I feel like I hear a lot lately about authenticity and “keeping it real” on social media to counter the curated perfection we see on Instagram.
Listen, I love authenticity. I love keeping it real. I’m the realest. Opinions? Got ’em. Honesty? All about it. Transparency? Absolutely, especially when I’m blogging about something I got for free. (That last one is just basic decency.)
But when it comes to the nitty gritty details of everyday life with small kids, that’s where I start drawing boundaries. And you won’t see me presenting my full, unvarnished reality on social media anytime soon.
By way of explanation, I’d like to tell you about the time my dirty dishes were discussed on a Milwaukee Bucks message board.
A few years ago, my husband was offered his dream job with the team. To announce the news, he dressed up our toddler in Bucks gear and tweeted it.
Cute photo, I told him, but I could have lived without 15,000+ fans of deep-dive sports analytics getting a peep at the mountain of dirty dishes overflowing from our sink in the background. I was pregnant at the time, constantly nauseated, and trying to keep a daily newspaper afloat while solo parenting in Alaska as my husband shuttled back and forth to Wisconsin. I didn’t do dishes. (I still don’t.)
“Nobody’s going to notice,” he assured me.
Right. Nobody except for me…and the basketball fans who posted the tweet in a forum and, as they discussed the news of his hire, also stopped to observe that the Bucks’ new analytics guy had a really messy kitchen.
If I had a mind to, I could easily fill up my Instagram feed with “real life” photos of the Babybel cheese wax stuck to my kitchen floor and the mountain of laundry on my couch. I know people who do that, and I think it’s awesome that they feel comfortable sharing so openly.
Personally, I’m not going there. Partially because I’m permanently not in the mood to have the cleanliness of my house discussed by Internet strangers ever again. But mostly because to me, being “authentic” doesn’t have to mean “absolute, total, unedited sharing.”
Earlier this year, I was on a panel at Women’s Entrepreneurship Week Milwaukee about wellness and self-care and running a business. One of the things I talked about was the fact that even though I work at home, most of my clients are remote, and 90% of my wardrobe is leggings, I get up and do my hair and makeup every day.
Now, I know wearing mascara doesn’t make me better at my job. But when my appearance is polished and put-together, I feel like my outside matches my inside. Presenting myself as someone who takes good care of herself helps me act more like someone who takes good care of herself, her business, her household, and her family.
I tend to take the same approach to my social media presence. I’m not trying to present some kind of stock-photo fairytale version of my life. I also like to put my best foot forward. So I’m not going to show you the collection of Starbucks cups in the front seat of my car or the pile of unsorted socks I’ve been putting off dealing with for two weeks. #Sorrynotsorry, as the kids say (the kids still say that, right?).
What’s important to remember is that there are lots of other parents doing the same thing. When you see feeds full of houses devoid of dirty dishes and mountains of laundry, remember that Instagram is a highlight reel. Each of us is sending her own message, whether that message is “I’m proud of this outfit I put together” or “HELP! PLEASE SEND A MAID.”
(I save that last one for private messages. If you want to come wash my dishes, by all means, slide into my DMs.)