Friday, October 29, 2010

Facebook and the great parental disconnect

In light of my recent post about Facebook, I would be remiss in not drawing your attention to this absolutely brilliant post Facebook-related post from Julie at A Little Pregnant.

Warning: may induce fits of giggles & extreme temptation to literally ROFLMAO. Not recommended for a cubicle environment. (I learned this the hard way.)

*** *** ***

Julie's post links to a story (front page in the print edition, apparently!) in the Washington Post about what happens when infertility collides with Facebook. There was more than the usual share of nasty comments about how we all really need to just "get a life" and "learn to be happy for other people." (!) And that got me thinking about a weird world we live in.

Our culture right now glorifies pregnancy, motherhood, babies & families (with two parents, one of each gender, & the minimum 2.2 children, of course)(preferably one of each kind). You can't walk into a newsstand or turn on the TV without seeing "baby bumps," pregnancy storylines, or at least one headline with the word "pregnant" or "baby" in it (often in screaming capital letters). Every other ad on TV features an adorable baby, someone announcing their pregnancy (think iPhone commercials), or kids & parents modelling some phase of idealized family life.

At every social gathering, the conversation of our family members, friends & coworkers revolves around everyone's kids. What they're doing. When they should be doing it. What they're eating. What the stuff in their diapers looks like, & whether that's normal. What they're doing in school. What they're doing after school. The cute things they're saying. Bringing up other subjects is futile. Inevitably, somehow, some way, the conversation will creep back to the subject of the children.

Yep, pregnancy & babies are soooooo wonderful! Everybody's doing it!! YOU should be doing it!

How many kids do you have? Really? Why not? When are you going to get pregnant too? (Better hurry up, you know, you're not getting any younger!!) Come on, my kid needs a playmate/cousin! I need a niece/nephew/grandchild/godchild/friend's kid to spoil. Don't you WANT kids? Don't you WANT to be like everyone else?

(Ummm, well, yeah. Not everyone does, of course, but most of us do. But some of us find that is a little easier said than done.)

What's that? You're having problems getting pregnant?

Well, hey, cheer up, you know, it's not such a big deal. Kids really aren't that great anyway. (??!!) Infertility is not the end of the world. Things could be worse. There are children starving in Africa, you know. (Of course, you wouldn't understand what it's like to watch a child in pain, since you're not a mom...)

Maybe you're just not praying hard enough. Or relaxing enough -- maybe you should take a vacation. Or maybe you just weren't meant to be a parent. (By the way, did you hear that my sister is pregnant again? It was an accident! She says her husband just has to LOOK at her & she gets knocked up! Maybe you should ask him how it's done, hahahahaha...)

Or maybe -- you should just adopt! Biology isn't everything, you know. There are so many kids out there who need good homes! You want kids? -- take mine, please, hahahaha....

Suck it up! Get over yourself!

The people who say these things, of course, are almost always either parents themselves(usually the biological sort), or have no intention of ever becoming parents.)

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks there is a HUGE disconnect here somewhere???

Either pregnancy & having kids really is as wonderful as everyone says it is -- in which case, you would think people would be more sympathetic to those of us who find it more difficult if not downright impossible to achieve something that comes so easily to the vast majority, and (as most of them will tell you -- in glowing, gushing terms) lends so much meaning to their lives.

Or (as I have heard some childfree-by-choice folk suggest) it's really NOT that great -- & all this talk about baby bumps & orgasmic births is really just propaganda -- an evil delusional plot cooked up by (a) corporations, who realize cute babies are good for business, & want to sell us more stuff, &/or (b) religious types who take their "go forth & multiply" instructions quite seriously. And when parents realize the truth, they go along with the sham because misery loves company, & heaven forbid we don't suffer dirty diapers & 3 a.m. feedings & teething pains (& later, stuff like teenage house parties, as per my previous post...!) along with the rest of them. In other words, their loud protests about how we the childless & infertile are infringing on their parental joy is simply a mask for a serious case of the green-eyed monster.

Or maybe people are just so unknowing & uncomfortable with anything that falls outside their own limited frame of reference, that challenges their vision of the norm -- that even smacks of something unpleasant intruding on the periphery of their rose-tinted glasses -- that they automatically shy away from it and fall back on platitudes to mask their discomfort.

Or maybe some people really are just idiots. (Another distinct possibility.)

What do you think?

*** *** ***

After writing this, I found a brilliant response to Julie's post this morning from Msfitzita. Go read it now.


  1. I loved loved loved Julie's post, but your monologue is pretty damn good -- and accurate -- too.

    I don't know if it's any one thing. I think some people backtrack to be polite. For instance, I got to go on a hayride this week. A few friends didn't get to go and asked how it was. I could tell they wished they had been able to make it, so I shrugged and said, "it was fun; you know, it's a hayride." But in my head, I'm thinking, "it was a freakin' hayride so it rocked! A hayride in the middle of a work day! I could have spent the entire week riding that damn contraption around." It wouldn't have helped to say it aloud.

    On the other hand, I think you also have a lot of unhappy people who realized that parenthood wasn't what they thought it would be and they're finally being honest after getting the societal message to hold back all of their frustrations with parenting. All those magazine covers -- they do more than make Iffers feel like shit. They make everyone feel like shit if your life doesn't resemble the ease and happiness of a photo spread.

    I think the fact that we're sent both messages -- babies are the best! and babies suck! -- is spot on.

  2. I think there's a huge disconnect too... a fair amount of closed mindedness (or people who are so blissed out at their own good fortune that they choose not to understand the suffering of others)... (*cough*) I would like to write them off as being idiots, but I think that an idiot is ignorant and not usually by choice. These people know that it's out there, and choose not to educate themselves or give a damn (I mean really give a damn, not say "oh that's too bad!" and change the subject)

    It's earlier and I'm not forming coherent thoughts... lol. But this is definitely something I've reflected on before, and have to keep reflecting on because it's apparently not going anywhere.

  3. My default is generally that people are idiots ... But I am sort os misanthropic that way...

    I thought Julie's post was great and it had me reflecting on my own social media representation and cringing at myself!

    I have been thinking about how women are socialized to believe motherhood to be the be all and end all ... And I want to write about how social media is very often glossing over the profound sense of inadequacy and loss of self that some women feel . I guess I can only speak for myself but i know my fb posts don't give a real sense of my life.

  4. wow. i have never thought about this in these terms, but you are absolutely right. the whole thing just makes me angry. i am enjoying your blog.

  5. I think our society glorifies having a family but doesn't provide individuals with the tools/skills/time/support (6 week leave??) to do it well.

    I love staying at home with Bea, but I think I would be truly miserable trying to work and have a baby - which is what women's lib supposedly 'gave' us and I spent years in higher ed to achieve.

    And thank goodness for FB- otherwise I wouldn't 'talk' to an adult most days! It's my watercooler....

    As for asinine comments - why do people have to 'answer' any kind of summation about the state of parenthood? It's not b&w - it's gray. Ups and downs, rewards and sacrifices. But like all things in life, challenging.

    off to read J's post...

  6. what you and julie and mel and everyone else has said here - yep.

  7. All those comments - I lived through 7 YEARS of them. Ughhhh!

    I left a comment on J's post - so thankful FB wasn't around while I was in the trenches - and even when I did go on - all I saw were people using their kid's faces for their own accounts. Whatever. I still don't put my kid on FB, if they want to see him, they can come over.

  8. Julie's post had me rolling - I hadn't truly 'belly laughed' like that in a long time. But it was one that, as you were laughing, you wondered if you should be crying instead.

    There is a huge disconnect. I think it is because parents who haven't been through IF/loss really CAN'T relate. Trying (and failing) to get pregnant for YEARS changes a person.

    I'm trying to say something and I can't quite spit it out. Something along the lines of when we start TTC, we all assume we'll get pregnant right away and we'll be mothers because that's our right as women. For the women that do get pregnant right away, they never have a reason to doubt that thought. Which makes them inherently different from the rest of us.

    When it comes to FB, I feel a little insensitive to my IF friends. I find myself only posting Skeeter-related updates because he is all consuming right now. And non-IF friends and family pester wanting to see more pics. Often, I feel like I have become one of 'them.'