parent opinion

Let's stop pretending we're criticising parents. We're criticising women.

Posting a cute picture of your kid on Instagram this evening?

You’re an irresponsible Sharent, who just handed their child’s identity to Russian hackers.

Having a little Facebook vent about a particularly harrowing witching-hour while picking pumpkin goo out of your ear?

You’re part of the wave of whinging over-sharers who are giving parenting a bad name.

And did you, nine years ago now, snap a picture of your cherubic little toddler in a washing-up-bowl-bath and just repost it on your timeline as a memory that makes you feel fluttery?

You are a terrible person, with no protective parental instinct. Do you know you’ve just humiliated your sensitive tween? Will they ever even get a job now?

Watch: Things People Say Before Having Kids. Post continues after video. 

Video by MMC

Ever since a slick new New York Times video on ‘sharenting’ dropped last week – where kids of various ages confronted their guilty-looking parents about the lines they did (or didn’t) draw when it came to social-media, it’s been open season on snap-happy families.

You see, these days the average five-year-old has had 1500 images of themselves uploaded to some form of social media.

This number is meant to frighten us. And perhaps it should. After all, when the lists of risks associated with sharing images of your child online range from arousing a sexual predator to your kid’s identity being co-opted for fraud, well, none of that is funny.

And yet, most of us do it. Three-quarters of internet-using parents share pictures of their children, according to the London School of Economics*. And when I say most of  “us” do it, I mean parents. But we all know that I really mean mothers.

You won’t be surprised to hear that research from any another prestigious academic institution, the University of Michigan, shows women post more pictures of their offspring than men do.

Because of course they do.

By the time the average child is five, there will be 1500 images of them online. They will probably never be so thoroughly-documented again in their lives – the LSE study found that picture-posting tails off dramatically as kids get older. Partly due to those pesky opinions of theirs and partly because your children are never as freely available to you as they are when they are tiny, cute and basically welded to your leg.

So under-fives are more likely be “sharented” than tweens and teens. And who’s overwhelmingly looking after little kids? To take a pretty heteronormative standpoint for a moment – according to the most recent census figures, about four per cent of families have a stay-at-home dad.  So, you do the maths. It’s mostly mums.

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And let’s add to the equation that a new parent is often struggling with her identity as she tries to figure out who she is in the new world where her main job is keeping this tiny squalling love-bomb alive at the expense of her own body, her sleep, her sanity, her relationship… God forbid she might choose to document this fresh reality.

But it’s not only sharenting that women are bearing the brunt of criticism for. Even in 2019, when parenting is meant to be evening up, mothers cop a lot. We’re over-protective helicopters, robbing our children of resilience. Or we’re slack and preoccupied with our careers, sending our kids to school before they’re properly toilet-trained and shoving them into childcare before they can tell us how very much they hate it.

Either way, we’re doing it wrong. And doing parenting wrong is a judgement that comes with a stain of shame for a mother, while, for fathers, it’s still a goofily adorable badge of honour.

Parenting’s hard enough already, people, without entire Twitter feeds dedicated to telling mothers to shush (hello, STFU Parents). Mothering involves – if you’re doing it ‘right’ – an almost complete subjugation of self, an elevating of another’s needs over all of your own. Let us have our baby Instagram posts and our exhausted rants. Let us validate our existence and tell our stories the same way all the non-parents of our generation do – on bloody social media.

And trust women to draw their own boundaries and trust their own instincts and protect their own children in the way they see fit.

After all, we’re the adults here.

Do you feel judged for sharenting? Let us know in the comments. 

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