Tag Archives: Family

A True Measure of Good Parenting

I am extremely lucky to have four friends going through pregnancies around the same time as I did.  The five of us have a group chat in which we exchange everything from news to tips, from joy to tears.  I love this group of mine; while tips from parents with little to loads of experience has been precious, there is something about going through the same steps around the same time that is unique and irreplaceable.

The best part is that there is no judgement within this group.  We are extremely different women, be it our ages—there is a least a decade separating the youngest one of us from the oldest—or where we live—pretty much all continents are represented in one way or another.  We have different ways of doing things, but instead of pitting them one against the other, each person explains why they do something, and the other four glean insights they apply to their own parenting philosophy.

Did I mention how much I love this group?

But funny thing…  Despite the love and lack of judgement, I found myself a couple of times wondering if I was doing enough as a mother.  These four friends of mine are really impressive and I started at times feeling like I was lagging behind and if I should just forget about how I was going about parenting and adopt their tips and techniques.

I was wondering about this one day, when it suddenly a profound realisation hit me: we were all doing a great job because, at the end of the day, our five babies are developing regularly and such happy babies.  Each of the five littles ones are vibrant, laughing, joyful little bundles of energy.  Their smiles light up my screen throughout the day—and are proof that, despite the different ways we are doing it, we are all attaining the level, at the very least, of “good parent”.

All of us are putting our family first, making sure that all its members—our husbands, our babies, and ourselves—are thriving.  Isn’t that what being a wife, mother, and woman is all about?  And aren’t we all achieving it?

Our differences only have to do with culture, our character, our personal circumstances, and our personal preferences.  What I do would probably not be good for any of these ladies, and vice-versa.

It sounds very simple and, in the comfort of whatever sitting area you are reading this from, easy to agree with.  But in the day-to-day struggles that come with being a good spouse, parent, and person, these simple, basic, and fundamental realities are all too easy to forget: that while we all want what’s best for our children, what’s best for us and ours is not what’s best for everyone else, and vice-versa.

And so, supporting one another looks more like an exchange and exploration of ideas and making sure that they are reflecting the framework of our parenting philosophy.  There is a lot that can be done with any said philosophy, and instead of engaging in things like “Mommy Wars”, we should be oh-so-grateful that there is such a broad range of things that we can do to achieve the same purpose: the happiness of each member of our family.

It’s Not All About The Nausea: Pregnancy As a Transformative Experience { Guest Post }

{ This guest post was written by my childhood friend Esther }

Before finding out about my pregnancy, I had been speaking with friends a lot about the idea of transformation, something that should “manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly”, and should “affect both its inner life and external conditions.”

Pregnancy, the most literal human example of transformation I could experience, inspired a kind of search. By engaging meaningfully with the ever-changing circumstances of our lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to transform. As I clocked the seemingly endless Google searches about pregnancy and thought of my own rite of passage into motherhood, I yearned to read about the spiritual dynamics of this transformation.

I read about the role of “mother”, which I was about to assume, like a candidate for a job might scan the qualifications they would need to bring to it. This beautiful description of motherhood resonated with me: “O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind; and no nobler deed than this can be imagined.” Like a candidate, I wondered how I might be cut out for training a new soul in all the perfections of humankind.

Another quote from the same source states: “Although the bestowal is great and the grace is glorious, yet capacity and readiness are requisite…we must develop capacity in order that the signs of the mercy of the Lord may be revealed in us.”

So I asked myself: how might that capacity be developed?

Clearly there are many material preparations necessary for welcoming a new person into our family, but it was less clear how to make space for the spiritual preparations. In my search, I read chronicles of pregnancy that shared the more internal truths. Among these were Louise Erdrich’s book A Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year and Beth Ann Fennelly’s Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother. Erdrich writes about the dual nature of birth, calling it a physical prayer: “Birth is intensely spiritual and physical all at once. The contractions do not stop. There is no giving up this physical prayer.” In order to become imbued with these new capacities required, sacrifice was in order, some kind of letting go, some kind of pain. This was a recurrent theme for me as I approached the due date.

In one of The Hidden Words, Bahá’u’lláh writes that we should hasten towards calamity, saying “My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy.” Early on in the pregnancy, I mused about death and about the nature of the pain and suffering that awaited both me and my child as they would enter this world. I wrote:

A good death. A good trial. Then you know. You know that God’s love is shown in a myriad ways. And that our love for Him is shown through our dedication to walking that stony path and slowly, gently, coaxing ourselves to love the very stones that pierce our feet. What are children but the very best of those stones? That allow us greater strength, perception and understanding? You are not something on my checklist, you are not something to show off or parade around. You are a soul that belongs only to God. You are not bounded or circumscribed by my limited understanding of life, you will go farther than me, you will be stronger than I. You are not a collection of blankets and toys and nappies and contraptions I don’t understand yet for bathing and entertaining you in future any more than I am the lines on my resume or the letters after my name. I never thought I was entitled to the miracle of your existence. And yet, souls enter and exit this world every moment of every day.

Erdrich describes labour beautifully, “thrown down, I rely on animal fierceness, swim back, surface, breathe, and try to stay open, willing. Staying open and willing is difficult. Very often in labor one must fight the instinct to resist pain and instead embrace it, move towards it, work with what hurts the most.” Another passage from The Hidden Words challenges us, “let it now be seen what your endeavours in the path of detachment will bring.”

There is something ominous and exciting about meeting our edge in this way. I wrote:

There is a sense of magic in this process. That something only grows because God wills it to. We move out of the way. We pull the veil from the incoming shaft of light, of life, we scratch at the grime that forms on our hearts. When I wonder and panic at my own limitedness, the smallness of my strength, I am forgetting this.

In The Seven Valleys, we read that the steed of the Valley of Love is pain. Many women describe being unable to recall the pain of labour. Beth Ann Fennelly describes it as having to do with the fact that “during hard labor, you go to a place beyond language. It isn’t so much that there are no good words to describe what you’re going through as there are no words. You’re a white wave in a white sea, without boundaries or cognition…we use the word ‘disembodied’ a lot, but truly it applies here because the body breaks free from the ego.”

After my son’s birth, I wrote the following:

There is no time, just light and dark, sleep and wake, a cycle and the feeling of being right in the very womb of life, a cave where miracles happen, where nothing goes as planned and the rolling rushing waves of pain cast the pearls of pure and goodly issue on the shores of life. And in giving in, we are made new. We are made new.

I’m curious to hear from others who (and I’m sure all of us have in some way!) have gone through moments that were particularly transformative. What were the material conditions and spiritual dynamics that allowed you to engage with that event or time? Is there a particular habit of prayer or creativity that allows you to reflect on this kind of process?

Based on an essay posted by Esther on Baha’i Blog.

Being a Mother – Or, Everything You Do Is Wrong, So You May As Well Do What Suits You { Guest Post }

{ This guest post was written by my lovely friend Emma }

When my son was born, I spent many hours sitting in one place feeding him, pinned to the bed or the couch. It was in these moments that I reached for my smartphone. I remember thinking how did my mother and women of that generation cope with the lack of mobility when they were feeding? What did they do to occupy themselves while they were stuck in a seated position for hours? I felt lucky to have my phone. I could read books on my Kindle app, I could watch videos, take pictures of my son and browse the internet.

Being a new mother, I browsed for hours about everything I had questions about. What I learned really quickly was to be picky about legitimate sources for answers, such as medical studies, accredited journals etc. vs. questions answered in a forum or other mothers’ opinions. While the latter answers had their place, they came from people whose children differed from mine, whose family situations differed from mine and some featured second hand medical or psychological opinions.

The Pitfalls of Online Forums

During what I read online both during my pregnancy and afterwards, I realised that parenting forums were making me extremely frustrated. I remember telling my husband that I had seen a post on a parenting forum asking what stairgate worked for a particular wall. The answers the poster received varied from actual specific answers to her question to comments like she shouldn’t restrict children with a gate. I kept saying, “she just wanted to know about the type of gate. She doesn’t care what you think about using the gate. That wasn’t her question.” Unfortunately, those type of comments to most questions asked tended to follow that direction and so forums were a no-go for me. If a specific answer in a specific forum came up during my general internet search, I would look at it, but not keep reading down the thread.

Contradictions Galore

So I focused on sources I was mostly happy with (not asking for a critique of the ones I’m posting in reference FYI) and looked for the answers to the questions I had. I realised then, that there was a lot of conflicting information out there from respectable sources about the benefits of one action or another.  Co-sleeping is bad, Co-sleeping is not bad. Crying it out is awful, Crying it out is fine. Your kid is smarter if they are breastfed, There is very little difference in intelligence between breastfed and bottlefed children.

Taking a Stand—For My Own Sanity

I decided then that when it came to making a decision about my child, I would decide what course of action I wished to take and then find the evidence to back me up. I laughed with a scientist friend of mine that when it came to any action you wanted to perform, you could find some kind of study to say it was fine.

I guess I have that type of personality that I want to know what I am doing is ‘right’ – but jeez, what is ‘right’ when it comes to parenting – so once I found a study confirming what I was doing, I was happy. And I realised that in the end there are a lot of respectable studies out there confirming one opinion, and a lot either disproving the original opinion or offering a differing version. As a parent, in my unique situation with my unique child I need to do what suits me and my child. And while a study may say X is correct and you need to do X for so many months, it just may not be practical for me, in my situation to put it into practise.

Final Thoughts

When I get advice from someone about parenting (which happens a lot, most of the time when I don’t ask for it or want it) I think to myself, who are they to give the advice? I know how that sounds, I didn’t mean, WHO are THEY to GIVE advice!! What I meant is, is the person giving advice on breastfeeding staying at home fulltime and not returning to work after six months?  Is the person giving advice on potty training 20 or 30 years removed from the process? Is the person giving advice on bedtimes getting home at 5 o’clock every day on the button? If they are, then their situation is different from mine, their family circumstances and children are different from mine. Their advice may not be useful practically to me. I’m not saying don’t ever get advice from people whose circumstances differ from yours. I am saying be aware of who is giving the advice and where they are coming from. Thinking about this makes me feel so much better. And I smile and resist the urge to punch the unwanted or unasked for advice giver. And I’m sure no matter how hard I looked for a study to back up that course of action it would be too hard to find!

Helping My Husband (Not): How The Best Intentions Can Go Wrong

One of the things that bothers me to no end is how fathers are underappreciated.  I won’t ever forget how, despite his exhaustion and the emotional toll of worrying about his wife and baby, no one took care of my husband during our baby’s birth.  The most ironic part of this story is that because I knew no one was taking care of him, I was worried about him, and as we know, worrying has adverse effects on one’s physical well-being.

Now the interesting thing is that, however passionate I am as an individual about this topic, I still live in a society that breeds a certain indifference towards the capacity of fathers.  And this belief, which has molded and shaped the structures of our society, has also affected me.  This effect is, in my opinion, even more dangerous: because of my passion for the elevation of fatherhood to its full worth, I can and am often blinded by sometimes very subtle actions that are, in fact, breeding the same type of indifference but in a much more insidious way.

Now as all parents know, the first couple of months are particularly exhausting.  Night feeding, crap naps, witching hour, clinginess of a baby introduced to a brand-new world—a lot of demands are being made that are unique to this time period and uniquely tiring.  I saw the effect this had on my husband and decided that I would take care of him by taking on as much as I could of our baby’s care.

Oh, how this backfired.  In my drive to make sure my husband didn’t feel as exhausted as I did, I took away from him and our baby the precious opportunities that I have had to get to bond with her and get to know her.  And one of the underlying assumptions that kept me going was that men weren’t built to do this the way women are.  In other words, that men don’t have the capacity to go through these first few weeks like women do.

Woah.

Thankfully, I realised this early on and was able to address this underlying assumption.  I still take care of my husband as much as I can, but not by “hogging” our baby’s care.  Rather, taking care of my husband now includes giving him the time he craves to be with her.  This gave given the two of them precious time to bond and connect, and has given me the precious opportunity to sit back and watch their relationship blossom.

Enjoying the Reality Instead of Grieving the Fantasy of Parenthood

Every parent I know had a certain image of what life would be like with their children.  And every parent I have talked to tell me the same thing: that life with their children is not all like what they thought it would be.

What happens next is also really interesting and has got me thinking a lot about the importance of attitude and perspective.  Some parents end up disappointed in what their life is like, seeing the discrepancy between their plans and the reality of parenthood.  Other parents thought love every moment of it—even the worst parts of it that they could imagine.

It seems that the trick to being a happy parent—and to have a happy child—is to enjoy the good and the bad sides of parenting, to the point that the bad side of parenting becomes a source of joy in itself.  I put the question before a couple of parents and here are some of the ways that the difficult sides of parenthood became a source of joy for them.

Breastfeeding

There is definitely something beautiful about the concept of breasts being able to feed a little human being with exactly what he needs.  There is also something delightful and beautiful about holding your baby while you are feeding him in such an intimate, unique, and short-lived way.

But oh boy, can breastfeeding be messy!  Some mothers have told me tales of how their milk shoots in their babies faces or leaks all over while their baby struggles to latch on.  Other moms shared how gross they often feel what with milk always leaking through their bras and clothes.  Some mothers couldn’t get over the unsettling smell that seemed to follow them everywhere while they were breastfeeding.

Then again, as one mother said, if you laugh at it, it’s all becomes fun.  When her milk shoots in her baby’s face, she laughs, and the baby, taking his cue from her, learned to scrunch his face as she would open up her bra and would laugh when the milk would hit his face.  Another mother told me how she and her husband cataloged all the different ways she smelled because of the breastmilk, and how they would create fake perfume ads based on her “scent of the day”.  And all of them said that once their babies were weaned off, they really missed breastfeeding in all its messy, gross splendour.

Diapering

Diapering is another one of those moments that can be quite beautiful, a great opportunity for parents to bond and enjoy their baby.  But do I even need to mention all the things that can go wrong?

Again, laughing it off seems to be key.  One of my friends, realising that whatever she did, her baby boy was going to end up peeing at some point when not covered, put up a bullseye on the wall by the changing table and would give her son points based on how close he would get to its centre.  Another mom started cataloging the various colours and textures and would send updated to her close friends who, also mothers, started battling it out for the grossest poo of the day.  Each week, the winner of the grossest poo would be treated to coffee by the other women.

The most powerful “retake”, however, it to consider every bowel movement as a gift: the gift of knowing that your baby’s gastrointestinal system is doing fine and that you got another reminder that everything is OK.

Nighttime Feedings

Especially in the dead of winter, when the idea of getting out of a warm bed into the cool air of your bedroom, nighttime feedings can be quite difficult.  The exhaustion, the discomfort, the loneliness, the baby that won’t settle, the baby that bites because he falls asleep at the breast, the lolling head—there is a really long list of reasons why nighttime feeds are just so darn difficult.

Then again, most mothers agreed that despite it all, there is something incredibly peaceful and almost magical when it’s just them and their baby, without anyone or anything to come in between them.  One Mom told me that those moments were some of her most peaceful and restful ones, when all she had to do was watch her son eat.  Another one told me that’s when some of the most precious things happened—her baby’s first real smile, her baby’s first laugh, and the first time her baby was able to reach out and grab her finger without hesitation, to name a few.  Another one said that the nighttime feeds became her meditation time—at which point her mental health became a lot better and, consequently, so did her physical health.  So much so that when her husband suggested that he start getting up with her on weekends and holidays, she turned him down!

Conclusion

The consensus is that parenting is truly wonderful.  It’s an experience that transforms you as an individual and greatly enriches your marriage.  But it’s also tough, sometimes so tough some parents wonder how they will ever get through it.  It’s OK to not enjoy every moment, and it’s OK to acknowledge that some moments are tougher to enjoy—and make sure to laugh as much as you can.

But I think there is something else to remember: you should always enjoy every moment.  When you are single, enjoy every moment.  When you are dating, enjoy every moment.  The same for when you are engaged, married without children, married with one child, married with more than one child, and married with grown-up children.  These moments will all pass and only if we live them to the fullest will we not regret them.

Coherence: Answering The Needs of Baby, Daddy, And Mommy At The Same Time

I have been told and have read time and again that taking care of one’s children means taking care of one’s marriage, one’s spouse, oneself, and, of course, one’s children.  It makes sense theoretically, but in practice, it can be quite a challenge when there are only 24 hours in one day.

What would I give for Hermione’s Time-Turner…

Layering Needs

In lieu of that, I have come to greatly appreciate what I am referring to for now as the “layering” of needs.  In other words, how can we, as a family, layer our needs together and answer them with one common activity?

One prime example that has become a precious part of our daily routine is baby’s need for naps, and mommy and daddy’s need to pray, meditate, and read Sacred Writings.  Like all babies, ours need to unwind before she can settle into a restful nap.  And like so many babies, she loves music.

Her father and I love music as well, so we put together a simple nap-time routine that helps baby unwind and give mommy and daddy some time to close their eyes, listen to Sacred Writings, and meditate.

Our ‘Layered’ Naptime Routine

It sounds ominous, but our routine is amazingly simple.  We play the three videos below in the order I have embedded them, one of us holding the baby in our arms and cuddling her.  She usually babbles her way during the first one, but by the end of the second one, she is completely relaxed.  By the middle of the third, she is ready to be put down and she falls asleep, content and relaxed, shortly after its conclusion.

At the same time, her father and I have the time to reflect on the three quotes used in each of these videos of utmost importance to a life of service.  The first reads: “Unite and bind together the hearts, join in accord all the souls. Oh Lord! Make these faces radiant through the light of Thy oneness.”  While the main reason we love this song so much is that one of our dear friends put it together and another few dear friends feature in it, the quote seems so important to us in our efforts to build a vibrant community that we can’t reflect enough on it.

Similarly, the second video features a quote we find important to our efforts in becoming better individual members of our community.  It is from The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh and reads: “O son of Spirit!  My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.”

And yes, it features another one of our friends.

Wrapping It All Up

Finally, the last video is of a live performance of a song of great significance to many Bahá’ís.  It also features a choir, which is quite uplifting and inspiring in itself.  In very short, the song is a request for Divine Help, something that we all need when working for the betterment of both our communities and ourselves.

There you have it; a daily routine that we repeat at least twice, if not thrice, which helps baby nap well and allows mommy and daddy to regularly reflect on their life’s purpose.

Now that’s what I call being efficient.

Learning To ‘Be’ From The Cradle Up: On The Desire To Constantly Entertain My Baby

One of the elements that I have come to understand as essential to one’s personal growth—mental, spiritual, and emotional—is the ability to sit quietly and just be.  Of course nowadays, there is always something (or rather, a bunch of things!) that is clamouring for our attention, and so we are often left without a second to ourselves.

As I was watching my friends play with my daughter, it hit me that perhaps there is another reason why we are not able to just sit and be.  From the cradle, there seems to always be a need for those around a baby to constantly be in their face.  OK, that sounds bad, but you know what I mean—we are always talking to babies, singing to them, waving toys in their faces, always encouraging movement, and never just letting them be.

I was particularly struck by how there seems to be a conviction that a baby left alone is a baby that is neglected.  My daughter has had the capacity to play by herself from very early on.  And so, my husband and I have made a conscious effort to let her be when she is happily entertaining herself.  And yet, although she is fed, clean, and safe, those around us seem to be quite uncomfortable that we are leaving our baby to her own devices, convinced that good parenting means constantly entertaining her.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that we should leave our daughter to herself when she is perfectly content to do so.  Because the adults around her already have such a tough time creating a space in which they can be by themselves; isn’t it giving our daughter a leg up that, when she does find a space to just be, she knows how to fill it up with joy and wonder?

The Life of a Parent: Gaining Insight into a Different Kind of Love

The way I understand the Bahá’í Writing, we are created in the image of God, and we can understand Him better by working on the various aspects of our spiritual selves.  I also understand that we are told that one of the main purposes of marriage is to have children.

It makes sense to me that nothing revealed in the Sacred Writings of any religion would counter their main purpose: to put us in touch with our true, spiritual selves.  Therefore, parenthood isn’t just about perpetuating the human race.  It is also about our personal spiritual development.

And boy, do I feel like I am already so different from the person I was a mere couple of months ago, before becoming a parent!

I could go on and on about the various spiritual lessons I feel I have learned since having a baby.  However, I feel there is one encompassing one that rules them all (yes, much like a certain ring): that of love.

Now this might come as blasphemous, so let me begin by saying that in no way so I ever expect to be able to even come close to understanding God.  But I do believe that we can gain smidgens of glimmerings of understanding, tiny atoms of it compared to the greatness of extent of knowledge that exists.

We are told in all Sacred Writings that God loves us.  But many times, we can think that God can’t love us because we are so messed up; or that God doesn’t love us because look at all the horrible things He is letting happen to us.

When I look down at my baby, I don’t feel like I can even not love her.  I went around a wide circle of parents that I know; some of them have been parents only a little longer than my husband and I, while others have grandchildren; some of them have angels for children while others suffer the consequences of the actions of their children daily.  And every single one of them said the same thing: they cannot not love their children.

So if we, limited little humans, are capable of this kind of love, then definitely an all-Mighty and Perfect God can love us, however messed up we may be.

There are some things that I have to allow to happen to my baby that she really doesn’t like—some of which actually make her suffer.  I’m thinking for example about vaccinations.  In her view, the ones who rule her world—her father and I—are allowing a terrible thing to happen to her.  But of course, her father and I know that the vaccines are necessary for her, that in the long run, not vaccinating her could be lead to a much greater deal of pain than the 24 hours of suffering she went through.  Our love has to go beyond her immediate needs, and accept her pain and be there for her as she sobs her way through the afternoon.

God, then, doesn’t allow horrible things to happen to us; rather, there are horrible things we have to go through in the short run so that, in the long run, we don’t suffer even more.  His Love is what allows for these terrible things to continue happening, because He knows that if He swoops in—which He can—the suffering might ease in the very short term, but will be much worse in the long term.

All of this helps me as a parent and a person.  As a parent, it helps me prepare for the pain my baby/child/teenager will go through when I deny them something or put them through another difficult situation.  As a person, it helps me understand that basically, that is what God is doing when things seems to be going irreparably wrong.  And as a blogger, it makes for quite the powerful blog post.

Why I Decided To Take Precious Time Away From My Baby To Start Blogging Again

My blogging journey—an incredible, fulfilling one that has given me so much—started almost nine and a half years ago right here in Sahar’s Blog.  I never intended to stop blogging—that is, until I had a baby.

I had always intended to take a short hiatus when each of my children was born.  When my first one was born last year, I took what I thought would be a short hiatus.  But I love the life with my little one so much that I pushed it back once, then twice, and then again for a third time.  I was seriously considering pushing my return to blogging for another couple of months as my beautiful baby went from adorable newborn to hilarious and charming infant.

Perhaps then it will not come as a surprise that it is for her that I am returning to blogging.  Sahar’s Blog has already wanted to be an attempt to contribute to positive online conversations, the ones that translate into action dedicated to the mental, emotional, and spiritual improvement of each reader as well as to the betterment of their communities.  In light of the recent sharp and significant increase in hateful conversations, both online and in real life, I couldn’t abandon the platform that took me so long to build up.  It seems much more important, both for my little one and all the others of her generation, that I start blogging again, to contribute to the positive conversations that are happening on community building, personal development, sexism, racism, and spirituality.

And so, as we ring in a new year, I’m happy to be returning to a wonderful world where, alongside assiduous readers who send me so many emails (and who hopefully will start sharing at least some of their thoughts in the comments section—you know who you are!), I will be attempting to have uplifting conversations that will inspire thoughtful and consistent action.

To my little girl, who might one day read this: I am going to have a little less time with you from now on, but I am spending it paving the way for a world I hope will be much healthier for you and your friends to grow in.

Social Media: Sharing Joy instead of Stroking Envy

Social media is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used for good…  Or not so good.

In the context of family life, I have been reading on various discussion boards and forums about the effects of social media on family life.

On the one hand, it can be quite inspiring to see how some families manage to lead such fulfilling, active lives.  It can give others the boost needed to reach for higher levels of fulfillment.  But on the other hand, seeing how some families have fulfilling, active lives can stroke envy, competitiveness, and even depression (did you know Facebook can make you unhappy?)

There are different ways of responding to this issue.

One extreme response is to completely unplug from social media—cancel your accounts and stay removed from it all.  Those who have chosen this method are not exposed to the curated pictures of other people’s lives and I assume this makes them less affected by envy, competitiveness, and depression caused by social media consumption.  But I am not sure how wise or healthy it is to cut oneself completely off from a major conversational platform used daily by such a large portion of the population.  I also don’t think this helps eliminate envy, competitiveness, and depression caused by comparing oneself to others; it just limits the challenge to “in real life” exposure.

I feel that the response on the other end of the spectrum has been to share “candid” shots of how messy family life can be, with shots of children crying, messy kitchens, and harried parents.  Seeing how others can be having as much difficulty as we seem to have can come as a relief to many others.  But although the feeling of “being in the same boat” can be a powerful one, I’m not sure this is the best approach either.  Helen Keller is often quoted as having said: “Keep your face to the sunshine and you can never see the shadows.”  Is it really that inspiring to see someone else’s struggle?  I would personally much rather be inspired by the beautiful shots of families having a good day (or even a good hour or good moment) to inspire me to work my way to creating beautiful moments of my own.

Once again, I turn to the concept of how we consume media.  In this case, I wonder if we need to shift away from consuming media with our egos and instead consume it with our hearts.

What I mean by “consuming media with our hearts” is to look at a picture of a family having a great day and feel a surge of love for them, feel joy at their joy, and, if we are having a bad day, feel inspired to reach for that same joy, however it might look for us.

As for “consuming media with our egos”, it’s looking at the same picture with anger, pride, and envy.  We might then feel compelled to take out our frustration on our loved ones; or perhaps we would feel compelled to stage some pictures of our own, at whatever cost, to give the impression that our life is fabulous as well.  We will do anything we can to give the impression that we have this same joy in our lives—even if we don’t.

I wonder if this unhealthy consumption of media could be connected in part to the guilt many parents feel about not being good enough.  Logically speaking, no parent is perfect; so a parent that is “good enough” should be defines as a parent that is giving it their 100%.  But this is not the conversation that surrounds us; rather, just like with so many other things, our deepest insecurities are triggered in a bid to have us consume more to feed the big consumerist machinery that has been set up.

The long term solution then seems to be a transformation of the foundation of our society—i.e. the reasons why we consume in the first place.  And while it is a huge work-in-progress that requires the participation of millions of people, it doesn’t mean that every single one of us can’t start contributing to it, slowly, humbly, but systematically and powerfully.  It requires that we enter the social media forum with the purpose of sharing joy, be it when we post or when we consume a post.  This might not seem like a lot, but I feel it would go a long way into creating a healthier online environment.

Picture courtesy of Chaitra of PinkPot