Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Facebook Motherhood Challenge Debate - And Why I Don't Care If You Do It Or Not!

A few weeks ago, I noticed a new viral "Challenge" doing the rounds on Facebook.

Nothing new there of course - over the past year or so I've seen many of them pop up every now and then -  the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge...the No-Make Up Selfie Challenge...the list goes on. 

It's just a fact of life where Facebook is concerned now that every few months or so a new challenge will pop up and go viral - sometimes they raise money for charities which is great, sometimes they're a bit more self indulgent - but whatever they are, they're really just a way to pass 5 minutes on social media. Nothing more, nothing less.

So how has this new "challenge" managed to stir up so much debate?

The challenge in question is of course The Motherhood Challenge - even if you don't use Facebook you'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard of it as everybody seems to have an opinion on it!

Infact I've just read an article from The Guardian online all about this very subject - one of the strangest, most anti-women articles I've seen online in quite a long time actually as from what I can gather, it seems the writer is of the opinion that women can do no right no matter how they approach motherhood unless they shut up and get on with it quietly, or have struggled to conceive in which case they're allowed to feel proud but must be careful not to cross over into "smug" territory!

But more on that in a moment.

Back to the challenge itself - the basic idea is to share 5 photos that make you proud to be a mother, and to then tag some of your friends to share their own - the number of friends to tag seems to vary and I have seen many people on my own feed simply state that they "Tag all mums" or don't tag anybody and just invite whoever wants to take part to do so.

I was tagged to do it a few weeks ago.

I haven't done so yet but not for any real reason other than I simply haven't really had chance to think about it - I saw my friends photos, "Liked" them and thought for a moment about how cute they were...and then I moved on with my life. Thinking maybe I'd do it if I was bored one evening, maybe I wouldn't...who knows. 

I honestly didn't think this was going to be any kind of life-defining decision...I didn't think my choice of whether to partake or not was going to suggest my allegiance to any particular "side" on the matter.

But of course...the word "Mother" was involved in this challenge and therefore some kind of war inevitably had to break out.

Soon we had "The Anti Motherhood Challenge" make its debut - where Mum's who prefer to show the more "realistic" side of parenting showed off their own mid-tantrum, potty training gone wrong, all of the usual child-related comedy.

I saw some of these - I giggled - I moved on with my life.

I also saw lots of other takes on the challenge - such as "The Non-Motherhood Challenge" in which child-free friends of mine posted their own takes on moments that made them happy not to be a Mum - such as various photos of them sleeping soundly, photos of them having drunken nights out, and so on.

Again...I saw, I laughed, I moved on with my life.

But now, of course, the big debate has started and it's all started to get a bit ugly - now I'm seeing women being made to choose which side of this ridiculous fence they stand on - 

Are they going to do the original Motherhood challenge and be accused of only showing the picture perfect happy moments of Motherhood? If they tag their Mummy friends in are they dissing the ones they don't tag? Are they suggesting that only the people they tag are good mummies?

If they choose the anti-motherhood tag, are they suggesting that they're somehow better or more "real" because they're sharing the less than perfect moments of motherhood? Are they taking the mickey out of the Motherhood Challenge mums? Are they deliberately trying to put the downers on life as a mum?

And then there's this ridiculous Guardian article - in which the writer refers to the "Insidious idea of motherhood as a beatific vocational calling which began with the Virgin Mary..." - which, in laymens terms,  seems to suggest that there is a current "fetishisation of motherhood" and that anybody who dares share photographs of their offspring in this manner is doing it purely to appear perfect and rub everybodys noses in their perfect family life (I assume she was unfamiliar with the opposing anti-motherhood challenge at the time of writing her article...)

Her main gripe seems to be with the use of the word "challenge" - stating "A challenge is coping with grief when you wish you were dead, or pushing your mind and body to the limit in a feat of superhuman endurance. It’s not posting a few snaps of your toddler and waiting for your friends to type “aw gorgeous hun xxx” underneath." - Actually I disagree, if we want to get literal about it the definition of the word challenge is "to invite someone to engage in a contest, or to dispute the truth or validity of something". 

When you think about the definition of the word challenge it is actually extremely appropriate to use alongside the word "Motherhood" as these days it certainly seems that the two go hand in hand - what bigger contest in life is there than modern motherhood where we're constantly pitched against each other and made to feel the need to defend ourselves on every decision we make?!

But really - do we need to be so literal about the use of the word? Was it really a "challenge" to pour cold water over our heads or take a selfie with no make up on?! No...of course it wasn't...but did we feel the need to jump all over the use of the word then?!

The writer also takes issue on behalf of those who can't have children for various reasons - despite stating in the article that she does have children herself and so therefore isn't really any more qualified to speak on behalf of those people than I am - how does she know that it's automatically going to offend or upset those without children? 

There are MANY women I know who cannot or do not have children for various reasons, and they are often the ones who comment on and like more of my Facebook photos of the children than anybody else...just because they don't have their own children doesn't necessarily mean they're going to run crying to the corner every time they see a photograph of a child! 

Do we need to insult them with the suggestion that we should all cover our children in shrouds on the off chance that the mere sight of a child may send some poor childless woman into the depths of despair?!

I'd really rather give people more credit than that and allow each individual to make up their own minds - if they don't like what they see, they can hide the posts and unfollow their friends as they're likely to see more photos of their children.

I've also seen debate over whether its insensitive to struggling mothers or those with mental health and depression issues - I would fall into this categories and I personally find the suggestion quite ridiculous. Whilst suffering with ante natal depression in my third pregnancy I actually find it comforting to see my friends happy family photos, it makes me remember that its all worthwhile in the end - of course not every person who suffers will have the same reaction as me but again - they have the option to "hide" posts that upset them.

We can't expect everybody to endlessly worry about what they share on Facebook for fear of upsetting people as it would be a never ending concern.

A photo of someone enjoying a nice glass of wine at the weekend may just send an alcoholic friend running back to the bottle, a photo of someone's wedding may make those lifelong singletons among us weep in despair - but life goes on and people should not and do not need to censor themselves for fear of possibly offending somebody, somewhere. There's a "Hide" button on Facebook for a reason - if you don't wish to see something again, you click it and magically disappears forever. Job done.

As a sufferer of anxiety and thanatophobia, I see things on an hourly basis which trigger my panic attacks and upset me for hours - this week alone I've had to hide the news story showing the mother hearing her deceased sons heartbeat in a transplant patient about 75 times - I find that impossible to deal with and it triggers every anxiety I have, the first time I saw it and it auto played on my feed I went into a massive panic attack and couldn't breathe properly for 15 minutes - but do I expect everyone who finds it touching and moving not to share it? No. I simply have to immediately hide it whenever it appears on my timeline. 

The writer of The Guardian article also takes aim at "Mummy Bloggers" in general - holding us up as shining examples of smug motherhood, declaring that "blogs are packed with tips for having a wonderful time with your “angels”, and it no longer seems easy to admit to finding motherhood painful or depressing, or wanting to crack your wailing child over the head with its capriciously flung egg spoon, because the consensus is that you’re #blessed.".

Clearly this lady hasn't done a lot of research - sure a lot of blogs focus on the positives of motherhood and share their tips and ideas, but there are many who do the exact opposite - anybody who's read the fabulous Hurrah For Gin or Brummy Mummy Of Two (among many others!) knows that there are plenty of bloggers out there showing the less-than-perfect parts of parenthood and having a good old giggle about it.

And then there are Mummy bloggers like me who choose to document the other struggles that go hand in hand with parenthood - the depression and anxiety that can accompany it, the loneliness and so on.

As with everything - there's a Mummy blogger to suit every taste and there's really no need to debate which you prefer - choice is a good thing, so read what you enjoy and ignore what you don't.

And the answer to the Motherhood Challenge debate is much the same - if you feel inclined to join in, go for it! If you'd rather take part in the anti-motherhood challenge, go for it! If you're too busy trying to remember what you're supposed to be making for dinner and worrying that you might just be going into labour any second (That one is me...) then don't do either.

But whatever you decide to do or not do - please, for the love of god, stop passing judgement on what others choose to do.

Stop debating which side has the best intentions and which one you'll be supporting. 

Just join in or don't join in - nobody really cares!

There is no right or wrong side to be on. There is no hidden agenda. There is no malice intended.

There's just a bunch of mums killing some time on Facebook - sharing pictures of their kids or choosing not to - just like every other day. 

Why do we have to try and make it any more than that?

Life with Baby Kicks

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