Don't Let Instagram (or Pinterest) Make You Feel Like a Bad Mom

Sep 23, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. ET
Mom on iphone with toddler
Image: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images. Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

Parenting isn’t easy, but celebrities make it look super-simple. Most of us know not to be influenced because we know that their social media pages are backed by huge budgets and live-in nannies that afford them the chance to hit a spa or “housewife” around in Gucci. But there is another type of megastar mom that could get you riffed: social media influencers.

You probably follow at least a couple of moms who post great craft or recipe ideas and interesting photos. They may seem inspirational, but could those Insta-moms have a negative impact on you and your parenting expectations?

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“Unrealistic images and self-reports of so-called ‘perfect parents’ are displayed constantly on social media, often by popular mommy-bloggers,” Dr. Shoshana Bennett, a clinical psychologist from California, tells SheKnows. “This is causing unnecessary blows to the self-esteem of good parents everywhere.”

Like celebrities, Bennett says social media influencers with a high following may have live-in help.

“There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, of course, it’s just important to remember how much easier that makes life regarding harmonizing the family's needs and wants,” Bennett explains.

In her work as a psychologist who interacts with new parents, Bennett has seen plenty of moms — dads less so — who convey an “all is perfect” image on social media. But their lives are not so shiny, Bennett tells SheKnows.

“Behind the facade, a lack of self-confidence is often at the core, hence the need to prove oneself and show only what looks and sounds wonderful,” she says.

That’s not to say that all social media moms lack self-confidence or try to portray a sparkling image. But the rest of us watching their lives unfold have to be careful with how we digest what they show. If we’re not careful and do not remain grounded, we can wind up feeling guilty and inadequate by viewing and processing those posts. It can also cause us to try to compare our lives to theirs, and that’s a slippery slope because we only have an illusion in our minds of what their lives are really like.

Social media smarts

Be savvy about how you view images on social media, especially if you see a lot of “real moms” who seem to make it look easy. Nowadays, many interrupt those picture-perfect posts with one that shows the reality of a messy kitchen or unwashed hair. (It’s kind of a relief, right?)

“At best, choosing to follow someone on social media gives you access to content that you find appealing, useful, entertaining or relatable,” New Jersey psychologist Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore tells SheKnows. “At worst, it fuels a sense of inadequacy, creates unrealistic expectations, takes time away from other activities, encourages unnecessary spending and bleaches the joy from ordinary life.

She often tells her teenage clients not to compare their insides to someone else’s outsides. Adults need to do the same.

Following someone on social media isn’t necessarily better or worse than reading a celebrity magazine or one with edited photos of models.

Behind the camera 

Kennedy-Moore also gives a little insight into social media mom influencers. She says that adults are often able to understand that we don’t have an imaginary audience — something teenagers often believe.

“Adults generally realize that for the most part, no one, other than people who love us, really cares what we do or how we look. This is enormously freeing,” she says.

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But people who choose to have an audience are holding up their experiences for a real — not imaginary — audience.

“Under those circumstances, it's impossible not to wonder, ‘What will people think?’” Kennedy-Moore says. “Although people might start with the idea of being authentic, the temptation to present a certain image, to leave out some aspects and emphasize others, will be a strong pull. We all do that to some extent. You probably wouldn't tell a work colleague about your ingrown toenail or the argument you had with your spouse about bath towels, but having an audience of strangers amplifies self-presentation concerns.”

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