Yesterday was Mother’s Day and, boy, there were a lot of wives out there getting showered with praise on social media. It was a lovely thing to see. Being a mom takes a lot of hard work and a lot of the work goes unrecognized (also, unpaid). Despite being a bit of a Hallmarkian holiday, Mother’s Day is, I think I can safely say, nice. It is also increasingly repetitive. Not only are the wives of the fathers I follow admirable women, they all seem to be “superheroes”, “the most wonderful partner in crime”, or “the best wife and mother around”. On Sunday, my feeds were clogged with the not just the same sentiments, but the same phrases. Were they sweet? Absolutely. Were they deeply felt? Boy, I don’t know. They looked kinda mandatory.
Let me reiterate: No one is saying mothers do not deserve praise. What I’m saying is that when you look closely at the praise they were receiving, it’s all creepily similar. It’s like we all decided — and by “we,” I guess I mean a demographically specific sliver of the middle and upper middle class — on a new rule: If a parent is a great and nobody posts about it, are they really that great?
And let’s talk about timing: While a bunch of sweet Mother’s Day posts appeared on my feed throughout the day, the vast majority of them appeared in the evening. And all the evening ones looked exactly the same: four-to-five photos of a wife in action with the kids; in the caption, there was some sort of riff on “Happy Mother’s Day to the greatest of all moms! We are all so lucky to have you!” It’s almost as though a bunch of husbands scrolled on their Instagram feed yesterday evening, saw that their friends had posted about their affections, and thought, OH SHIT, before scrambling to put together their own version of the same post.
The affectionate Instagram post, it seems, has become the new bouquet of roses: a beautiful and mandatory celebration.
Listen, if you feel the need to gush about your wife to the world, please do so! By all means! I’m not here to stop you (and it would be fucking weird if I were). What I am saying is that this tribe mentality is creepy. All these dudes are eager to prove to their family, friends, friends of friends, and former Psych 101 section-mates that they love their wives. Good for them! Also, what? Am I not a good husband if I don’t post about my wife? Is love quantifiable? And who’s counting?
A little, right? And everyone.
Let’s be clear: Instagram is designed to make us feel bad about ourselves. As we’ve discussed before on Fatherly, it all comes down to feelings of self-worth and the concept of social comparison theory. We look at other people’s posts, all of which are a least a little bit manufactured, and compare our lives to those well-lit, artfully filtered ones that appear on our feed. Whether we admit it or not, posts about #parentinggoals, #gymbods, and #dreamvacations conjure negative feelings. It’s no wonder, then, that a 2015 Pace University study titled “Instagram: #instasad?” found that Instagram has characteristics that can trigger negative feelings of self-worth.
It’s easy to feel like you don’t match up when scrolling on Instagram. My problem with the abundance of posts on Mother’s Day was that, in their conformity, they felt like obeisance being paid to an algorithm.
Also, you gotta think some of these dudes are lying. I mean, someone is out there writing about what a great mom their wife is while she’s on a white wine bender talking about the “wrong element” moving into the neighborhood. Just saying. I’ll show myself out.