It happened this morning. I had five minutes to sit down on the sofa with a mug of coffee before the school drop – and I clicked onto Instagram to have a scroll. The fact that I was browsing social media while my kids watched a cartoon before school will have the judgy mums spluttering into their homemade oatmeal – but bear with me, because I’m only just getting started.
Because then I noticed something that stopped me in my tracks. A post from a fellow writer here in the UAE telling other mothers why she never shows photos of her children on social media. I won’t be sharing the name of the writer, nor the website as this isn’t supposed to be a ‘name and shame’ – but I will say that the piece was titled “I know where your children are and what they are up to.” Woah. But it certainly made me click, which I guess was the intention.
So I did click – and I started reading. Apparently by sharing photos of my children online, I preventing them from living ‘virtually freely’. I won’t go into the rest of the article, but it follows a very similar tone. And the line that really threw me was: “You may choose otherwise and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you are fully aware of the consequences.”
And that’s the bit that made me stop in my tracks.
Because we are the very first generation of mothers that has raised children in the world of social media. It didn’t happen when I was a child in the 80’s, nor when my parents were growing up in the 60’s. It wasn’t something that my grandparents or my parents had to worry about.
A little like deciding how your baby will be fed, whether you use a dummy or not, how you will discipline, whether you will allow screen time, where your kids will go to nursery or go to school (and the list goes on), choosing whether we share the faces of our children online is now a decision that every parent has to make for themselves.
And the truth is that nobody knows the consequences of choosing to share our children online. Nobody has ever stepped down these virtual cobblestones before.
We are all feeling our way in parenting as best we can – I’m a true believer that there are very few ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers – and criticising or scaring those that choose a different path is only going to make other mothers feel incredibly judged and filled with self-doubt. And I don’t think this is remotely helpful
But I digress.
So why do I share photos of my children online? For me it isn’t a blogging thing, as I only started this blog when my second child came into the world – and his brother had already been starring on my social media accounts for two years. For me, social media is a way of sharing my life with the world. And if my children didn’t feature, it honestly wouldn’t be my world. It would be an edited version.
And I’m not the only person that chooses to share their children online. Millions of other parents choose to do it too – mothers and fathers around the world, bloggers, photographers, celebrities, politicians, even royalty. I personally take steps to protect my children, such as never revealing their schools, nurseries, where we live, or the location of our regular activities. That makes me feel more comfortable with my decision – but I wouldn’t dream of judging anyone who didn’t follow the same steps.
Of course I have had moments when I’ve wondered ‘is this the right thing to do?” – but for me, that moment of doubt is what makes me a mother. I had the same thoughts about breastfeeding, the same thoughts about giving my child a dummy, when choosing a car seat or a stroller, when wondering whether it was too early for my child to start school. We are natural born worriers – and I think that’s pretty much the definition of motherhood.
I am pretty sure that when my children are older and they look back at their life through the pictures and videos I have shared online, they are going to realise I made the decision purely through my love for them. I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to judge me for not being able to live ‘virtually freely’ (whatever that means).
And if you choose not to share your children online? I absolutely, wholeheartedly, enthusiastically respect you for that decision. Your life, your children, your decision.
There is no manual for motherhood, after all.