Mama Guilt | The Fallacy of Perception & Postpartum Depression

Today, at the moms group I facilitated with Nicole Uzendoski, MSW, LICSW, we focused on an important part of being a mom in this day and age, well actually, just being a person; man, woman, or child in today’s world – sharing our lives on social media. Social media sources, like Facebook, have become a part of most people’s everyday life; the words “friending” and “facebooking” someone on social media have even been added to the dictionary! The problem is that we all put out there into the social media abyss only what we want others to see. We provide a focused and selective glimpse into our lives; the lives we want others to believe we are living. We only post the attractive photos, discuss the exciting adventures, or share the positive emotions we experience. The problem is that when we are stuck in the darkness of depression, self-loathing, or loneliness, we can’t see through to the other side of things. Our depth perception is so limited that we struggle to see that things for others, just as for ourselves, are not always sunny, and happy, and “perfect,” as they may appear in pictures, posts, and status updates.

Limited perception can lead us down that slippery slope, especially if we are sitting right on the edge. It takes acute awareness and constant boosting of self-assurance to combat those devilish thoughts that sometimes creep in at those moments when we feel like breaking, like we are not enough. As new moms learn to navigate the world after the birth of their child, it’s as though they, themselves, are children in their own right, figuring out how to interact with the outside world all over again as they settle into their new role as “mommy.”

It’s hard enough to filter through the fog of sleepless nights and fear about keeping this new little person alive, but to add in the anxiety and guilt that often accompanies the negative self-thoughts derived from the skewed perceptions of others’ “perfect” lives, it can create the perfect storm for postpartum depression or anxiety. It’s the mom who shares on Instagram the post-workout flat belly photos two months after giving birth, or the mom who puts up status after status on Facebook, gushing about her “amazing” kids, husband, home, job… etc. Those are the triggers to watch out for. But remember, it’s not about those moms, it’s about what your mom-brain does in response to seeing those things.

We have to remind ourselves that things are not always as they seem. People only share what they want you to see. Rarely do we get to witness through the social media lens the vulnerabilities, the challenges, and the struggles others face. Remember this, mamas: We must be kind to ourselves and be gentle in our self-criticism. We must take the time to recognize that we are doing the best we can with what we’ve got in every moment that we catch ourselves in the downward spiral of negative self-thoughts. Take a minute and consider the negative statement you tell yourself most often. Identify the positive affirmation that serves to inoculate you against that dark cloud. Now fake it ’til you make it! Repeat this positive affirmation to yourself and notice the small part of you that believes it; notice the positive feeling in your body – maybe a warmth in your chest or a dropping of your shoulders. Breathe into that positive feeling in your body and notice how it grows. Now, that’s how you deserve to feel as a mother – you’re doing the best that you can; your body knows it – listen to its truth!

Written by Lauren Robbins, MS, LPC, LADC