It’s a cold, gray morning and I’ve just put the baby down for his nap. I’m sitting in my favorite chair in the sunroom watching the rain fall and sipping the cup of coffee I’ve been thinking about since I woke up two hours ago. It’s quiet and peaceful, and I think for a moment about opening up my bible and praying. But before I know it, I’ve got my phone in hand as I scroll through my Instagram feed, curious about what I’ve missed since last night. This is the story of so many mornings, and although I hate to admit it, I’ve wasted far too many nap times in the last 7 months.
I am a 25 year-old stay-at-home mom living on a quiet 2 acre lot in the suburbs. Our sweet son arrived less than a year into our marriage and turned our world upside down (as new babies have a way of doing). Most of my close friends are unmarried and without kids, working normal 9-to-5 jobs and going out on the weekends; and although I graduated from college with them just two years ago, I feel more like a decade removed. I can’t remember the last time I went out to dinner with my girlfriends, or spent the afternoon in a cozy coffee shop with a good book. Despite that, however, I am living the life I always wanted as a young wife and mother, blazing a new trail that I am learning to navigate day by day. I chose a clear path right out of college that is transforming my heart as I am constantly refined by love. But, though I love my particular vocation, my life at 25 is not “the norm.”
For me, feeling connected to the “outside world” and staying in the know is important. I want to keep up with my friends who are living entirely different lifestyles than me. I want to be engaged in social discussions and aware of cultural trends and patterns. I want to feel connected to my peers who are living different vocations just as I want to feel connected to my few friends who are also young mothers.
In my experience, social media can often be that bridge. It feels relevant, current, new. It can make me feel less isolated and provides a level of interaction with other people that I can appreciate as someone who is chained to her house most of the day for consistent nap times—which, by the way, often means 5+ hours of alone time each day (a gift and a cross).
Like most things that we use and enjoy, though, social media demands that we practice moderation and detachment. This is where I often struggle. I find it difficult to strike a healthy balance between genuinely connecting and engaging and oversharing, consuming, or comparing. Sure, I can look at another woman’s Instagram page and appreciate the beauty and order that seems to radiate from her home and family. But very quickly it can become a source of comparison, competition, self-loathing, doubt, or anxiety about my own home or family. So many times I have fallen prey to believing that my life must look exactly like another person’s; or that I need what someone else has; or even that I am severely lacking simply because what I lack belongs to someone else—whether it be a pristine kitchen, a beautiful outfit, or a seemingly perfect marriage and family life. So many times I have found myself grasping for what other women have and abandoning any feeling of gratitude for my own life and beauty.
So many times I have found myself grasping for what other women have and abandoning any feeling of gratitude for my own life and beauty.
You are not enough, I hear in my head as I scroll. You are not smart enough, successful enough, thin enough, ambitious enough. As I catch glimpses of other people’s lives, anxiety begins to creep into my mind about who I am as a woman. I begin to believe the lies in front of me telling me I need to be more popular, more busy, more career-oriented. Is it really enough to be just a mom?
Of course I know that it is. I know in my heart that it is more than enough, that it is the most important work I will ever do. I am raising a person to be a saint. I am helping a man get to heaven. There is no one in the world who could give my family exactly what I give to them or could love my son and husband exactly as I love them. But still, the images at my fingertips tell me I am not enough.
I constantly wrestle with how to balance the good and bad of social media. Because although I am acutely aware of how it can negatively affect me, I also feel a strong call to be a positive, real, encouraging presence on a platform that so desperately needs it. I want to show, merely through my ordinary life, that being a young wife and mother isn’t what our culture says it is. It doesn’t, in fact, mean a total loss of freedom or fun. No, it is a wonderful life! A life with so many challenges and sacrifices, yes – but also a rewarding, fulfilling life full of small, beautiful moments that ought to be shared and celebrated.
Indeed, our child has changed our marriage. We are more exhausted on a regular basis and could probably use a few more date nights here and there, but I can’t describe the love I felt for my husband when he single handedly cared for me in the weeks after my long and tough labor; or the love I feel for him when he rolls around on the floor with our baby laughing. I want to be a witness to that kind of joy primarily through the personal interactions I have with others, and then through the venue of social media. Rather than adding to the perfectly curated photos of my child in the coolest baby brand or dumping my thoughts and emotions in a single caption instead of picking up the phone and calling a friend, I want to be a gentle reminder that Beauty Himself is in every mundane moment of our everyday lives, in every vocation.
I want to be a witness to that kind of joy primarily through the personal interactions I have with others, and then through the venue of social media.
A couple months ago, I received an email from a young woman around my own age who follows me on Instagram. She wrote:
“Somehow, I found your pages and I couldn’t be more happy about a technology that I tend to love and hate in equal measure…It is humbling, inspiring, and gratifying to see your family live such devoted lives—to godliness and to motherhood… I have constantly had this internal struggle of how to be both, how to be 100% mother and 100% “strong female career woman”. It was your Instagram and blog that made me re-shape that notion—that being a mother is a not just a career, but a vocation… I am so grateful to be able to follow along your journey of motherhood…and to find a voice on social media which radiates devotion to God and the church, to her family, and to motherhood…Thank you for that gentle, sweet, wonderful reminder in a technology which often forgets to celebrate the most important things.”
I was humbled and delighted to know that for at least one young woman, I wasn’t just another annoyingly perfect page of one-dimensional squares. And although I know that social media is not the be-all and end-all and I am just one little voice amongst many, I was encouraged by her honest words.
And so, I sincerely hope to be true to the real beauty of each ordinary moment, never feeling the need to humanize it by portraying it as worse than it is and never depicting it as perfect. The balance I seek lies in being a light in a sometimes scary and confusing world, while remaining a source of hope rather than anxiety.
Emily Hannon is a FemCatholic Contributor. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, she is a wife and new stay-at-home mother with a love for literature, picnics on a sunny day, and strong coffee. She believes we should find God in the everyday and rejoice in the little, ordinary things that make life beautiful and full of wonder.