"Did you see the photo I posted of Kelly* at the beach the other day?" my friend asked over coffee one day. I froze. A few weeks earlier, in a wine-fuelled rampage during the wee hours of the morning, I'd muted just about every last profile that had recently inundated my social media feeds with baby pictures.
"Of course I did," I said, lying straight through my teeth.
"Oh," my friend said. "You didn't like it, so I didn't know."
I mumbled a lie about the fact that following so many people means I tend to miss a lot of photos, and then quickly changed the subject.
In truth, I have likely missed a lot of the photos my friends and family members have posted. I haven't seen the same baby who, not yet able to hold up her own neck a few months ago, now sits awkwardly propped against a million pillows in a pink tutu and a shirt that says "Daddy's Little Princess." I've missed the lighthearted arguments about which parent a 3-week-old looks like. Just like during the 2016 election, the "unsubscribe, but remain friends" feature on Facebook has become a godsend for my friendships and my mental health. In a nutshell: I've muted your baby — and I'm not sorry about it.
I love most children. I think babies are swell. I hope to have a couple myself one day, and I'll likely give them names my mother will roll her eyes at. That said, at the point I am in my life, I'm happy to hand kids back to their parents when I've had my fill of snuggles and sing-alongs. Not having children allows me to opt out of the world of babies when I choose to.
There comes a point where I simply cannot be happy for you, and I've got to put my own mental health first. For me, that means muting your baby.
But now, thanks to social media, you and your child are constantly popping up on my newsfeed. And not only are my Facebook and Instagram feeds flooded with photos of infants I can't for the life of me tell apart, but I feel as if I'm half-expected to react to those photos and reference them in future conversations. That's a hefty debt to pay that I didn't exactly sign up for. If I didn't like or comment on the photo of your child, there's likely a reason for it. I don't need to give you positive affirmation on social media, and then bring up said positive affirmation in the real world, too. That's a lot. I don't quiz you on every photo I post of my apartment, or the avocado toast that's allegedly keeping me from buying said apartment one day. And I sure don't expect you to like every one of those photos, either.
(Yes, one can argue that avocado toast isn't a baby. But for me, avocado toast is what I've got going on at the moment — just like your kid is what you've got going on.)
But the biggest part of why I'm muting kids left and right has a lot to do with how much I love them. Like I said, I want kids, and a partner, and a two-bedroom apartment with a dishwasher one day. And like all the wedding photos that pop up in the spring, and engagement photos that flood my feed around the holidays, baby photos are like a constant, running reminder of the milestones I thought I'd have crossed by now, but haven't.
Most of the time, I'm more than able to be happy for others and all that they have in life. But I have a pain threshold. For me, scrolling through dozens of baby photos is like holding my hand over a flame. It's manageable for a bit, but then it becomes excruciating. And I'm not ashamed to admit that. There comes a point when I simply cannot be happy for you, and I've got to put my own mental health first. For me, that means muting your baby and choosing when and how to interact with them — on social media and in real life. I don't think that makes me a bad person.
I'm not asking all the parents of the world to stop posting so many photos of their kids. I'm not even asking them to be mindful of me and my feelings — although I think we all could stand to think about others a little more. All I'm saying is that you should realise that your baby isn't as important to me as it is to you, so you probably won't see me liking every single photo you post of them. Do I understand that many of you probably DGAF? Sure. But I just wanted to make it 100% clear why I no longer feel pressured to gush over other people's children every time I open my Instagram app. And I'm not sorry about it.
*Name has been changed.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids right now or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.