Better World

Mom Shaming Is Alive and Well—Social Media Makes It Both Worse, and Better

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As parents, we teach our children to love themselves. We don’t want them to compare themselves to unrealistic images they see on social media and television, or even to their peers. We want them to be strong, confident individuals, proud of the people they are becoming.

According to a recent study, it looks like we may need a reminder that we deserve those things, as well.

A Refinery29 survey asked 500 women in Canada to share their thoughts on motherhood and social media, and the results are eye-opening.

When asked how social media affects them as parents, an overwhelming 83 percent of mothers confessed to comparing themselves to other parents on social media, and 69 percent said social media has given them insecurities about their own mothering. Yet 47 percent of the women surveyed feel social media doesn’t give an accurate portrayal of what motherhood is really like.

Moms shared perceived shortcomings from “it seems like other moms are happier than me” to “it seems like being a mom comes more easily to other women.” So why do we do this to ourselves? If we know social media can be full of warm, fuzzy images with all the dirty dishes swept discreetly out of frame, why do we still compare our entire lives to one person’s edited snapshot?

Some women are leading the charge to make the influence of social media more positive.

Many of us struggle with the “why” of this question, but some women have moved onto the “what” — what can we do about these feelings of inadequacy? Moms like photographer Abbie Fox are tackling that question. Fox did an entire Instagram series of sweet kid pics next to letterboard signs displaying the honest truths of motherhood.

In Fox’s series, kids shared signs proudly conveying everything from their mom’s workout habits to how they are parented.

Some of her other images give a peek into the real lives that are often hidden behind the photos we see on Facebook or Instagram, or say out loud some of the things that mothers can often feel judged for.

Danielle Guenther, of Danielle Guenther Photography, also snaps sweet — but brutally honest — shots of the realities of motherhood. Her photos display the good, the bad and the super messy in images that are just as pretty as any picture-perfect scene.

Her photography truly celebrates the tough realities that permeate parenthood, with humor and a healthy dose of “we’ve all been there.”

If studies like the Refinery29 survey are representative of how moms around the world are feeling, the work women like these are doing is so important. Their photos might make us smile, but they also remind us that we’re not alone. Motherhood is one of the toughest jobs any of us will ever do, and the days won’t always be pretty. If we’re hard-wired to compare ourselves to what we see online on a daily basis, at least we should surround ourselves with images that look something like real life.

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -