The Struggle Is Real — Insta-Parenting

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With my great-grandmother way before FB.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I am sooooooo happy that Instagram and Facebook did not exist when my kids were babies. Not only do moms struggle today with their choices of staying home or having a career — they need to have perfect Instagram pics to show off their children — on birthdays, first day of school, lost tooth, ice cream cones — you name it.

I looked back on my FB history and I joined 11 years ago. My kids would have been 12 and 15. I missed the annual first day of school pics for quite a few years. My big struggle was the annual Christmas card photo and the birthday blowing out the candle picks. Yes, I have them in print. But, I put them in albums and they were for me — not the entire world to view.

Moms today have pressure to look good on Instagram, have their kids be clean and adorable, and often worry about if their best friends didn’t “like” a photo. Too much pressure and no thank you! I read about his new phenomenon at Refinerty29 in Insta-Parenting: Why We Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Sharing Pics Of Our Kids by Kathleen Newman-Bremang. What I found interesting about this article was the numbers. They did a survey and it’s amazing how many moms get caught in this web.

According to a Refinery29 survey, Canadian moms are doing it for the ’gram. But what happens when being a parent becomes wrapped up in likes and follows?

It’s the first day of Grade 5 for Samantha Kemp-Jackson’s 10-year-old twin boys and there’s a lot going on in her house — the rush of the early-morning wakeup, the re-acquaintance with packing lunches, the boys’ nervous energy and the inevitable back-to-school blues. But all Kemp-Jackson is thinking about is getting a good photo of her sons. “Every year I’ve had to bribe and cajole my boys into some semblance of a smile because I know I need those pictures,” says the mother of four. “I’m trying to get the shot, not only for myself, but for all of my friends and family who have come to expect the requisite ‘first day of school’ posts.”

It’s no longer enough to get your kid off to school with two shoes on minimal tears, today’s parents face the pressure of immortalizing the first-day-of-school rite-of-passage (and countless others like it) online — and with the perfect filter. According to a Refinery29 survey of 500 Canadian women, 95% of mothers post photos of their children on social media, and one in four upload new images of their kids every single day. Find a social-media feed of a woman in her late 20s, 30s, and 40s, and chances are, her timeline will be dominated by pictures of birthdays and lost first teeth and trips to the zoo. Our bios shout out proudly that we’re “Aidan’s mama” or “a mom of three” of “wife, mother, lawyer” — 80% of moms we surveyed identified themselves as moms in their profiles online, and 41% of moms said they share pics of their kids because “it’s an important part of their identity.” In 2019, if you don’t Instagram photos of your babies, are you even a mom?

University of Waterloo professor of women’s health Diana Parry sees this desire to share these images on social as a new way of self-branding. “We put a social value on motherhood that’s connected to identity for women that is not there for men,” she says. Social media has exacerbated that relationship. “Motherhood has ‘come out of the closet’ so to speak,” says Kemp-Jackson, a parenting expert, podcast host, and creator of the blog Multiple Mayhem Mamma. “Before the digital age, mothers and their work were not as appreciated or recognized by larger society.” Women, adds Natasha Sharma, a Toronto-based relationship and parenting expert and creator of The Kindness Journal, are now choosing motherhood to be a part of their identity as much as they would their job or hobbies. “It’s a huge lifestyle choice just like your career is,” Sharma says. “If you’re going to put in your profile what you do for a living, it makes sense to also say, ‘I take a lot of pride in being a mom,’ too.” 

While it’s well and good to post because “it’s an easy way to keep friends and family updated” (according to 59% of our survey respondents) and “because my kids are so damn cute” (41%), there’s an inevitable downside to all this content. Most women seem to be happy sharing the lives of their children online while simultaneously struggling with unhealthy comparisons and shame on the very same medium: 82% of women in our poll say they compare themselves to other moms on social media and 35% admit they always or often have any insecurities around being a mom that stem from social media. Some of the reasons social media makes mom feel bad, according to our survey results: feeling like other families have more fun (38%), that their bodies aren’t as good as other moms’ (39%), that the meals they eat as a family aren’t as “healthy and yummy looking” (30%), and that they don’t feel as happy as other parents seem to be (24%). Online, there’s always someone doing it better than you.

It doesn’t help that there’s an overflow of moms with public profiles — it used to be you’d only compare yourself the moms on the playground, now there are millions to stack yourself up to. “I had a friend who posted, ‘Up at 3 a.m. with my kid and we made muffins!'” recalls Parry, who in addition to being a professor, is a mom of two. “When I’m up at 3 a.m., the last thing I’m doing is making muffins with my kid. I’m thinking, ‘How am I getting my kid back to sleep?’ When you’re exhausted, it’s easy to think: ‘I’m not making muffins so I’m a bad mom, or I’m a bad woman, or I’m failing at this.'”

Parry may not have liked the way her friend’s post made her feel about her own parenting, but she still hit the like button. Liking parents’ posts on social media may now be a friendship necessity. In fact, our survey found that most women under 35 notice when their BFFs don’t like their pics of their children. The problem with this, according to our experts, is many women — you guessed it — internalize this as criticism and feel bad about themselves. “We post to garner a lot of likes and comments. And when we don’t get it, when there is radio silence, we wonder, ‘What’s wrong with us? Are we doing it wrong? Is there something wrong with my kids? Are they not cute enough?'” says Kemp-Jackson.

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Before digital cameras and Facebook when the pics went in a photo album.

I’ve questioned what good will come of posting every moment of your child’s life. You can read a post about it here.

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How to embarrass your kids without trying

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Desolation Sound. photo credit: Pinterest

Do you remember being embarrassed by your parents? I do.

The summer before I was in 8th grade, we docked our boat across the street from The Empress Hotel after a few weeks of roughing it in Desolation Sound. Mom, dad, my brother and I badly needed showers and clean clothes. (If you haven’t been to The Empress, it’s a gorgeous Edwardian hotel built in 1908 and a landmark in the heart of Victoria B.C.)

Dozens of civilized people dressed in their finest, sipped their afternoon tea and munched finger sandwiches and crumpets. My dad wore denim bell bottoms, thick soled canvas boat shoes — and dragged a giant black plastic trash bag filled with dirty laundry across the fancy lobby — while I looked for a potted palm to curl up behind and die.

Why couldn’t we have walked around the hotel? Why was he making a scene? It was to embarrass me! I was a 13-year-old who cringed at whatever my parents did, so my dad loved to make sure I was cringing over something worthwhile.

All I can say is thank goodness there were no iPhones, Facebook or Instagram back then! I can’t imagine!

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The Empress Hotel and harbor where we docked. photo: TripAdvisor

Why am I sharing this moment of embarrassment? Because I read an article in The Daily Pilot by Patrice Apodaca called Stop ‘sharenting’ and start parenting. She explains that the one thing all parents have in common is embarrassing their kids. Then she goes on to talk about a new phenomenon called “sharenting” where we share too much online.

Read more here:

Parents share one universal trait. They’re very good at embarrassing their children.

They loudly and publicly boast, complain and share mortifying and intimate details about them. Then those kids grow up, procreate and proceed to engage in the same oversharing behavior regarding their own offspring.

This has probably been going on since the dawn of humankind.

There’s a new wrinkle, however, and it’s eliciting growing concern that it’s not a healthy one. It’s known by the portmanteau, “sharenting,” and it comes to us courtesy of social media.

Sharenting, the overuse of social media by parents to broadcast content about their kids, is increasingly one of the most hotly discussed and debated cultural trends revolving around the internet. In short, worries are escalating that parents who continually post photos, videos and stories about their children are unwittingly creating a host of potential problems.

To be sure, social media such as Facebook and Instagram have positive attributes. They allow parents to engage with like-minded communities, and to quickly and easily update friends and family members, some of whom might live far away, about the progress of their little ones. This can be a blessing for out-of-state grandparents, for instance, who appreciate the ability to regularly access information about their beloved grandkids.

But experts are increasingly warning about the dark side to all this sharing.

One cause for concern is that parents generally post this information without their children’s consent.

Of course, parents make decisions all the time that affect their kids without consulting them. That is the prerogative of being a parent. As children mature, though, they might come to resent their parents’ constant disclosures about their lives and grow uneasy about exactly how much they are sharing and who has access to that information in the online universe.

By age 2, one study found, 92% of American children have unique digital identities, which grow and follow them as they age.

One could imagine, for example, a child being bullied by her peers over a photo or story about her that was posted online by clueless parents, who considered such posts to be only a harmless sharing of cute or humorous content, or a display of pride intended for a friendly audience. The trouble is, once information is posted, it’s hard to control where it goes.

You can read the rest of the article here. There’s a lot more valuable info.

I used to post on FB all about my kids swim meets, awards, piano recitals, graduation pics, etc. I’m so proud of them and love sharing each and every special moment. However, I was fortunate that FB didn’t exist when they were born! Instead, it began in their awkward ‘tween years! At one point, my daughter told me I had to ask her permission to post anything about her. She was being teased by her peers. She also told me not to “friend” any of her friends. I respected her wishes.

I think it’s a good idea to let our kids know when and what we post about them. The exception is my blog 🙂  Actually, neither of my kids follow me or read it. They said they’ve lived it! Why bother? So, they don’t mind the old pics I post, or the stories. Or, I’m sure they’d let me know!

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Photos that could embarrass!

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Christmas Parade in the Nutcracker float.

What are your thoughts about the tendency for parents to share too much info and post pictures online about their kids? Also, please share any stories where your parents embarrassed you!

 

 

How Social Media Is Changing Parenting

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Free play at the beach.

Parenting has changed through the years. We all know that our childhoods were a lot freer that our kids’ schedules. Well, except for that dang list my mom would leave us. My brother and I were latch-key kids and Mom would write a list of chores on a yellow legal pad. She’d fill up the entire thing, sometimes both sides. Her handwriting was atrocious and it was a chore just to read the list! It was her method of keeping us busy while she was taking classes at the University of Washington. Better than a babysitter, because she’d come home and the house was clean and dinner would be ready!

According to a study from the University of Alberta, social media is partially the reason why there’s a big change in parenting today.  In an article called How social media altered the good parenting ideal by Michael Brown, University of Alberta, he explains why. Here’s an excerpt:

Social media has altered perceptions of what good parenting is and may play a role in the reduction in the amount of time kids spend just playing, according to a University of Alberta study.

“It has long been known that children today aren’t playing outside as much as they used to, nor are they playing as freely and without supervision as they used to do,” said U of A Ph.D. student Shannon Pynn, who led the study. “We were looking at why this has happened when we realized this idea of free play kept coming up in terms of good parenting.”

Pynn said this “good parenting ideal” refers to how parents understand what’s expected of them from their social network, people in their community and the broader society.

“It’s basically what parents think other parents think is good parenting,” she said.

What she wanted to know was how the good parenting ideal changed in relation to active free play and why.

Pynn and her colleagues interviewed 14 sets of parents and grandparents to get a feel for what free play looked like when they were children and parents.

One theme emerging from the interviews was that some parents today parent differently from how they were parented because they are expected to have their kids in structured activities, said Pynn.

“That’s one reason free play isn’t so much of a thing anymore—kids are playing a lot more sports and participating in many more structured activities, so they don’t really have the time to go outside to play anymore.”

Pynn said structure crept into free play because of heightened safety concerns propagated by social media. Because news is so readily accessible, events like child abductions, for instance, are affecting the behavior of parents a world away.

“Social media makes it all feel a little closer to home, when in reality statistics show that kids are actually safer today than they were in the past,” Pynn said. “The safety concerns are not really founded, but they’re heightened because of social media. That didn’t happen in their grandparents’ days.”

As well, Pynn said parents are concerned about being judged on social media platforms or on any number of parenting sites.

There’s a lot more to the article and it’s well worth reading the entire thing.

Looking back, I did most of my parenting without social media. It wasn’t a thing yet. But there still was pressure from our school community to sign our kids up for certain activities. We chose swimming after trying tennis, ballet, golf, tee ball and karate. Both kids like liked swimming and we found a second home at the pool and a whole new set of parents to hang out with.

Swimming does take a lot of time and our days were structured. Before swimming there was more free play time. We have a park nearby and they used to have really awesome equipment, like a stagecoach for the kids to climb on. I’ll never forget the tall scary slide that freaked me out whenever my toddler son would climb to the top. I’m glad my kids got to play in the park before the city replaced the “unsafe” equipment with rubber padded ground and non-slippery slides.

There was also lots of beach time in the summer. The kids would use their imaginations creating kitchens or castles out of sand. Of course, they also fought over sand. Because there’s nothing like your siblings sandpile, right?

Once they were swimmers, we’d have their swim friends over to the house and they’d play like crazy. I remember a game called sardines which is like a reverse hide-and-seek. I loved  the laughter and sorely miss that sound in my empty nest.

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Celebrating Natasha’s birthday. Probably my son’s idea!

What are your favorite things your kids did in free play before social media told us how to act?

Tips to Rekindle Your Creative Spirit

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Inspiring view along my morning walks.

I’m reading a few pages a week from Julia Cameron’s books. Who is Julia Cameron you ask? She’s a writer, musician and artist who encourages creativity for the rest of us struggling along our jumbled paths. I read something in the book Walking in This World  that helped me out and wanted to share it.

What’s ironic is that it’s the same thing I write about in my parenting tips for SwimSwam. Why don’t I take the advice I shout out to the rest of the world? Who knows?

It’s all about performance pressure and focusing on results rather than the process. When our kids focus on times, or we add performance pressure on them, they will struggle to improve. Likewise, if we are too focused on the number of “likes” and “clicks” on our writing, we lose sight of our creative spirit. We’re more worried about what people think of our work–rather than losing ourselves in the process and creating art.

This results in writer’s block, frustration, second-guessing our work and losing passion for what we’re doing.

What is Cameron’s solution to this? In her books, she has a number of suggestions that include writing morning pages, walking and making time for an artist’s date with yourself. Also, she suggests trying something artistic outside your chosen field. For me it’s getting out a sketch book and drawing from time to time. When I was a little kid, I wasn’t worried about what people thought about my artwork. I drew for hours on end. I found it scary at first to try and sketch again, but I reminded myself that nobody is looking at it. I won’t be looking at the number of “likes” and “retweets.” It’s a creative outlet just for me.

Another suggestion of Cameron’s to rekindle the spirit of creativity, is to use your talents to help someone else. Make a gift for someone, teach, volunteer, or do something for your community. It does make you feel enthusiastic after helping someone else and getting the focus off yourself and your end product. 

Thank you to my BFF Cindy for giving me The Artist’s Way five years ago and encouraging me on my current path.

Julia Cameron has been an active artist for more than thirty years. She is the author of forty books, fiction and nonfiction, including her bestselling works on the creative process: The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World and Finding Water. Her work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages and has sold more than four million copies worldwide. Also a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film and television.

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I find inspiration from my view.

How do you rekindle your creativity if you’re discouraged or reached a block? Do you have any tips to share with us?

Are teen girls at risk for depression linked to social media use?

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I find swimming helps me feel better in the day and sleep better at night.

A recent study in the United Kingdom of more than 10,000 14-year-olds showed that teen girls who spent more than five hours on social media were 50% more likely to have depression. The study called the Millennium Cohort Study can be found here.

Here are more details in an article titled “Teen girls at higher risk of social media-linked depression, study says” bFiza Pirani  in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Now new findings published in the journal The Lancet last week suggest social media use may indeed be associated with young people’s mental health — and the connection looks stronger for girls than boys.

United Kingdom researchers examined data on 10,904 14-year-olds born between 2000 and 2002 in the U.K. for the study, using a variety of regression and path models to find associations between social media use and depressive symptoms.

The data is part of the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study, which includes participant self-reported questionnaires. 

On average, research showed that girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys and girls reported more social media use as well.

In fact, according to the study, teen girls who spent more than five hours on social media per day had a 50 percent increase in depressive symptoms and boys experienced a 35 percent increase in symptoms compared to those who used social media for only one to three hours per day.

“We were quite surprised when we saw the figures and we saw those raw percentages: the fact that the magnitude of association was so much larger for girls than for boys,” study author Yvonne Kelly of the University College London told CNN. This could be because girls are more likely to spend time on apps centered around “physical appearance, taking photographs and commenting on those photographs,” she said, and urged future researchers to delve deeper into the gender differences.

Depression is a debilitating disease that can last a lifetime — or end a life. Social media is the number one form of communication for our kids, yet it can be so harmful. Long gone are the days when teens spent hours on the phone, tying up the family’s telephone line. I remember having to wait for my big brother to get off the phone with his best friend, so I’d get my turn to talk and say nothing for an hour.

The researchers looked at areas that are affected by social media and show an increase in depression with poor sleep, online harassment, poor self esteem and body image. This study gives parents a strong reason to look closely at our teens’ social media accounts and be aware what’s going on in their online life. I’m not sure how to limit their time online, but it’s worth giving a try to save their mental health. I know I feel better when I put the phone down and get outdoors to walk, hike, or spend time with friends and family, rather than being online.

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The Wellness Park in Palm Springs.

What are your thoughts about this study that shows how vulnerable our teen girls are to depression from social media?

What happens to our kids raised with social media and selfies?

It’s so different today from when we grew up. Our kids have every moment of their lives documented in photos online. A swim coach talked to me about social media. He said his team has to deal with a whole set of issues that never arose before. Mainly, online bullying and kids suffering from depression. Think about it. These kids never get a moment to escape. They don’t come home from school or practice and unplug. They are constantly faced with the online presence.

I wrote this article with questions of my own about social media, selfies and our kids four years ago. I have a lot more to say about the subject but first, I’m doing some reading and research and will write more later. Stay tuned.

The first Halloween for my kids together.

The first Halloween for my kids together.

I have a question for you. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. What do you think the long term effects will be to our kids for us posting everything they do on Facebook?

I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I’m guilty of this myself. Do you remember when once a year your relatives and close family friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house, bored watching old slides of your parents?

I took a lot of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got mixed up with cameras. Now, I’m guilty of taking photos whenever I get the chance. And posting them on FB.

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl.

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl. ‘Kat in the Hat.”

But, I didn’t have FB when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem that I used to send files of work to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop and got double prints made. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. Here’s the result of that! A closet with shelves filled with photo albums.

A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. Maybe they’ll be confused and want to share as much about their lives as a Kardashian. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me????

Christmas photo shoot 1996.

Christmas photo shoot 1996.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Grandma on the swings with Robert.

Grandma on the swings with Robert.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Facebook and Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. But I do think we need to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

A new toothy smile.

A new toothy smile.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? Do you think there might be negative consequences, too?