I am a woman with many insecurities. You name it, I question it: appearance, intellect, productivity level, professional accomplishments, and most recently… quality as a mother. I know; this is unhealthy. I am working on it (constantly). These past few months, I realized that there was something very specific in my life that made the ever present struggle to feel self satisfied harder than it had to be for me personally: social networking, more specifically, facebook. Somewhere, a long time ago, like many other women I know, I developed the terrible and self destructive habit of comparing myself to other females. For a long time, it was women in magazines or on TV, women I could later remind myself did not really exist. I would turn off the TV, close the magazine, look around, and tell myself to get a grip. There were more important things to worry about, more meaningful ways to exist. Somewhere deep inside, I know that while comparison is natural, there are limits to which I should engage. But I have this funny way of abandoning logic from time to time. I’m a smart woman with the tendency toward really dumb habits. You would think that becoming a mother would put this behavior into perspective. Who has time to compare when you have the life of another human being in your hands? Well, apparently, I did. And I found that after becoming a mom, I was comparing myself with an intensity that could not, in any way, be good.
It seemed like I was the only mom in the world waking up looking like shit, occasionally crying, or hiding from my kid to pee in solitude. Sometimes, I walk into work dressed like a mental patient and don’t realize it until I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror between classes. I wasn’t always this way. I have BECOME this way and can’t quite figure out how to pull it all back together again. I’m freaking humpty dumpty, people. The horses, the king’s men, they haven’t been able to fix it since I fell from that wall! Sure, I’ll do it for a few months at a time. I’ll get a real nice rhythm going. I’ll feel like Superwoman. Then, I slip for a while and feel completely out of control. My house is a mess; I’m grading papers and accidentally spilling the dinner I’m cooking all over student work; I am ditching the work out to sleep; I am letting the ipad babysit my child so that I can get the floor swept; and more than anything, I am neither graceful nor pleasant. I know, for a fact, that in real life, there are other women who have experienced this. But facebook had a funny way of making me forget that.
All I saw were women thin enough during pregnancy to take maternity photos in a bikini, moms running 5ks in their third trimester, women with multiple children posting inspirational messages that reminded me that, like them, if I wanted it all (“all” meaning ‘the body, the job, the family, and the well adjusted kids’), then I just needed to WORK hard enough for it. Because, you know, all the rest of us are just a bunch of lazy, unmotivated, unambitious heifers. So, for a short while, I summoned my inner drill sergeant and tried to kick my own ass. I didn’t summon just any drill sergeant either. I summoned Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. All these other moms were posting about having it all, encouraging others to get it all, and how if you didn’t have it, you simply weren’t focused enough. So, I was like, “Okay, if they can do it, I can, too” But that shit got old real fast for me. Maybe I don’t want it ALLLLL. Maybe constantly trying to get it ALL is just turning me into a completely gross person to be around. Do I really need it ALL?
I was also forgetting about some of the really cool stuff I actually do. I love my job teaching college undergrads and I think I’m pretty good at it. My son and I have fun and we spend lots of time together. I have a husband that I love, who doesn’t make me want to punch him in the face (I just read Gone Girl by the way). I am not a fitness model by any long stretch, but I’m healthy and my family eats well. I have great friends and lots of meaningful activities going on in my life. I’m not in desperate need of anything and my resume isn’t completely pathetic. So why did I never feel like it was enough after logging into Facebook? What was wrong with me?
One day, while catching myself sinking into self pity and staring at a picture of a mom who had delivered a child then began training for a bikini competition, I decided I needed some major social networking detox. I knew, and still know, that the problem does not lie with these other moms. They’re amazing. (Actually, as I’m writing this, I’m starting to think I could have also solved the problem by having less impressive girlfriends. Where are all the real mediocre girls at? Let’s do lunch!) The problem is definitely with me and my horrible tendency to “compare my behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.” You like that line? Some other mom posted it on my facebook wall three months ago. It was in an ugly cursive font over a picture of Marilyn Monroe. I remember looking at it and thinking, this quote, over a picture of a woman who committed suicide, is definitely not helping me right now.
Without thinking too hard, I deleted my facebook account. In a few brief seconds, I saw, very clearly, that I was not enjoying myself when I logged in. It was just the opposite. I came out of each fb session feeling like a subpar mom, questioning the critical thinking or reading comprehension skills of 85% of the people on my friends list, and completely disturbed by the news stories flooding the daily newsfeed. Election season was in full swing and there are few things more disturbing than Guam’s politicians. It was information overload. I needed quiet. I told myself that after a few weeks, when I put myself in check again, I could open a new account. But it has been three months and I still haven’t found it in me to log back in. I don’t think I want to.
Without it, I have got more writing done (both professionally and personally). I have enjoyed my family guilt free, thinking less and less of how much I was doing for them compared to how much other moms might be doing for their families. I am less disturbed by all the ugly things happening in our world. Catching up with what’s happening once a day by reading the news is good enough. I don’t feel like a complete failure as a woman for not working out as intensely as others do. I pray and meditate more deeply. And more than anything, there is less noise in my head throughout the day. Less interruption. No invites to every little event and the pressure to show face. Now, if someone really wants me there, they can call or e-mail. I can’t tell you enough how being off facebook has freed up my schedule.
I think facebook can be a really fun, positive place. But when it comes down to it, I just kind of suck at it. It takes a lot of discipline for me to find mental calm and content. It always has. So, for those of you who keep asking me why I have “disappeared” or been “so quiet” lately, here’s my update. I’m still here. I’m still kind of obnoxious and loud. No big, tragic thing has occurred which led to the deletion of my account. I am not mad at anyone. I simply wanted one less place to connect. We have so many places already these days. And for all you mommies “doing it all, getting it all, and making it all happen,” you keep on with your bad self. I admire you. I just can’t look at you and your bikini-mom photos right now.