Monday, June 15, 2009

Do we hide behind our children?

I read this article today. The title is, "When women hide behind their children on Facebook." Specifically, the article is referring to mothers using a photo of their child as their profile picture on social networking sites. I noticed this phenomenon when I signed up for Facebook but it didn't really raise any red flags for me at the time.

But now that I stop and think about it, it is kind of strange, isn't it? Especially if you use Facebook for one of the main reasons I do: to reconnect with old friends you haven't seen in forever. If I want to get re-acquainted with so-and-so, what good does a photo of a cute 2-year-old do me?

On the other hand, I know exactly why we do it, and it's for the same reasons mentioned in the article. Our kids are our (arguably greatest) "achievement," our kids like having pictures taken of themselves and can be counted on to look cute (unlike ourselves), we have a million more pictures of our kids than of us, etc.

I do feel, however, that there are some darker motivations at work here. One, that we women are trying to send the self-effacing message, either consciously or unconsciously, that WE ARE OUR CHILDREN. And secondly, that if we - heaven forbid! - post a picture of our actual self on our Facebook page, we will be accused of being self-centered and narcissistic.

I know this because it's what I'm afraid of. Despite my efforts to be an invisible mom, I somehow managed to actually appear in a few photos we took of the girls recently. When it came time to post them on the family blogs, I debated whether I should crop myself out of them or not. I actually did try to crop myself out, but it looked awkward and unnatural. So I left myself in and posted the picture. And then worried that someone would comment on me, or my appearance, or think that I was trying to somehow insert myself into my daughters' lives.

Then I realized how ridiculous I was being. Since when are we not allowed to appear, or look good, in pictures with our children? But have you ever felt the same way? If you are a young mom, I'm almost positive you have.

The article goes on to mention how when women get together - even highly professionalized women - all we talk about is our kids. This is definitely true, at least to a great extent, and I'm not sure that I have a problem with it. There is something so liberating about motherhood being the great equalizer. In any social situation (or foreign country, I might add), if two mothers find each other, they will have something to talk about. If that something happens to be the favorite foods of a three-year-old, is that so bad? Of course there is a time and a place for more varied, "elevated" conversation, but sometimes it's nice to just bask in the commonality of "she has kids, and so do I." It doesn't mean that's all I am - it just means that's what I feel comfortable talking about with slight acquaintances sometimes.

One last note. When I changed my Blogger profile picture a few months ago, I chose from among three photos. Two were of myself and one was of Miriam. I ended up choosing the one of Miriam not because I wanted to be invisible (after all, if I wanted to be invisible, mistake number one was starting a blog), but because I thought it was arresting, unusual, and eye-catching. But maybe I was just kidding myself.

Do you hide behind your kid on Facebook?


Amanda said...

Yes, and no. I'm not sure I ever had the urge to crop myself out of a photo with my kids (unless I was making some sort of unattractive face, which happens more often than not as I am extremely unphotogenic. And, I'm not just insecure, it's true). I'm sort of confused as to why one would think they "shouldn't" be in a picture of their kids. Like, their kids will resent their presence when they are older and looking at the picture? Or they are being vain by allowing themselves to be in a picture that will be viewed at some later date?

I do agree with the notion that children are a great equalizer, or ice breaker, I'm not sure which word is more appropriate. As soon as I had Lillian, I would strike up conversations in the Mothers' Room at church with women with whom I had nothing in common except the fact that we both had babies. And, since children take up so much of your life, you automatically have a lot to talk about.

The Ensign's said...

Very Very interesting. Well typically I would use my kids pics for everything because of the reasons you stated. However, since I'm riduculously crazy about someone hurting me or my family I figured I wouldn't post a lot of pics of my kids on facebook. In general I dont post a lot of pics on facebook and I pray that those crazy people wont hack into my blog. Let's face it... I have some pretty cute kids. Why wouldn't someone want them?? (well atleast I think so)

Bridget said...

Amanda, as for why I would do that - it's not for fear of offending my kid in the future. It's because of a fear of being vain. Which is ridiculous, as I am recently realizing. I certainly don't look at other people's blogs and think they're vain for appearing in a photo.

Janae, that is an interesting reason for not using your kids' photos :).

EmmySue said...

I totally hide behind my kids. There are several reasons... I am always the one behind the camera so there are very few pictures of me to post... and I'm okay not being in front of the camera. I think I worry about people seeing me and see how much baby phat I've added since last being seen in high school and so on. I used to be a much thinner version of me and I admit I don't want others to see that. So much hidden in those seemingly innocent actions... Very interesting post.

Nancy said...

I just read the article and the final paragraph was quite laughable. I don't think that is in danger of ever happening.

I also have rarely, if ever, seen someone put the picture of a teenage child up in place of themselves. Perhaps themselves with a teenage child, but certainly not in lieu of themselves.

In my opinion there is little difference between posting a pregnancy picture of yourself and posting the picture of a brand new baby. Who is the pregnancy picture highlighting? You or your baby? Or both?

Children slowly wean themselves from their parents, I'm finding. Rachel is finally able to play by herself for long periods of time--she's developing imagination and everything just like the previous generation did.

But for the longest time she and I were basically one unit. I still rarely go anywhere without her attached to my hip. She is part of me...but slowly she's becoming more independent.

I think it's going to be the same way with the next baby, too. She will be fully dependent on me. She will be what I do all day.

From time to time I do have pictures of Rachel up on my Facebook page and I don't feel guilty about that.

As you said, children are our greatest accomplishments.

Besides, what does the author of this article have to say about people who use cars or pets as their profile pictures?

Probably some pretty scary stuff. :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I have a friend who posts a 30 year old picture of herself on Facebook and she is now probably 125 pounds heavier & I never would have guessed it was her. But it was her at one time in her life, so I don't think anyone of us should care.

As for moms & children: raising children is what we do with the bulk of our time so I see nothing wrong w/ posting pictures of ourselves w/ our children or talking about children to perfect strangers. Parenthood really is the great leveler. We recently attended a potluck dinner w/ a group of people who at best I hardly know; some I had never met before. Yet we got to talking about our children to a couple of fellows across the table who took their turn talking about theirs. We had some experiences in common and then the conversation turned to our own childhoods. We enjoyed the conversation.

However, there is something I find disturbing among parents and that is when they perceive themselves as perfect parents/people just because they have perfect children, or failing parents when they don't have perfects. It is wrong to overly gloat on the blessing of having obedient or high-achieving children (when we should be humbly grateful), nor should we hang a millstone around our neck if the opposite is the case. I know some pretty wonderful people who sorrow over how some of their children turned out. And there are some lazy parents out there who got lucky.

Ashley said...

I am not a mom, so I cannot comment on "hiding behind my kids" but I can say that most women talk about their kids and nothing else. It is really difficult, even in a church setting, to have a conversation when I do not have children. It is only an equalizer if you have them, if you don't, you are banished or pitied.

Bridget said...

Ashley, I would like to be able to say that no one would pity or banish you because you don't have kids but I know there are people like that out there. And you bring up a good point.

So I'll just say that it is often intimidating for moms to talk to women who don't have kids, because while we do have our children, you probably have us beat in the outside interests/work department. I wrote about it a little here. Plus, in a mixed group (women with kids, women without kids), what are you supposed to do? Kids will exclude those who don't have them. Work/outside interests will have a mom feeling belittled. It's impossible to work around everyone's sensitivities all the time. But it doesn't mean I don't realize they exist. And I am troubled by people who act like they don't.

Did I just offend a slew of people?

Liz Johnson said...

I think that, because mothers devote so much of their time/energy/resources/etc. into their kids, it can sometimes turn into their entire identity. Your kids are merely an extension of yourself, rather than being separate people. Your interests are their interests, and your activities are their activities. And so posting a picture of your kid on facebook is not much different than posting a picture of yourself - you are your kids. That's everything you do, think about, etc. So what's the difference?

This quote from the article is interesting: "One’s children are of course an important achievement, and arguably one’s most important achievement, but that doesn’t mean that they are who you are."

And I don't know if that's always true. For some people, the line is much more blurred. And I'm not saying it's wrong to blur that line, because I think some people do it knowingly and are happy to. Just like I don't want to be faulted for choosing to maintain interests outside my children, I doubt another mother would want to be faulted for choosing to devote all of her time and identity to her children.

I'm all about live and let live lately. "C'mon people now, smile on your brother! Everybody get together and try to love one another right now!" Now I'm off to tie dye a shirt and smoke some pot. :)

Jennifer said...

I just have to say that I love it when there is a picture of you on your girls' blogs. As much as I enjoy seeing that they are doing, you are my friend, and it's fun to see you too. So I'm glad you don't always crop yourself out. :)

Eevi said...

I obviously am posting plenty of pictures of myself on my facebook and blog since I am still(hopefully only few more hours;) one of the women without a child. I have even noticed that the fact that i'm pregnant can be an ice breaker with people since many people like to tell their own experiences and relate to mine. However, sometimes it almost makes me sad to think that I just had 45 conversation about hormonal and body changes when it could have been something "much more". So my question is, since I haven't had one of these conversations yet, do moms get tired of talking about the facts of their child's diet, temper tantrums and potty training or is it just comforting to have an easy going conversation?

Fromagette said...

I think everyone has expressed many of my feelings/experiences with this subject.

However, if those of us with children suddenly stopped talking about them and instead tried making our conversations about more adult subjects, would we be seen as ignoring our children, not caring about them enough to broadcast their every move to the world? I'm sure some people would feel that way.

I know I really need to stop talking all the time about all the problems and good things of being a mother, but it certainly is hard to do. It really is my life right now. That, and not many people share my interests (knitting, bread, cooking, green living, etc) that kids generally are the only common ground we have.

Jeanerbee said...

I think people hide behind all sorts of things, not just their kids. Sure, some people "lose" themselves or at least seem to have no other interests outside their children. I think I even come across that way a lot, but it's not true deep down. For me, I have a hard time balancing a lot of different things without getting stressed and irritable (even if some of those things are fun), so for now while my kids are really little and demanding, they pretty much are my life and hobby and identity ... I still get excited about other things and have a list of future "get involved ins" running in my mind for when they're bigger and I have more time. This doesn't really bother me - it's the whole "there's a season for everything idea" and I feel like motherhood is actually helping me explore other aspects of myself I hadn't tapped into before.

That said, I know plenty of people who ARE their jobs or ARE their hobbies and interests or ARE their talents. Not that I think you are picking on mothers, but I think society often picks on mothers - it's often criticized or looked down on if a woman is perceived to be too involved with her kids or to lack other identity besides that of mother, while if a woman/person is singleminded in a successful career or impressive talent they aren't faulted. Does anyone else ever see this or am I out in left field somewhere?

Crys said...

Little G has managed to get herself on both my Sam's Club (don't judge me...we don't have a Costco in town) membership card and my gym card. I kid you not! I don't necessarily think it is hiding behind the kids though...instead I think of it more as the kids keep jumping out in front of me ;)

Kristen said...

I really really enjoyed this post and the discussion. I notice the phenomenon a lot, and I wonder if it is partly to do with women beginning to identify as "The Mom." I actually avoid the "hiding behind" aspect myself, but I can see where it comes from. Back in high school I was a singer, an actress, a soccer player, an honor student...whatever x,y, or z by which people's identities were created tend to disappear for many of us after we marry and have kids. Now we make PB&J's, covet the coolest stroller, and read books about poop. For many of us our child(ren) is our most proud accomplishment, and it may feel right to put it on display. It scares me, though, to think that a woman would choose not to post her own photo on a site like Facebook for privacy reasons, but have no qualms about putting her baby out there for all to see. I did think it was a little funny that you think people would judge you for having pictures of yourself on your children's' blogs. As Jennifer pointed out, YOU are our friend, and we want to see pictures of you. If you posted more of yourself, maybe we wouldn't all feel compelled to post so many compliments about how great you look after the novelty wore off. :) There are so few pictures of me as it is, since I'm usually taking them. But when one turns out okay, I kind of like sharing it. I will crop myself out if I look horrible, and sometimes I'll crop my pooch or a fat arm out if necessary.


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