As the plane landed, the overhead lights clicked on. My 10-month-old daughter perked up from where she had been snuggling against my chest and her older sister nuzzled Anna's belly.
“We're here, Annie, we're here,” she baby-talked to her little sister. Anna laughed her big, wonderful laugh that I love, and I smiled at both of them.
“Let me get a picture of you guys,” my husband said, holding up his phone.
“OK, smile for Dad,” I instructed.
I looked at the picture. “Aww, cute. I'm even in it.”
Often I'm the one taking the pictures and memorializing these moments in time. That's part of the job description for “mom,” right? 'Round-the-clock food service, personal stylist, chauffeur, activities coordinator, tutor, therapist and photographer.
It's so rare that I'm part of a picture, in particular one in which everyone is smiling, that I uploaded this propitious memory to my Facebook page. Then I thought a bit about what to caption it.
“Frequent flyers.” Short and snappy, a bit tongue-in-cheek. A good, Facebook-friendly caption.
And my “Facebook friends” agreed, at least according to the large number of Likes that the picture captured within the first few minutes.
Why did so many family and friends thumbs-up this picture? Some did out of genuine caring—my sister and my dad for instance, who also commented that he couldn’t wait to see us when he picked us up at the airport later. Others did out of automatic, amiable politeness when it appeared in their News Feed. Still others, like my friends in the magazine publishing industry, probably enjoyed the authentic interior-aircraft shot and alliterative “cutline,” as we industry folks say.
This photo told a story, a good one even. It showcased the hallmarks of good storytelling: an engaging setting, the themes of adventure and homecoming, and three (dare I say) interesting characters.
The stories moms tell on Facebook. The ones we choose to share.
Facebook fosters connection and storytelling – although it's a carefully curated kind of storytelling, especially among moms.
Every season, we moms unravel a ream of Like-able snapshots and status updates: snow angels and sippy cups of not-too-hot cocoa, spring break get-togethers with out-of-town grandparents, summer mornings at the neighborhood pool, the obligatory pumpkin patch pictures come October. A highlight reel of semi-real life.
The stories moms tell on Facebook usually are cheery. There's the occasional “Liam has an ear infection for the third time this month—prayers and positive vibes, please!” but mostly, mainly, moms’ social media storytelling is of the #soblessed variety.
Sometimes I think it may be helpful for us as moms to expand upon the stories we tell online. It's fun and unifying to share the good times. We know, though, that motherhood is more than this. It is harder than this.
There is still the opportunity to bond, build community and encourage one another when we share our flawed, heartfelt stories too.
I remember when Anna was about 3 months old, so little and needy and not yet sleeping much at night. I remember one afternoon—nursing her and rocking her, trying to lull her to take a nap. I remember that Grace ran into the nursery, reminding me to play with her—I had promised, she said. I remember saying shh, not now; I remember Grace crying and then Anna; and I remember feeling worn down and beaten, as if someone were punching me in the chest, over and over again.
I was exhausted. Possibly even a little depressed. I felt so alone.
I knew that I had to hang in there. Eventually, our new life as a family of four would settle into place.
That afternoon did eventually calm down, so much so that I took a jaunty picture and posted it to my Facebook page. I think I captioned it “Sister, sister.” (Thumbs up, thumbs up, thumbs up!)
Thinking back now, maybe I should have told the story before the one of the two happy sisters. Maybe I should have told the story of the exhausted, slightly-depressed new mom of two. That story may have been more healing to tell, healing to myself as well as to others experiencing something similar—or simply experiencing perfectly imperfect real life.
I could have reached out and released someone else’s stress. Maybe in turn, I could have received some encouragement. Certainly, I could have reassured other new moms struggling with sleepless nights and squabbling siblings that they weren't alone.
“There is no agony greater than bearing an untold story inside you,” Maya Angelou wrote in her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
As the New Year unfolds, I’ve resolved to tell more of my own untold stories on Facebook—the perfectly imperfect ones. To write about the struggles as well as the snuggles that come with motherhood.
The end goal? Bonding, community building and encouragement with other moms I know.
What about you, friends? What stories might you tell on Facebook this year?