My name is Nicola and I am an addict. There you go my dear “husband”, I’ve admitted it. I know that since I joined IG, you feel you’ve been cuckolded by a voiceless group of women who I know sometimes by face, occasionally by name, but mostly through the snippets of their real life that they post on line. Like an episode of Eastenders gone badly wrong I know that you feel abandoned before we even got close to the alter, but the thing is, I really like it. On the days that I no longer escape to work (and as hard as I know work is, it does at least offer a break from the mind-numbing monotony of being at home with the small people seven days a week), Instagram offers a rabbit-hole into a world where I can participate in pictures and snappy sentiments in a coherent and occasionally witty way – essentially a perfect world for the sleep-deprived, time-poor parent for whom coherence and wit belong in a bygone era.
My relationship with IG has developed over the last 74 days to the point where I know I’m spending too much time cradling my phone, but like any addict worth their fix I’m struggling to give it up. A bit like our children. I mean, they take up a lot of time, they have pushed you down the pecking order, and they are the subject that dominates most of the time we set aside for conversation but I don’t see you suggesting that I abandon them, so how could I possibly give up Instagram? Oh. Hang on a minute… Ok, so maybe you have a point about that, but there are other ways in which children and Instagram are actually remarkably similar.
Both my children and Instagram make me laugh. My children when they do things like roll themselves up in the bathmat and say “I’m a sausage roll, eat me”, and Instagram when I read posts about Beagle-rimming, what happens when you mistake a daffodil bulb for a spring onion (thanks @Mother_Pukka), or the arguments that arise when a small person insists that he is the person best qualified to wipe Mummy’s bum(@peckham_mamma). Then there is the most brilliant comment I ever received on a post of mine from mega-sweetheart @babeinthehood who told me that when she was a child, her favourite toy was a cat called Pussy, and she called her bedroom “Pussy Kingdom”. The noise I made when I read this in the middle of a local cafe was so alarming that the people sat two tables away turned in shock and perhaps expected a live pig to emerge out of the kitchen. God, I love Instagram.
Both my children and Instagram keep me coming back for more. Even when my children have tag-teamed all night and yet have woken up full of energy and eager for an outing, I don’t wish them gone, for more than a minute, anyway. My love for them knows no bounds and when they are finally asleep simultaneously I can look at their peaceful faces and feel positively gooey about the fact that they are 50% me, and 50% the other adult who I used to love most in the world. Until he was replaced by Instagram, allegedly. They keep me coming back for more – more kisses, more hugs, more funny mispronunciations, more poo under the fingernails. Meanwhile, Instagram keeps me coming back for more too. Maybe too much more? Am I the only one who finishes brushing their teeth and thinks “Oooh, I wonder what someone I don’t know has posted in the last two minutes and 27 seconds?”. Maybe the “husband” has a point.
Both my children and Instagram are rife with the possibilities for misunderstandings. That post about my daughter asking for brown balls in the shop? It was supposed to be funny. But thanks for the parenting advice, anyway. And what’s with all the #acronyms? #ootd? #tbt? #wtfdtm? Ok, I made that last one up (#whatthefudgedotheymean) but when I get tagged in something and don’t respond, I’m not ignoring you I promise, it’s just that I have no idea what is going on.
Parenting is even more susceptible to mishap by misunderstanding. The other day my daughter kept asking me for her wings. “Your pink wings?” I enquired.
“No, my blue wing,” she said.
“Oh. But you don’t have any blue wings, sweetie. Do you mean the greeny-blue ones?” They’re green – I was reaching.
“Noooo! I want my wing. My blue wing.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart, I’m not sure what you mean.” By now I was sweating. “No, mummy, my wing. My wing I put on my finger!”
“Ahhhh. Your RING.” Crisis narrowly averted.
And then there is my all-time favourite mispronunciation from this year’s Good Friday when a friend’s little boy was skipping around a pub garden shouting, “Let’s go to the n****r shop!” Rather taken-aback, I asked him to repeat what he had said,
“Where do you want to go, A?”
“To the n****r shop!” he shouted as he made a run across the grass for the flower beds.
Now, as a parent of mixed-race children, and as a (just about) functioning human being, I found the three-year-old’s desire to go and purchase a slave a little concerning. I wracked my brains as to what he could mean and came up with this little gem, “Do you mean you want to go to the Lego shop?”
“Yes!” he shouted, clearly exasperated by my stupid questioning, “Let’s go to the n****r shop!”
I changed the subject.
Both my children and Instagram are masters at making me feel inadequate. It’s a well-known phenomenon that lurking round other people’s IG feeds can make you feel a bit crappy – even the flat lays of what people plan to wear that day can make me feel a bit pants, as the only thing lying flat in my house is my hair – my clothes certainly do not. Lurking around your own children can also cause concerning feelings of crappiness as they demonstrate the dedication of a religious fundamentalist to their cause of proving you to be a less-than-shit-hot-parent. My attempts at teaching sharing, manners, volume-control and risk awareness are undermined hourly as The Eldest shouts at me to get her water, which is on the table 3mm out of her reach, while the BSCB climbs into the dishwasher to lick the knives.
Both my children and Instagram make me frown. Children = frown lines . Intently staring at my phone screen while scrolling through Instagram for
half an hour a few seconds at a time several once or twice a day = frown lines. Children + Instagram = frown lines so deep I look like I’ve fallen asleep, face down, on a tiny train track.
Having said all of this, however, it’s important that we acknowledge there are ways in which IG and children are NOT alike. IG is nicer.
Instagram doesn’t wake me in the night. Despite the burgeoning weight of my addiction, even I draw the line at waking in the night to check and see if anyone has liked, commented, or posted anything new. The children, however, well, they are allowed to wake me up to check on them, no matter how much I wished this wasn’t true.
Instagram gives me positive affirmations and motivational life goals on a daily basis which (mostly) lift my mood. Woken up feeling a bit low, and wondering how you can make it through the day? Don’t feel alone and unworthy, there is a whole community out there to echo your sentiments that “I’m so tired the bags under my eyes are bigger then my boobs” and make you feel all of the better with the brilliant #igrewapersoniamfuckingrad (thanks for both to @fourthtrimag). No matter how cliched some of them are, the power of the meme is legendary in my eyes as, in precisely the number of words my terminally-tired-toddler-tracking eyes can comprehend in one go, they often comfort me that I’m not the only one. The importance of this reminder cannot be over-estimated and as being a mum doesn’t come with much opportunity to be patted on the back, it can sometimes be nice to hear that “As long as you are yourself, you can’t fuck it up” (thanks @mothersmeeting).
On the other hand, it is safe to say my children are not big believers in the mood-enhancing power of the word. The BSCB can’t say much other than “sshhzzz” (shoes) which pre-daily-wearing-of-the-Nikes-because-I-can-push-the-buggy-in-them, might have set my pulse aracing but now merely means I have to somehow explain to a non-verbal 15 month old that we can’t go to the park because it is pissing it down. Meanwhile The Eldest mostly uses her words to insist I take part in games like the one where she is the mummy, and I am the baby. Oh, how I wish that were true.
Having said all of this though, despite my love affair with Instagram being strong, and despite my “husband’s” concerns about the extent of my infidelity, there are countless things that I’ll never lose sight of that Instagram can’t give me. The kisses, the cuddles, and middle-of-the-night snuggles, which (almost) make me forgive them for summoning me to their bedside again in the sleeping hours, make my presence on this planet of ours more meaningful than anything I ever did before. The “husband’s” patience, strength and limitless motivation to make the lives of our children safe and good make my heart grow every day.
And, when all is said and done, Instagram doesn’t need me.