You know that annoying friend who loves to vaguebook about the woes in her life or is always complaining on social media about how her kids are destroying her home and mental health?
Super annoying, right? Well, that was me — every damn day, for years.
I fell into the pit of whining on Facebook when I had postpartum depression, but I didn’t exactly know I had postpartum depression. I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I chalked up my intense feelings (or lack thereof) for everyone collectively lying about motherhood all the time. I convinced myself there was nothing wrong with me. This was just motherhood. It sucked, and no one was honest about it.
So I tried to get real about it, to say the things no one was saying. I put it out there when I was on the verge of a total mental breakdown. I wrote about all the shitty moments in my day, allowing my friends and family to glimpse the unpleasantness of my life through Facebook updates about eating cold fast food chicken over the kitchen sink while in a bathrobe with a baby on one hip, holding back tears.
I wrote about the messes and how damn hard it was to make it all the way to bedtime some days. I wrote about how difficult it was to have so many family and friends far away during such an emotionally draining time. I wrote about the sleepless nights, the picky eating, the poops in the tub.
But when he walked away, his words were still stinging. I realized that I had spent the last few years making my kids out to be a burden, and myself a victim in my online life.
I was looking for solidarity, but all I really found was an increased dissatisfaction with my life. I spent so much time focusing on the negative that I didn’t even feel comfortable sharing when something good happened. I would post pictures of trips to the park sometimes, but I’d always go back to a complaint the next day.
Complaining became my default setting, and I didn’t know how to shut it off.
Even after my depression passed, I never felt like I fully enjoyed being a parent because my Facebook whining persisted. It was my way to reach out and feel heard after a bad day alone with a toddler. It was my lifeline to the outside world as a stay-at-home mom. Once I had begun to heal from my postpartum depression, I still craved telling everyone the bad parts of my life, to get some reassurance that what I was experiencing was normal — that I was OK.
But the thing is — my constant bitching about motherhood on Facebook was standing in the way of me being OK. What I gained in solidarity, I lost in parenting confidence. When I got something off my chest, the fact that I had typed it out for the world to see stayed with me. The returns weren’t worth the emotional investment.
I realized it one day when I went to a friend’s baby shower, and I went to congratulate the dad, who was an old friend from school. He was surprised that I was excited for him, and I was perplexed as to why.
“Well, you don’t really seem like you enjoy having kids,” he said.
I said, “Oh, but I do!” a bit too enthusiastically, and told him that my Facebook life wasn’t the whole story. But when he walked away, his words were still stinging. I realized that I had spent the last few years making my kids out to be a burden, and myself a victim in my online life.
My life wasn’t all wonder and sweet snuggles all the time, but it wasn’t as horrible as I was making it sound. I loved my children deeply. I had beautiful, happy moments with them. But I never said anything about that. It was all about how hard my life was, how challenging the tantrums were. It was all negativity, and honestly, I was only amplifying its role in my life by talking about it all the time.
After my friend made that comment, I decided to take a month-long hiatus from Facebook. While it was hard at first not being able to reach out for some “I hear you, mama” comments when something bad happened, I found that I recovered from mishaps and naptime struggles far more quickly when I wasn’t constantly refreshing my Facebook feed to see who “liked” my sad-sack posts. They became blips in my day instead of the sole focuses.
Actually, by the end of the month, I realized that I enjoyed parenthood a whole lot more when I wasn't constantly complaining about it on the Internet.
Nowadays, I try to use Facebook a lot less for my mental health, and I don’t find myself whining or vague-booking about the hardships of motherhood. I’ve found cutting back on the negativity I post has continued to help me see more of the good in my life. How I perceive parenthood still shifts from day to day, but it’s a hell of a lot better without the Internet weighing in.