Facebook Motherhood Challenge and the Motherhood Backlash

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You must have seen the Facebook ‘Motherhood Challenge’ doing the rounds over the last week or so – a mother shares 5 pictures that make her proud to be a mum, and then tags some friends who she thinks are also great mums and might like to take part as well.

It wasn’t long before the inevitable backlash started – Flic Everett posted this article on The Guardian, slating the smugness of these participants and their rose-tinted view of motherhood that apparently makes her ‘want to punch her computer screen’, and Daisy Buchanan wrote a slightly more sympathetic article for The Pool, although still criticising the challenge for it’s pressure on mothers to present themselves in a perfect light.

There appear to be two main criticisms that are being levelled at this challenge – the first being that it is insensitive to those who are unable to have children, who have had miscarriages, or to those who have lost their children. While I don’t want to minimise how difficult any of those situations are, it seems to be oversensitive to say that we shouldn’t share positive posts or photos of our own parenting experiences in case we upset other people. By that token, most of Facebook shouldn’t be posting – should I not share a photo of my newborn child to announce their arrival? Should I not post photos of me standing in case I upset friends who cannot walk? No photos of me smiling in case I upset someone with depression?

The second criticism of the Motherhood Challenge (aside from the word ‘challenge’ which I agree is a little misplaced) seems to be that it reinforces the need that many mothers have to achieve perfection. But I don’t believe there is a parent out there who believes that they can ever be perfect, or that believes any other parent is perfect either. Of course the 5 photos you share are unlikely to be ones that show the not so pretty side of motherhood – I’m not sure that a photo of my son having a meltdown at soft play really makes me proud to be a mum. But at it’s heart, this is a challenge that celebrates you as a mum, gets you to focus on the positive, and encourages you to give a virtual pat on the back to a few of your friends and say, “Do you know what, I think you’re a great mum”. Because the fact is that we don’t do that in our society. We’re quick enough to tut when we see a mum in the supermarket struggling with a tantrumming toddler, or to criticise someone’s feeding choice, or to judge someone for choosing a particular discipline method, but it’s very rare that you ever hear a ‘well done’ in person. We view motherhood as something to sneer at (revealed in the Guardian article’s condescending attitude towards ‘mummy bloggers’) and nowhere is this made more clear than in Flic Everett’s statement that:

The idea of tagging people you think are ‘great mothers’ is as offensive as tagging people you think are great in bed

I’m so staggered by this statement that I’m still questioning whether it’s tongue in cheek, or if I’m missing a joke, but I really can’t see it. Is it really so offensive to tell a friend she’s a good mum? Are we that unsupportive of mothers as a society?

When you become a mum there is no-one to give you feedback other than your kids, no performance reviews, no bonuses. And whether you’re a working mum, stay at home mum, part-time working mum, we all need to hear this kind of positive reinforcement. We need to both tell ourselves ‘You’re doing a good job’, but also we should be freer in telling others the same.

The whole issue brought to my mind a quote that was shared with me by an old singing teacher, and which has always stuck with me:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Taken from Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

I don’t see the Facebook Motherhood Challenge being about judging, being smug, or about attaining perfection; just about celebrating motherhood, acknowledging that it’s a difficult job, and finding those moments that make you proud. What could possibly be offensive about that?

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25 Comments
  • Helen Jacob-Lloyd
    February 4, 2016

    Fantastic post – I completely agree, it seems that recently if anything is being celebrated then they’ll be a group of people knocking it down or taking offence. Such a shame because like you say celebrating motherhood should be so,etching we do more often, not less. #brillblogposts

    Helen x

    • Katy
      February 4, 2016

      Thanks Helen. Yes, it seems that any Facebook trend invites this kind of backlash – the ice bucket challenge, the French flag profile pictures for Paris… I don’t think anyone is doing these things thinking they’re going to change the world, just that they want to do something positive and apparently that’s something that particular people find offensive and want to stamp all over.

  • Nat Halfpenny
    February 4, 2016

    Fantastic post, and yes very similar to what I wrote. Great minds and all that! It was partly The Guardian article that spurred me into action. Such a negative view.

    • Katy
      February 4, 2016

      Thanks Nat! It was clearly just intended as a click bait article, but so negative and actually a damaging view that I just couldn’t not take the bait 🙂

  • jennifer smith
    February 4, 2016

    Hi Katy,
    I just shared a blog post on the same topic to the #BrilliantBlogPosts linky and then spotted your post! Well said, I basically agree with your points here – no one should feel ashamed to celebrate their motherhood. x

    • Katy
      February 4, 2016

      Thanks for commenting Jenny – I thought this might be a topic that would inspire a few posts – it’s a bit of a contentious one (though I can’t understand why!!) I’m glad you feel the same – the world is just a much nicer place to live in when we all support each other! Off to read your post now 🙂

  • Regina L. L. Wells
    February 4, 2016

    I had not even heard of this challenge or the backlash yet. (I refuse to read the articles that you linked because of their negativity and attacks on the challenge.) I am flabbergasted. How overly sensitive can we possibly become as a society? My goodness! I am not even a mother, but I applaud the “Challenge” as a fun way to focus on motherhood. No one said the photos had to show perfection, just moments that make moms proud. What is wrong with that? I know, I’m preaching to the choir. And, seriously, people are so myopic that they can’t understand that the “challenge” part is to post, not to have a perfect life. Deprive the fire of its oxygen, and it will burn out. Let’s collectively ignore those who have nothing better to do than caustically attack a fun little sharing experience that fosters community building and parenthood.

    • Katy
      February 4, 2016

      Thanks Regina – I was shocked that what was obviously meant to be a lighthearted celebration of motherhood was taken in such a warped way. You’re right of course, ignoring these people is probably the best policy!

  • Dagmara Klich
    February 4, 2016

    I have to say that I’m a bit shocked that this whole ‘motherhood challenge’ on Facebook stirred such a discussion. Motherhood is amazing but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns and we all do our best to be the best mum we can possibly can. I agree we should be kinder to each other and appreciate all the ‘work’ we, mothers do. I didn’t participate in the ‘challenge’ as, in general I don’t like those ‘games’ but in any way I felt offended. Great article! x

    • Katy
      February 5, 2016

      It’s an odd one isn’t it, I didn’t take part either but I was offended by the comments I saw about it! I’m now seeing loads of my friends apologising for any post involving their children – ridiculous!

  • Laura @ dear bear and beany
    February 5, 2016

    I can’t believe this challenge caused so much backlash. Mother’s just seem to constantly be getting bad press at the moment, what with this and the whole wear your PJs to school drama! It was just meant to be something to give a few mum’s a pat on the back for being great and for them to take the time to look through their photos and share the ones that make them proud to be a mum. Surely that can only be a good thing x

    • Katy
      February 5, 2016

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Laura. I’m baffled as to how something that was so lighthearted and positive has been taken in such a negative way by some people.

  • Ana De Jesus
    February 5, 2016

    I just don’t understand why people need to be so PC. It is not cementing the idea of perfection but simply tagging a number of mums that you think are great. No harm done!

  • Ickle Pickle
    February 5, 2016

    Gosh, has the world gone mad! Celebrating being a mother is a wonderful thing and sharing photos of that is wonderful too. Simple as, to me. Great post. Kaz x

  • Silly Mummy
    February 6, 2016

    A different approach to the other posts I have seen on this, and I probably agree with some of what all of you are saying. I don’t like or participate in any of these things that do the rounds on facebook, but then I also don’t put pictures of my kids on facebook or any other social media at all. I think there are issues with all these types of fb circulars. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t say this was the most offensive (the no make up selfies for example I have FAR more issues with), but I understand why it does bother people. I thought Daisy’s piece was quite good, actually. Flic’s I thought was a little harsh. I also thought that she was wrong about bloggers. Maybe not all bloggers, but there is definitely a big group of mummy bloggers doing the opposite to what she claims and determinedly telling it as it is, warts and all. Facebook, on the other hand, I would say is quite heavily dominated by bragging & rose tinting, and I do think that is a problem in a lot of respects. I don’t actually think that all the women doing this challenge have taken it that way, but I see the potential for people to use it as a further exercise in bragging and competing. I wouldn’t personally do it, and I do agree with a lot of the reasons people have given for criticising it. BUT I also understand that most of the people doing it just thought it was a nice thing to do, picking some pictures of their kids that make them happy, so I can also see why they are then put out at being criticised. #brilliantblogposts

    • Katy
      February 6, 2016

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I thought Daisy’s article was well written but I do think it missed the point and took it too far to see it as contributing to an aspiration for perfection – it was a pretty light hearted challenge and I didn’t see a post from anyone that I would construe as bragging. But I guess it does come down to how you (and your friends, since it’s your friends who make up your feed) use facebook and how you tend to view these things. I know my husband is very affected by what he sees on social media and isn’t on it for that reason. I definitely agree with you on the whole mummy blogger issue – I think most blogs I read are pretty frank about the realities of parenting!

  • MudpieFridays
    February 6, 2016

    I must have had my head in the clouds as I have missed this one. Having suffered several miscarriages I do not find it offensive in the slightest (although I am currently pregnant and have a 3.5 yr old). Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But you are right we need to pat each other on the back, everyones struggles are different but it doesn’t get away from the fact although the most rewarding thing you will ever do parenting is also really hard.

    • Katy
      February 6, 2016

      I mentioned it to my husband and it had gone over his head too so you’re not alone! I’m with you on that approach – wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we could all be more supportive of each other?

  • One Yummy Mummy
    February 6, 2016

    yes i did see the challenge and i love looking at photos of proud mothers and their children .. I think no matter what you do nowadays on social media there will be a back lash… looking for negativity in something positive …

    • Katy
      February 6, 2016

      I loved seeing all my friends’ pictures too – it brought a smile to my face! Very true – social media seems to bring out such strong opinions in people, but I guess we’re all entitled to them!

  • Corinne C
    February 7, 2016

    I think people think far too much into this! There seems to be some people who hate parents that post loads of baby pictures on facebook, generally those that don’t have kids. I don’t have kids and I don’t care for looking at photos of babies, unless they are my niece and nephews, but I just scrolled down the posts and let them get on with it because I think people should be allowed to post what they want and I can see why people would want to do this challenge! Obviously when you have kids they become your world and you want to share your love for them with the world.

    Not everyone likes the same thing but it doesn’t mean we have to tear each other up about it!

    Corinne x
    http://www.skinnedcartree.com

    • Katy
      February 8, 2016

      Thanks Corinne, completely agree – the scroll past tactic was my approach before becoming a mum :)(And there’s always the Hide or Unfriend button if you really don’t want to see it!)

  • ana razon
    February 8, 2016

    This is a great post. Sharing your experience and being a proud mum to your babies is such a beautiful thing to do. I do agree that no one is perfect. All mum should pat themselves in the back for getting through the most stressful moments of their life and the happiest moment.

    • Katy
      February 8, 2016

      Thanks Ana! What a lovely comment 🙂

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