If you are a Facebook user and a parent, you've no doubt been inundated with pictures of other people's kids going back to school. Cute, pretty pictures of gingham dresses and school shirts that will never be the same shade of white again. They're sweet to look at and can sometimes even evoke a little emotion -- although after seeing the 43rd photo of a shy smile in a school uniform it can get a little tiresome.
That's the thing about looking at other people's photos on Facebook. Someone else's kids can get a bit boring after a while (as do their dinners and sunsets). It's great to see that everyone is happy and healthy (or at least showing you their happy, healthy moments) but is anyone really that interested in seeing little Timmy's every single milestone? Everyone? Even those people who don't have kids or those who have their own kids to look at?
It's been a contentious issue with parents for a while now. How much of your children's lives should you share with your social network? There are those who would tell you it's not safe to share pictures and others who would tell you it's a violation of their privacy, yet thousands of others will tell you there's every reason to be proud of your children and you should show them off every chance you get.
Enter the Motherhood Challenge, the latest fad to hit Facebook:
"Motherhood Challenge: I was nominated to post three pictures that make me happy to be a mother. I'm tagging a few people that I think are great mothers to post 3 pictures for the Motherhood Challenge! I will copy and paste this in the comments below for you. Here are my three pictures that make me happy to be a mother."
What usually follows is three (or more) perfectly posed, radiant and happy pictures that bring to mind ads for nappies and baby shampoo, that any parent can attest to as being unrealistic, overly glossy and without enough of the raw exhaustion and washer-woman hands that accompany parenthood.
Mums in the UK, where the fad seems to have originated, have come out in anger about the challenge, claiming it's dismissive to people who are unable to have kids, or to those who have lost a child. There are complaints about not being tagged as a great mum and those who complain that they were tagged when they didn't want to be. And, of course, there were many who were frustrated about having to see even more pictures of other people's children.
A lot of anger until comedian Ellie Taylor came up with an alternative awesome response -- the non-motherhood challenge. Even the tired mums laughed.
I'm not a fan of the Facebook challenge as a whole. I cunningly refuse to tell Facebook which books I have read or which movies I like in case that becomes another part of some challenge which pits me up against my more-literary friends.
A motherhood challenge seems to carry its own brand of smugness and competition. The very name implies rivalry or one-upmanship -- and the pressure to tag other great mothers is a bit unnecessary. Although that kind of attitude is often reported in the press, there is no mother I know who wants to be actively pitted against a group of other mothers to show who is better.
Facebook is full of opportunity to show the best and worst bits of our lives, it's there to share your pictures and to comment on others. For many mothers who feel isolated it's a place to share their joy and their struggles, a community that welcomes them and makes them feel part of the village we all need to bring up our children. Turning that joy and pleasure into a competition to rake up views and entice validation is not going to create any winners in the end.
Motherhood is not a challenge, it's a privilege. Use your position wisely.
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