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Sharing the Ministry of Motherhood

I’m starting to avoid social media. I do like the ability to share the ins and outs of my daily life with my family and close friends (who all live hundreds of miles from me). I just find the conversations and sharing of blog posts disruptive to my extended friendships. No matter how hard I try, it is nearly impossible not to start thinking differently about a person after I have seen a few of the things she “shares” on social media.

This wouldn’t be so bad if what people were sharing were real questions and thoughts they had as they struggled through this ministry of motherhood.  If the posts were honest assessments about how difficult it is to balance all the responsibilities most parents have throughout all the developmental stages children move through.  But for some reason, that isn’t what gets shared on my wall.  Mostly I get shares of blog posts that basically say, “the rest of you parents have it all wrong and I’m going to tell you why you need to be more like me.” Nearly always the post author fails to accept that parents may have any number of reasons for doing some things differently. Nearly always the post author sees the actions of other parents only through one lens and therefore complains about things I’m pretty sure the author does herself. Nearly always the comments at the end of the blog become more and more harsh criticism of  “the rest of the world” who just doesn’t understand what real life is like and how a child should be raised.   Ugh.

And it would be helpful if there were a way to hear the tone in the voice and see the non-verbal communication that demonstrates what most women seem to feel when they make comments about what they think a mother is supposed to be.  Because if I could “read” the non-verbals, I have a feeling I would read many of the shared posts differently, and possibly some of the comments. But without those non-verbals I find reading the posts turn my stomach.  I don’t imagine they are uplifting to most readers — unless the reader just happens to be exactly like the author. I don’t imagine they help build community among diverse groups of women, and may actually serve to drive further wedges.

The most difficult part for me is that I am pretty sure most of the posts that get shared and re-shared on my wall don’t really reflect the views of the friends who share them.  Usually, when I ask,  it seems the friend who shares liked one aspect of the post, or only read the title and thought it would be a good read. Despite this, when I read the article and get that knot in my stomach I know the way I think about the person who shared changes.  This is a struggle for me because many of the women I am connected to on social media are women I’ve never actually met in person. That means if I comment on the posted item, she won’t have the luxury of knowing my heart or seeing my non-verbals to help her put my comment in context.

What it all comes down to is that, in my experience, social media doesn’t really seem a good forum for sharing about the realities of the ministry of motherhood.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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