Before I had Flynn I resolved not to become one of those mothers whose life revolves around her baby. I would integrate my baby into my life rather than change my life to accommodate the baby.
Well, that was a lovely little idea before Flynn came along, but any new parent can tell you that having a baby changes things whether you want that or not. Before Flynn, for instance, I enjoyed spontaneous excursions to new places. Now any trip out of the house requires adequate baby formula, baby sunscreen, a hat, diapers, a changing pad, diaper wipes, a favorite toy, a car seat or baby carrier… you get the idea. Spontaneity is kind of impossible. And adventure? You never know when said baby is going to have a meltdown that makes returning home necessary, so you can’t ever venture too far away. (All this is way harder when living in a part of the world where you can’t make a pit stop to grab something you forgot, or find a clean public space to wait out a meltdown.)
Having Flynn has certainly changed my daily life – occasionally for the worse, but usually for the better. Still, just because he’s changed my life doesn’t mean he has to change me. I am Flynn’s mom, and I want to be a good mom, but I don’t want to be Flynn’s Mom, full stop. I don’t want this for the sake of my own sanity, but also because I think being more than Flynn’s Mom will make me be a better mom to Flynn.
But how can I make sure I’m maintaining my own non-mom identity? I don’t have an answer to this question, but about this time last year, three months pre-Flynn, I did hone in on one measuring stick: Facebook. I found myself setting some unofficial guidelines for my Facebook life as a new mom. Let’s see how I’ve done.
1. I would not change my profile picture to a picture of my baby. A picture of me and my son? Acceptable. But making my primary image one of him seems to cross some imaginary line into the realm of identity confusion, in my opinion. No judgment about other people who make this choice, but for me, no thanks. This rule has been easy to follow, although it should be noted that nearly every profile picture I’ve posted in the last nine months has included Flynn. But hey, at least I’m still there too.
2. I would not share every picture I took of my baby. You know those moms who have Facebook albums documenting baby’s every move? “Baby Makes a Tiny Smile” album has 1,232 shots. Well, that wouldn’t be me. And it hasn’t been at least in part because I simply don’t have enough time to take, never mind upload, thousands of pictures. But still, I do post a few more than I probably should. I can’t help myself. A baby in a blow-up duck? A baby snuggling up with a beagle? A baby engrossed in a laptop? (See above.) To me they’re all adorable and share-worthy; I’m his mom after all. Nevertheless, I’ve been able to rein myself in at about a dozen a month. Success?
3. I would not share any mom stories that I wouldn’t want others to share with me. Would I want to know about my ex-boss’s breastfeeding troubles? Absolutely not, so there’s no reason she needs to know about mine. This rule has been surprisingly easy to follow since I’ve never been much of an over-sharer anyway; still, I’m continually baffled about the decisions made by others. It starts before the baby is even born. I’m happy you’re having a kid, I really am, but I don’t need status updates from the delivery room. I don’t need to know exactly how dilated you are, random person I sat next to in a class junior year and somehow became Facebook friends with. A friend of a friend recently even shared a picture of her kid’s poop, asking for help diagnosing what was wrong with it. Moms and future Moms, take note: There’s no wiggle room on this one. Sharing photos of your kid’s poop is never acceptable Facebook behavior.
4. I would not brag about how wonderful and advanced my baby was. This one has been harder to follow, because I — like every mom – do of course think that my baby is so wonderful and so advanced, and I would love to tell everyone all about it. But in the grand scheme of things I realize that everyone starts kindergarten being able to roll over; at how many weeks he first did it really only matters to parents, and bragging about that just irritates and worries other parents whose babies rolled over a few weeks later. (The discrete brag is even worse. For instance, “Mom friends, please help! Is something wrong with my baby? She rolled over at three weeks! Is that too soon?”) I think I’ve been pretty good in this regard, except maybe bragging about the cuteness. It’s hard not to brag about the cuteness.
5. I would not allow my baby to dominate my updates. This has been another one that has been pretty difficult to follow. I only really have time for two things these days: work and baby. I can’t say a whole lot about my work publicly, so what does that leave? Baby. But it was and is important to me to have an identity beyond just my status as mom, so I try to balance my baby photo posts with interesting articles and social commentary. Occasionally, after noticing how much baby stuff is on my timeline, I’ve found myself trolling the web with the expressed purpose of finding a cool article to share. Yikes, I do not consider that a win.
There you have it – my foolproof plan to maintain my pre-baby identity and avoid totally annoying Facebook friends too. Because Facebook friends don’t want to be overwhelmed with baby information, right? Come to think of it, a recent article I shared about the benefits of sending American kids to foreign universities — an article I thought was quite fascinating — didn’t get a single comment or like. Yet a picture I posted of Flynn looking at himself in a mirror got 58 likes and 9 comments.
Maybe I’ve got it all wrong.