I don’t know if this trend has been going on for years and I never noticed it since I am a new mom, or if it is just a recent thing, but it seems that in our society today, moms are the new group to mock and harass. I really don’t understand why this cultural shift has happened, but it is time to put an end to it.
If you read my blog regularly, you know that recently I went through a pretty traumatic miscarriage (original post here). It took me a bit of time to recover physically, and I am still very tired and run down from losing so much blood. I didn’t run any errands for a while since I just did not have the strength. Then one night last week, I was finally starting to feel a bit better. I finally had the energy to put on something other than my pajamas and get out into the world. I felt pretty good about myself…I put my hair in a cute ponytail (instead of my usual horribly messy bun that I have had on rotation lately), I had finally redone my pedicure, put on some makeup, and even was able to put one a couple of pairs of earrings, all while juggling a wild little toddler (not an easy task, trust me).
I did not quite have the strength yet to drive all around town, so I waited until my husband was home from work so he could drive. My husband and my son napped in the car while I went in and shopped. As I was standing looking at some coloring books for my son, two young men (late teens, early 20′s) passed in front of me. This is how their conversation followed:
Boy 1: Excuse me ma’am.
Boy 2: What’s with all the ma’am business? Are you trying to hit on her or something?
Boy 1: Ew, no! GROSS!! She’s like a mom and stuff. Even if I were straight, I wouldn’t hit on her.
Boy 2: I know, moms are so gross! It’s like they hate themselves or something!
Boy 1: Ya I wonder why they do that…like who would want them. Why can’t they try to make an effort like the rest of the world?
WHAT?!? Seriously? So, I could tell this story without a photo, and you might think…”well, maybe you did look gross that day?” So I took a mirror selfie in the store. I may have looked tired and a bit run down. I may have looked a little pale after all of the blood loss, but gross? Like I made no effort?! I certainly don’t think so. I was still very hormonal and tired, and the whole experience almost had me in tears, in the store, in public. My husband wanted to go back and find them and punch them when I told him what happened (I obviously told him no).
After being a victim of some pretty severe (and at many times violent) bullying in grammar school and middle school, it takes a lot to ruffle my feathers. I generally have a pretty thick skin. Those two boys happened to hit below the belt when I was most vulnerable. The fact that they had no care that I could hear every word they were saying was disturbing. If I could go back, I would confront them and give them a piece of my mind. Not for my own sake, but to hopefully stop them from similarly insulting another mother in the future. I would have thought that two people who may have at one time or another had their lifestyle mocked or insulted would be a little more sensitive to the varying lifestyles of others. The whole “walk a mile in another person’s shoes” concept.
I tell this story not to seek reinforcement or compliments for my own appearance. I am happy with and at peace with my external appearance, and have accepted all of the things those awful kids bullied me about back in school: my curly hair, short height, petite build, glasses (many days, I wear my glasses but it was too hot that day so I wore my contacts), etc. I tell this story because it upsets me that our society has the impression that motherhood is somehow gross and repulsive.
Motherhood is a difficult, and often dirty, unglamorous job. Many days mothers are covered in a variety of disgusting substances that other people wouldn’t dare go near. Moms can’t always walk around in 5 inch designer heels and the latest skinny jeans. That does not mean that mothers are in any way gross or not making an effort. Perhaps those boys need to watch this video, about the most difficult job in the world. Mothers are busy molding our future citizens, shaping the little minds of tomorrow. Giving selflessly of oneself is a job requirement of motherhood, and that alone is beautiful. As my grandmother used to say, “beauty is as beauty does.”
Another sad trend that I have noticed lately that is another form of bashing motherhood is the censorship of motherhood photos on social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook. It has gotten so bad that several moms’ Instagram accounts have been shut down as a result of this censorship. The vague definitions of what is allowed and what is not has created a free-for-all in terms of what people flag, and how users’ accounts are disabled. Facebook and Instagram recently made a public statement that they support breastfeeding photos, which is a step in the right direction, but not enough.
Most of the photos posted on Instagram are impromptu, spur of the moment, slice of life type photos. The carefully staged, posed, and edited photos shot with a professional DSLR are in the minority on Instagram (and don’t really seem to embody the spirit of the app anyway). As a mother, you often see your child(ren) doing something adorable and want to snap and share a quick photo. Kids often run around at home in their undies or their diaper, without any other clothes on. Unfortunately, many Instagram users have started to decide that photos like that are worthy of reporting and are as offensive as pornography. I personally cannot stand seeing women posing in their bikinis or underwear, showing off their weight loss, etc. but those are allowed. Kids in a diaper seem so much less obnoxious.
Here’s the thing…Instagram and Facebook need to get their act together if they want any longevity. A kid in a diaper is not the same as some of the awful stuff you see on social media. Perhaps we need to specify the definition of nudity more clearly…such as exposed genitals or buttocks. There have been many instances where I have been afraid to snap a quick picture of my son and post it to Instagram, for fear of getting flagged. I had one of my photos reported in the past, and Instagram wouldn’t even tell me which photo they had removed (I take too many to be able to keep track or figure out which was missing but I have a feeling it was one where my 5 month old son was in the bath, with just his face and chest shown).
Here are some of the photos that I was recently afraid to post (but posted anyway)….
This soapy bucket was supposed to be for cleaning up in our backyard, but my son decided to jump in and take a bath. Too adorable not to take a picture, even though he was without a shirt.
A hot summer morning, and all he wanted to wear were the pants I had just made for him. Normally when it is hot, I can’t get him to put on any clothes at home (he often just takes them off if I try), so the way he was proudly wearing his pants made my heart swell. Again, I was so nervous since he was not wearing a shirt.
My little bookworm, excitedly running around in our tent in our backyard, bringing his books in. If I had tried to put clothes on him, the moment would have been gone.
I generally don’t take a lot of breastfeeding photos (I still don’t 100% trust that they aren’t going to get flagged), but this one I love. I uploaded it initially but had second thoughts and deleted it from my Instagram account. I just adore the look and expression in my son’s eyes here. The messy sand just adds to it all. We were at the beach and the darn seagulls ate all of our food. He was so appreciative to have some milk. :) I reposted the photo on my Instagram feed today. ;)
This is another fun beach photo. He had stripped down to just his diaper so I never ended up posting this one. I had just read somewhere that day that the “unofficial rule” for Instagram was that once a kid is walking, diaper only photos are no longer considered acceptable. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it made me too nervous to post this adorable photo.
This was one of the few instances where we were actually able to throw clothes on him before I took a cute picture of him. Those moments are rare, and I think he only cooperated here since it was cooling down a bit as it got to be evening.
Why are people so stubborn about flagging photos of innocent mothers and children? It feels like just another way to harass and mock the lifestyle of motherhood. Motherhood is not cool and glamorous, so it is easy to make fun of moms. If you don’t like someone’s photos, just unfollow them! If I see anyone posting pictures of themselves flexing in their underwear in front of a mirror, you can guarantee that they get a very quick unfollow from me. Why can’t the mom-haters just do the same?!? In my opinion, these mom-hating photo flaggers really don’t seem that much different than the junior high bullies.