Online social networks can pave the way for friendships to blossom, but seek opportunities to connect in person, too. “While it’s wonderful to reach out to someone online in the middle of the night when you have a screaming baby, you also want to connect with people
who you can get together with during the day,” Brubaker encourages. “Having just the online support can keep women isolated and prevent them from going outside the home. That isolation can lead to feeling depressed.”
Local mothers groups can be a good starting point. Look for one that has both an online and an offline component. Through activities like regular meetings, moms night out, walks or playdates with your tots, you’ll have more opportunities to strengthen fledgling friendships.
Your baby is nestled in your arms lightly snoozing, so you decide to hop on Facebook. With an envious sigh, you read that your friend’s infant is already sleeping through the night. You wonder, What’s her secret? Another mom waxes poetic on the beauty of motherhood. You worry, Why don’t I feel that way right now? You keep scrolling and stop to study a photo of a group of laughing friends toasting margaritas at a sun-soaked resort. Ah, if only …
“It’s like everyone else is living their life, and you’re stuck,” Brubaker explains. “I find that social media opens the door for a lot of comparison to other new moms and to friends without children. You can become wistful for what life was like and jealous of other mothers who seem to be having an easy time.”
Reading these kinds of posts might also leave you feeling inadequate, frustrated and irritated. “Sometimes when women go on to social media, they see what they feel is portrayed as an expectation of how they should be feeling as a new mother or how to mother,” James explains. “Those comments and images can cause a woman to feel bad about herself because she feels as though she’s not living up to those expectations.”
As the adage goes, comparison is the thief of joy. Try to put those carefully curated squares into perspective. The glowing parental updates, tidy homes and shining faces smiling back at you are simply single snapshots of another person’s life—certainly not the whole messy package.
Strive for balance
Seek a happy medium between checking in and checking out to best manage your time and emotions and to be present with your rapidly growing baby.
“Moms definitely need these outlets, but you also don’t want to miss out on those precious moments that you have to bond with your baby,” James points out. “It’s not always going to be responding to a cry. It’s just being close—hugging your baby, smiling at your baby and looking in your baby’s eyes.”
Set a timer to help manage the time you spend online. Better yet: “Delete apps from your phone to avoid unconsciously going on social media,” advises Brubaker.
Pang recommends periodically taking a digital hiatus where you unplug from your devices or specific apps for 24 hours. “The purpose of a ‘digital sabbath’ is to give yourself a break from the constant stream of interaction with the digital world, to create a space in which you can appreciate your surroundings and to practice taking control over your digital life,” he says.
As you grow more conscious of how much time you spend on social media and how it makes you feel, you’ll be better able to recognize when you need to take a break.
Pang notes that those who regularly take time to disconnect from their devices generally find it easier to resist the urgency that surrounds online interactions. “They get a better perspective on the value of spending time online or offline. They use it as a chance to practice being more mindful and in the moment. And they use the time a sabbath creates for other activities.”