I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.
On the one hand it is a brilliant way of keeping in touch with people, especially those who live overseas. Our ‘friends in our phones’ have been an invaluable support through difficult times – through Facebook Martin and I shared our time with Hugo, and we have got to know people we might not otherwise have met in real life.
On the other hand: Facebook can drive me up the wall. I’ve written about how racist, bigoted, xenophobic memes are shared seemingly without considering the implication for spreading hatred.
The latest trend is, at least, full of love. The Motherhood Challenge has been doing the rounds on Facebook during the past week or so: a mum will nominate x (the number seems to vary) of her mum friends to post photos that make them happy to be a mother.
Now, I know it isn’t to be taken seriously. It’s just a bit of fun and another excuse for folk to share pictures of their gorgeous little ones.
Ultimately the Motherhood Challenge is not any different to regular Facebook posts. Whenever we post on social media or blog there is always a slight inherent narcissm present – whether it’s “Read what I wrote!” “Look at my photos!” “Look at me!” “Look at my house!” “Look at my awesome holiday!” “Look at my kids!” “Look what I’ve got!”
You get the idea.
Yes stuff on social media can just be ignored if you don’t like it. Scroll on.
Over the past couple of days I have been debating with myself whether I should write this post: am I overthinking it? Just being an embittered bereaved mother?
Overthinking? Yes, guilty as charged. Evidence for the prosecution includes me pondering on why it is called a ‘challenge’?
A challenge can mean an invitation to take part, which is what the tags are about. Respond to the tags and post your own photos if you want, don’t if you don’t.
However, like many words in our beautiful language, ‘challenge’ has many definitions. Challenge can also mean testing someone’s abilities, or a call to prove or justify something. It can mean dispute. And, of course, an invitation to take part implies competition.
We women talk so much about not competing with one another, but instead supporting each other. We talk about recognising that we women – whether or not we are mothers (of living children or not, whether we are trying to conceive or have made a decision to not have children) can have a challenging lot in life due to society’s expectations [insert your own gripes here].
For me, Facebook (and all social media) can sometimes feel like returning to the school playground – and in a negative way. All that competition! The sense that you need to prove yourself and your abilities. Who is friends with whom? How many friends have you got? How many tags/likes did you get?
The Motherhood Challenge also has me pondering these questions:
- If you haven’t been tagged, does it make you a bad mum (no of course not)
- If you are a woman but aren’t a mum (whether by choice or by circumstance) does that make you less important because you can’t join in? (no of course not)
- If you are a mum who has lost a baby or child, do your friends not tag you for fear of upsetting you? (no one has tagged me, I am an awesome mum, and I am always really chuffed, as a mother of no living children when people remember I am a mum)
- By tagging x amount of your friends, are you saying mum friends you haven’t tagged aren’t good mums? (I should hope not)
I know no one intends to be insensitive. I know it is just another reminder that life can be really unfair. I know it is just life, life can be a minefield, and people are being people.
I know that we are all fighting our own battles and everyone has things they are sensitive about.
I know the world goes on. I’m not trying to make anyone who has participated feel bad, it’s just my contemplations. I also know from friends’ status updates that I am not alone in feeling discomfort about this palaver (and not all have experienced a loss).
I think the concept of this ‘challenge’ came from a desire to celebrate the beauty of motherhood. And that is wonderful. Motherhood is wonderful. I am so proud to be Hugo’s mummy and happy to be his mummy.
But all the photos I have of and with Hugo – treasured as they are – feature the massive amount of equipment that sustained his life. I’m grateful for that equipment because it gave us that precious time together. It’s that I struggle, still, with the concept of being ‘happy’ about everything because of the circumstances of his very premature birth. I probably always shall.
And that, for me is the crux. I am a bereaved mother, but an embittered one? No, I don’t think so.
Being a mother, whether bereaved or not, does not make me any better or worse than anyone.
We are all special (yep, you men too) in our own way, we all have value, we all have something to give to the world.
We are all trying our best.
Trying our best at this challenge called life.