#Momfail, No More



I am truly curious: how often do you share your mom mistakes? When you have a #momfail moment, do you broadcast it to a select group of fellow mama/warriors? Or do you keep it to yourself?

The first time I can remember using the #momfail hashtag, I had a 5-week old baby and a not-quite 2.5 year old with a nasty cold. Hoping for a spare moment to nurse in peace, I pulled out a sensory bin of rice and an assortment of diggers and left my oldest to play on the kitchen floor.

I should have known.

I should have known a Pinterest idea would not play out well for me. And I should have known putting a snot-generating toddler in a t-shirt when he used his arms as a Kleenex was unwise. But when that runny-nosed child showed up a few minutes later with rice coating his arms and fingers and face, I took a picture and laughed. What I did next, however, still puzzles me. I labeled my mortification as a #momfail… and shared it with all my friends on Instagram.

Motivations Revealed

Like many moms, I often turn to social media to assuage my boredom with mom-life-turned-Groundhog-Day. But during a Lent-based media fast earlier this year, I found myself questioning what and how I shared. Deleting Facebook and Instagram off my phone made me twitchy and bored, but what what I missed most wasn’t peering into the carefully curated lives of others. Instead I found myself wanting to share my head-slapping mistakes.

Oh, how those #momfail moments piled up! Like when my youngest managed to touch the flame on his birthday candle. I was too busy filming it to notice how close it was to his little hands (thankfully he wasn’t injured at all)! Or when I cut back on TV-as-babysitter while I put the baby down, freeing my older son to discover an ancient bottle of nail polish and paint my dresser.

Because I was fasting from social media, I couldn’t share these lapses in mom judgment. The inability to do so really bothered me, and that gave me pause. Why am I so quick to broadcast my mom mistakes to everyone?

Major #momfail Recognition

When I share those crazy-making moments with others, I usually do so with a heap of self-deprecation in addition to the #momfail hashtag. But I’m not just attempting to be funny. I’m waving a white flag, hoping for a “me, too, mama” response as much as any LOL. My boys are sweet and funny and maddening. Motherhood is both awesome and lonely.

We are the first generation to willingly document our failings and share them publicly. Our mothers didn’t have a hashtag to gather their worst moments for posterity, with photographic evidence no less. They chose when and how to tell the stories of their poor choices or park trips gone awry. Or they let those incidents fade away. I have to wonder if that was best for everyone.

In my case, my exercise in enforced self-control this spring also helped me realize that my phone can be valuable FOR MY FAMILY—not just for me and those few moments of supposed sanity while scrolling or sharing. I am essentially the memory keeper for my family, so I can be the storyteller I want to be for us. It’s given me new filters to determine why I’m taking a picture and who gets to receive it.

My New Model

Overall, I was glad for my short experiment in social media monitoring. I rediscovered the power of boredom, which is supposedly good for our brains, anyway. I feel more patient with my boys, snapping less as they interrupt my time with my phone. (Somehow, just typing that out feels extra icky). Without my phone blocking my view, I also noticed how often my toddler and preschooler bid for my attention.

But an equally valuable takeaway is the way I treat myself (and anyone else) with the hashtags I use. Can I give myself grace in this exhausting season of life? Choosing how and with whom I share those funny and frustrating moments is important. They can help me bond with other people, but I need to consider the dignity of my children and myself, too.

While I firmly believe in authenticity—in showing the hard along with the hilarious and hard-won victories—I’ve also started to wonder what my kids will think if they ever scroll through my Instagram feed. Will they be glad I documented everything, or will they wish I had a more positive filter?

What do you think? Does our tendency to focus on the #momfail show kindness to ourselves and to our kids? How do you approach social media?

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Kate is a Hoosier by birth but knew in her mid-teens that she’d live near the mountains. In college she spent a glorious summer in Colorado Springs volunteering at Glen Eyrie and vowed she’d come back somehow. She's now lived at the foot of Pikes Peak for more than a decade. She and her husband and two boys live downtown in a home almost as old as the city itself. Kate attempts to garden in her free time, making a commitment to grow something strange and new each year. So far luffa sponges, quinoa, and various pumpkins have fed nothing but the squirrels. Prior to staying home with her boys, Kate wrote and edited for a nonprofit that transformed the lives of children all over the world. She is passionate and nerdy and is continually surprised at the joy she has found in this season of motherhood.