The #StayHome period has been particularly hard on parents. As much as the increased family time might be joyous and lovely, it’s also messy, stressful, and frankly impossible to do perfectly. So if you don’t feel particularly inclined to jot it all down or to share that make-up-free photo of you against the toy-strewn disaster area that is your current home with all your social media followers, then we really can’t blame you.
But, used wisely, documenting your experience and sharing on social media can help you to process your feelings and forge connection where there might otherwise be envy or frustration, says Dubai-based American-born author Rachael Lynn, who has spent years working in the world of self-help.
Now that the shocking novelty of the virus has worn off and we are officially in the New Normal, it's the perfect time to start reflecting on and documenting your journey in this strange pandemic so far, which is sure to maintain historical significance for years to come. In five or 10 or 20 years from now, when your children ask you what their lives were like during the COVID-19 pandemic, you will want to be able to give them those little details that add vibrancy to recollections, but that easily vanish in the mists of time if they aren't recorded.
You certainly won't regret jotting these things down, but you might regret not doing it.
While you could use a traditional paper diary like Samuel Pepys - whose 17th century account of the plague in London has striking similarities with the lockdowns that have happened with this pandemic - for the modern parent, social media is often the preferred forum on which to collect and share your thoughts and experiences easily. But it's important that you do it authentically, says Rachael Lynn.
Here, Lynn sets out some ways that mums (and dads) can harness the sharing power of Instagram and other social media to help heal and inspire today and for future generations.
Why you should document your pandemic parenting journey
“Have you ever looked through your grandparents’ photos in black and white, or lost someone in your life and feel closer to them when you find snapshots, home videos, or handwritten notes?
“There’s a reason we enjoy our family history more as adults than when we’re young. (Hint: our ancestors probably didn’t think that time at the beach was so meaningful, but we love the photos anyway, right?).
“Imagine how many meaningful things you’d find reflecting on one of the most globally historic periods of our lives so far – a global pandemic - and many of us expats, no less? That’s a combo rarely shared.”
“But in a world where Instagram is our form of documentation, I asked myself recently – is what I’m sharing how I want another generation (or even myself in 10 years) to see my experience of this time?
How to use social media in an authentic way
1) Trying to always ‘find the silver lining” before you’ve felt your feelings can backfire
“Have you had bouts of short temper, increased sarcasm, or blood boiling recently that surprised you more than normal parenting woes? I’m not a mum yet and have had these moments often.
“Of course we want to enjoy the little moments while we have them and be grateful simply to be alive – both for ourselves and for our families.
“But as I share in my book At Home Anywhere, being happy can coexist with sadness, frustration, depression and anxiety. Happiness is not a constant state or feeling. You are not happy-all-the-time boring. You’re an amazing, multidimensional human being – just like your kiddos.
“Faking it till we make it can lead to resentment and the constant worry that other mums have it more figured out than we do. It’s a temporary high and can be a reason for our raised anxiety!
“Share the positives because they’re there – not because you’re trying to convince yourself of them.
Faking it till we make it can lead to resentment and the constant worry that other mums have it more figured out than we do!
2) Don’t be downhearted by you girlfriends’ seemingly perfect mum-life on Instagram
“For some, you’re in an apartment with kids while your friend shares photos of hers in their in-ground pool. Maybe you’re able to go for big family walks or bike rides in Sharjah, while a friend in Dubai can’t go with her whole family.
“Many of us were comparing ourselves to other mums before (even me, wondering if I can aspire to be like all of you!)
“Understand that we are in an increased time of comparison because of uncertainty. You are unsure, on a primal level, for your and your children’s safety. So, if you’re upset by someone else’s seemingly perfect experience, it’s not you – it’s stress.
“We have no idea what issues any other mum or friend is silently going through.
“For example, in writing this piece I’ve left out the non-virus-related loss of a family member, financial challenges, and business in question. My words may sound like I have it figured out, and I just want you to see how dynamic we all truly are.
“On the flip side, should we avoid sharing our joys because people have different experiences? No. Share the joys as they come because you’re embracing them. And then remember that when someone else shares a high while you’re in a down moment, it’s not to make YOU feel bad. It’s for THEM to feel connected to life.
3) Connect to soothe comparison
“For the really courageous – message your perfect-homeschool-session-day mom friend after her post and ask her how she’s doing. Or even more vulnerable, say, “I’m feeling really jealous! It seems like you’re having a perfect time. Mum-ing for me is feeling really challenging – how do you do it?”
“You might be surprised what opens up – and what struggles she shares so you can support each other.
4) Refocus and begin to intentionally document your time
“Once you’ve refocused your approach to social media, it’s time to think about how you want to document.
“My Instagram is a blend of personal and author life. I wanted to document this time but initially struggled to see how, worrying that my daily emotional shares might tire my followers and I’d be left with no readers after the pandemic.
“But as I considered this question, my friend Lauren (@laurenlikesblog), who runs a program called Stories from Here, reminded me that documenting can be as simple as one photo and one caption, per day, weekly, or as often as I’d like.
“I decided to document every day and only post publicly on a weekly basis.
5) Start Now
- "Decide that documentation of your family and your life is for the purpose of legacy and meaningful reflection in the future– not for the public in the present
- "Take one photo to capture a moment in time right now. Write the date, one paragraph, poem, or line explaining how you’re feeling, what you’re doing, and how the kids are.
- "Do that often. Share the ones online that you’re comfortable with. Keep the rest for compiling.
"It can truly be that simple. You can even take the photos and write or reflect on them later. Just be sure to mark the date and time.
"Want to take it a step further? Lauren reminded me that documentation can be done in a file on your computer or straight to Instagram, and then printed into a memory book. Local Dubai Small Business Cherry Pix is a great option. The founder, Jolene, shared with me that you can begin building your family collection online, and they will keep your print queue and orders safe for when restrictions ease.
"Remember, what legacy do you want to leave? Do you want others (and your children) to think they always have to show perfection online, or do you want them to know you?
"Now is a time of upheaval for all of us, but you control the narrative. I’d love to see what you create!"
Rachael Lynn is a Dubai based American-born author and community organizer who writes on personal relationships with self, family and love. She believes that sharing your truth is the quickest way to freedom and works to facilitate that in herself and others who are ready. Her book “At Home Anywhere” was written from personal experience, when Rachael moved from Toronto to Dubai and found it difficult to adjust, despite her years of experience in the world of self-help.