I’ll say it twice, motherhood can be lonely. Motherhood can be really lonely. If you’re like me, you may be trapped inside your house while your body heals, until you’re comfortable leaving your house, or until you’re comfortable whipping it out in public. As a result, of course we then crave some kind of connection if we aren’t getting the live stuff. Social media is perfect for this. Social media can get a bad rap, and at times I want to burn it at the stake. However, there have been some pretty awesome things that have happened for me because of social media. Not only have I met amazing women, but I’ve also learned a lot when it comes to raising my daughter. I was a part of fabulous mommy Facebook groups that were the support I needed at the time and didn’t require me to leave my front door. I also virtually kept myself connected to friends and family that I couldn’t physically see. Human beings crave and need connection; I don’t care what you tell yourself. Social media can help you with this connection while you adjust to this new life of yours. Until you’re ready to “go live.”
Admitting motherhood can be lonely is half the battle. The other half is what can you do about it? The solution is so simple but also one of our biggest challenges: finding others to connect with. Then you can at least find someone to talk to about how lonely and boring motherhood can be!
When you’re physically and emotionally healing after having a baby, you may not be ready to leave the house and meet new friends. It can be kind of scary if you haven’t done it in a while too. Or maybe you’re ready to rip the king-size pad off and get those yoga pants back on to bust the hell out of your house? Everyone is different. If you’re like how I was, I just wasn’t ready to leave my house those first few months. I thought I had all the friends I needed (although I wasn’t seeing any of them) and was nervous meeting new people. It was the dead of winter, a pain in the ass to pack a diaper bag, and many times I just said screw it. Luckily there was a way for me to find the connection I was so desperate for.
Social media was the way for me to slowly connect with moms in the same season I was in. I also found moms that were in a different stage, but still weathering the motherhood storm and open to making friends. My connection began with 2am desperate pleas of help with anything from breastfeeding, to sleep, to first foods, to weaning, to amber teething necklaces, and safe products for Brooklyn. I found women that lived near me along with groups catered to the area I lived in. Eventually when I was ready to get some air and venture out into the world, these groups had ways for all of us to meet face-to-face.
Down the rabbit hole
Connection can also have a dark side. I finally admitted to myself that I was way too connected and addicted to social media. I’d create a post and obsessively check the responses throughout the day. There would be a heated discussion within a mommy Facebook group where I felt free to give my commentary, only to have my heart race and anger elevate with each comment I’d read and respond to. I would then obsessively check the post throughout the day. How many hearts did my photo of Brooklyn and I eating ice cream get? Why didn’t anyone comment or answer the question I asked in my post? How many views did my Instagram story get? How many followers did I now have?
Quiet moments and boredom throughout the day prompted my fingers to pick up my phone and check for updates on Instagram. Brooklyn played in the corner putting blocks and dust bunnies in her mouth while I found it impossible to stop scrolling Facebook. I knew I had a problem.
Social media is yes, a wonderful way to find connection. But like anything, too much is never a good thing. As moms, we can find ourselves mindlessly scrolling as our baby nurses or sleeps all day. We can become emotionally affected by what we read. It can consume us.
What’s helped me manage my connection to social media:
- If I post something, I do it in the morning and don’t check the feed until evening. You have to decide why you’re posting something. Is it to share with family and friends, or is it to see how many people will react to it? When you post to simply share, you don’t need to check the status every ten minutes. It doesn’t matter.
- If you find you scroll when you’re bored, try to find other things to do when you’re bored or have some downtime. Make a habit of picking up a book or listening to a podcast. Take a walk. Call your mom. Make plans with a friend to get coffee.
- Put your phone in a place that isn’t easily accessible. At night, enjoy time with your partner and leave your phone downstairs. If you use your phone as an alarm, buy a $3 alarm clock at Walmart.
- Schedule social media in your day and honor those time slots. Set goals of how long you want to be on social media each day and check in on your usage to see if you’re on track.
Staying present versus creating a documentary
What I’ve also checked in on is why I felt the need to document every moment of my daughter’s life, a vacation, or dinner with friends on my phone. By the time Brooklyn turned three, I had tens of thousands of photos and videos of Brooklyn. If it was her birthday party, my husband and I would be on our phone the entire party documenting it. I was missing the party and connection with my daughter. Looking into a phone versus into her eyes.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to capture milestone moments and hilarious footage of your children, but next time you’re with your family, maybe one of you can be the ringleader of the photos. Instead of twenty photos, take a couple good ones and just sit back and watch her open her presents. Try to have one day where you don’t take any photos at all and just be with one another.
Waitress? I’ll have what she’s having
Human beings also have the need to feel significant in this world and to be noticed. Unfortunately, at times we measure our significance based on the attention and approval of others. As a mom, you may find a growing desire to be unique during a time when you feel the most boring. You may believe that now that you’re a mom, you have nothing to show for other than sore nipples and a greasy top knot. A photo of a mother with a dusty filter, gorgeous locks (even if they are extensions), peaceful twins in matching outfits, and 250 “likes” may have you thinking, “What can I do to stand out like her?”
Our need for significance in this world shows its ugly little head in the form of comparison. We’re rarely comparing to become better; we’re comparing and feeling like shit about ourselves. Yes, there are times when I’m scrolling, reading, or observing other women and I’m inspired to learn, do better, and be better. But let’s be real that when it comes to being a mom, we’re judging, falling down a rabbit hole, or getting dark about where someone else is compared to where we are in that moment. When you’re scrolling through Instagram at 9pm after a long day of the un-glamorous world of mom-shit, are you getting a burst to do better or be better? Or is it more like a two-hour trap of internally ripping on whoever you’re following, what they look like, but at the same time feeling you should be doing what they’re doing? Are you filled with regret, panic about what you’re missing, and all the things you need to change to be as colorful as your feed?
I’ll break it to you gently, that person you’re staring at and comparing yourself to is a human just like you. The story you’re creating in your mind, what you feel you should live up to, is someone else’s. When we are lost with who we are as unique individuals, we search for the answers in others. Take a moment to acknowledge where YOU are at right now and if you’re on shaky ground in this mom role. Put the book down for five minutes and discover if there are any doubts about your confidence, connection to your needs, and love for yourself in this new life you’re in. If the ground is too shaky right now, you may have to assess if this is the best time to be on social media.
Comparison puts the emphasis and work on the wrong person.
Do not be a fraud. The more you live another person’s life, dreams, and goals the further you are from yours. Comparison grows when you lose focus on what fulfills you. When you are connected with your own goals and intention- comparison diminishes. It’s time to figure out YOUR strengths, YOUR values and what YOU offer as a woman and mother. If you can’t answer any of these, this is your time to use whatever tools to help you navigate towards finding the answers. Podcasts, books, writing, workshops, finding women that you can relate to, walks in nature (this is when my brain really gets going), trying new things, and be honest about what truly makes YOU happy. It’s work, and you have to do the work, to find who you are and honor it. Then you can scroll without falling into comparison.
The perfect cocktail
You deserve to scroll through a social media feed and find the photos that bring you joy. You should be exposed to posts that are learning opportunities and you want to share them with your best friends. You can post something with the simple intention of bringing joy to whoever sees it. You can look at a photo and appreciate its beauty instead of feeling your life is lacking.
After you figure out how to make social media work for you, the second part is how you can make it work for other mothers. Cheer them on, as you’d want to be cheered. Virtually hug other mothers, as you need that hug too. Get in that darn rocky boat with her and tell her you’re in this storm with her. Help her without shaming her. Don’t contribute to cruel comments, instead put those fires out.
Motherhood is a mixture of many emotions, insecurities, doubts, and fear which creates the ultimate social media hangover. Like anything in life, social media can turn ugly if used and interpreted in the wrong ways. The good news is you now have some tools to help you use social media in ways to support you through motherhood. It may take some time and hard work, but you’ll get there.