Motherhood is a big PR problem. Every time we announce pregnancy (and we’ve done it five times now), married or married friends my age often respond in a strange way. They will congratulate me and then go into detail about why they don’t have children yet. They usually have a variation on the following explanation: “I don’t feel ready to leave my life. There is still so much I want to do. I still want to achieve so much before I stop. ”
It’s pretty insulting, even though I never told them.
The implication is that eight years ago when I had my first, I stopped living my life. I stopped achieving anything. I am now in a static state and only live for my children and not for myself.
I attribute this perception of parenthood, especially motherhood, to our culture. The media is to blame, of course, but I think the bigger problem is how motherhood is discussed on social media.
Memes about motherhood are often about struggle and difficulty, which is easier to market than joy and fulfillment. Even family-friendly conservatives get the message wrong, portraying motherhood as a noble sacrifice made by martyrs.
Both portrayals of parenting paint roughly the same picture – that it is destructively oppressive and life changing. Those who choose not to raise children use this image of parenting to explain their choices, and those in the more “family-friendly” camp use it to praise those who have already made the “noble” leap. Both perceptions are wrong, and their continuation has a negative impact not only on our societal fertility rates, but also on the well-being of our souls.
I didn’t sign up for parenting because I’m a devourer of punishment or because I’m kind of a noble martyr; I did this because our children are fun and enrich our lives, homes, and communities. The messages of negativity surrounding motherhood have prevailed in our society, and it is up to the family-friendly groups and individuals to tell the other side – that perception of both those who make decisions about family life and those who counteract it have allowed negativity to affect their view of their own family life.
This campaign against motherhood has taken root and thrived in disturbing ways among the next generation of parents. Record two recent viral videos, one on TikTok and one about graduating from a local high school in Texas.
In both videos, young women celebrate their entry into abortion. In the first one, which went viral on TikTok, a young woman complained about a positive pregnancy test and then celebrated her abortion appointment with a glass of wine. This is a whole genre in the social media app: young women celebrate their “freedom” thanks to their access to abortion.
Another young woman in Texas recently celebrated this entry in her high school farewell speech. Paxton Smith told her Lake Highlands High School classmates, “I have dreams and hopes and ambitions,” she said. “Every girl graduating today. … And without our intervention and without our consent, we have been taken out of control of this future. “She continued,” I fear that if my contraceptives fail … if I am raped, my hopes and desires, dreams and efforts no longer play a role for my future. ”
It’s easy to portray these two most recent stories just as abortion, but they’re also less direct about how these young women see and portray their potential futures. You see a bright future as long as parenting is not a requirement. Motherhood is the place where dreams, hopes and ambitions die. Children are dream breakers. Something to be avoided.
Another young woman up Twitter It went viral recently, wondering why a woman would destroy her body to have kids because “you’re only around 20 years old to have fun with hot guys.” Unfortunately, we’ve underestimated motherhood (not to mention marriage) to such an extent that chance meetings with strangers sound more attractive than making a person out with someone you love.
They have this impression because of our culture, because that is what they have been shown about motherhood. And that is the struggle that family-friendly proponents among us must fight. And it starts with us discussing the unlimited joys of parenting with others and online.
In 2019, Dr. Keith N. Hampton, a researcher in the Department of Media & Information at Michigan State University, asked if social media use leads to mental health deterioration:
“When a person has an extended family member who is experiencing a change in their mental distress, this is reflected in changes in their own mental health. As the mental health of her tie improved, so did hers. If it got worse, so did they. When they weren’t using social media or their family member didn’t, changes in mental distress didn’t seem contagious, “said Hampton.
Put simply, when everyone is puffing out negativity on your social media, it is having an impact on your own state of mind. It’s a similar story for those you also interact with in person. The negativity of those who write and speak about parenting in your social circles, online and offline, not only affects your personal views on parenting, but also determines social narrative at the macro level.
The New York Times recently published an article on curating friendships in a post-pandemic world. A certain section drew the ir the Twitter user and was redacted a few days later. The paragraph read, “In fact, depressed friends make you more likely to get depressed, obese friends make you more likely to be obese, and friends who smoke and drink make you more likely to do the same. The reverse is also true: You will be more hardworking, friendlier and more enterprising when you interact with hardworking, friendly and enterprising people. ”
These statements, while blunt and perhaps callous, are backed by research.
Just as all of these positive and negative conditions can be highly contagious, so is a mentality full of contempt for parenting, online or offline. The messages we surround ourselves with largely determine how we think about them. Soaking up negativity about parenting, either before we take the plunge or afterwards, can determine our attitudes towards it.
Those who want to see a reversal in our declining fertility trend must realize that we are in a public relations battle against a smear campaign. How can we counter this perception of parenting and change the PR narrative around it?
It starts with you and me. My husband recently taught my kids a Bing Crosby song when there was too much whining and fighting in the back seat. The text reads as follows: “Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark / What did they do / Just when everything was looking so dark / Man, they said we should better emphasize the positive / Remove the negative / Hold on to the affirmative / Lie down not with Mister In-Between. ”
And here’s the secret: talking about the joys of parenting isn’t just a ploy to get people to produce more human capital. No, it’s the truth. There is no greater joy, no greater euphoria, no more exciting or sublime achievement than bringing a unique soul into the world and aligning it with virtue.
How we portray life with children is contagious, and it sets a tone that affects whether the next generation continues the great unbroken chain. We need to communicate this reality when we talk about parenting both online and in person. Parenthood is sublime. It is the greatest and most transcendent human achievement. This is not a glossing over, this is not an exaggeration, this is just the truth. And we need more of it.