sharing”, but my kids are older and I’m out of the mummy-with-littles season now. I think, as with anything posted online, there needs to be some self-monitoring and thought. Just because it’s written or depicted online in some way doesn’t make something good or right or reasonable. It is good to remember that we each need to guard our hearts and minds and fill them with things that are helpful. For example, I have stopped reading a blog I used to enjoy, because the author’s worldview and perspective began to deviate into something I believed unhelpful. I didn’t sling off at the author, I just simply and quietly removed the bookmark and don’t read there now. We all have the power to make good choices for ourselves.
Your posts like this are always thought provoking. I love your perspective and the way that you share it.
Great post Tegan. You raise some very valid points. I agree and can relate to some of it too. x